Tycoons of Tomorrow #2: Hermione Way

The next Murdoch? David Langer meets Hermione Way
Commercial awareness

Hermione is the founder of new media social enterprise Newspepper.com and this year she graduated with a degree in Journalism from London Metropolitan University as well as an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification which is usually taken as a post-graduate course. She is the younger sister of 28-year old dot-com millionaire Ben Way, a man who was reportedly worth £18.3 million in the 2001 Sunday Times Rich List, aged 20, only to later have a dispute with his investors, losing everything. He went on to advise the UK and US governments on technology, and he is currently the Chief Innovations Officer for London-based Venture Capital firm Brightstation Ventures.

Having known she wanted to go into the media industry before her degree even started, Hermione got involved in a plethora of related activities while studying. These ranged from working as a runner for various TV shows and at local newspapers to a broadcasting internship at CNBC Europe.

You managed to squeeze an awful lot of media-related activities in alongside your degree. How do you divide your time up while you were studying?

It wasn't so much a case of dividing my time up, but more a case of trying to cram as many experiences and opportunities into my week as possible whilst not sacrificing good results for my degree. I work very well under pressure so much of the studying part was done at the last minute, which worked well for me.

What does Newspepper do?

Newspepper is a new media social enterprise, offering student reporters, editors and camera operators the opportunity to build their portfolio at high-profile events. Clients receive quality media services at cut-prices whilst also helping Newspepper's fleet of student apprentices to get a paid, on-the-job experience. The website www.newspepper.com then functions as a hub of online portfolios for students in media.

Why did you start Newspepper?

Excited by the impact the Internet has made on journalism and how it has phenomenally changed the media industry, I wanted to create a social enterprise which offered media services at affordable prices whilst also being a training hub for students to get paid on-the-job experience.

You have some rather impressive advisors working with you on Newspepper. Who are they and how have they helped you so far?

Newspepper currently has 4 advisors/mentors: Michael Smith, Paul Walsh, Ben Way and Jim Lawn, with Michael and Paul giving the most input.

Michael is the Founder/CEO of Mind Candy and former Founder/CEO of Firebox.com. When I first met him, I pitched Newspepper, asking for a small amount of Angel investment in return for some equity in the company. He accepted a deal and is now a great source of advice and support - he helps me envisage what Newspepper will be like in the years to come and he takes me to meet other new media companies that are more developed; this helps me work out what we should be aiming for.

Paul is a fantastic mentor - he is Chairman of the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) and also Founder/CEO of Internet business Segala. He invested by building the site in return for shares in the company. He helps me to aim global with the brand and exploit my brand online.

What has been your biggest challenge to so far with Newspepper? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is right now: how to grow the business in the right way. I have done a lot with not very much; now I'm thinking about how to expand the model, create more revenue, build the brand, employ more staff and build more marketable services.

The majority of young technology entrepreneurs are male. Has being female been a help or a hindrance for you starting your business?

It can be a hindrance because being young as well as female means some people don't take you seriously. However, you can use being female to your advantage in some situations.

I think the New Media industry is such an exciting place to be in right now, and one great thing about this industry is that it's in no way gender-specific. It's not like being a banker with extreme pressure and long office hours, or like being a fireman where physical strength is a must.

What advice or encouragement would you give to other young women who are thinking about starting a business?

Don't constantly say "I'm going to start a business". Just be proactive and do it. The hardest part is getting started and now, with the advent of the Internet, it's never been easier because most of the tools needed for selling and marketing a product are free.

Was choosing to work full-time on Newspepper a difficult decision when you graduated? Why did you choose this over the safer option of a graduate job?

I started the company at the end of my second year at university using the money from my student loan to buy the first camera. From filming with the camera, the company was making enough revenue for me to live off by the time I finished university. Working on Newspepper full-time was a natural progression and the business model had already proved itself.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

5 years time: the model has expanded to all the major technology cities such as San Francisco, New York, Berlin and Paris. The Newspepper empire will still be growing and we will be considered a major player in the New Media industry.

Do you have any role models? Why are those people your role models?

I am extremely lucky to have the best role model in the world, entrepreneur Ben Way who is also my older brother - I have observed how he does business very closely and he has shown me you can be brilliant in business and still be a nice person. He has also taught me to make up my own rules in business as it does not have to be done in any particular way.

Finally, a question I'm going to ask every entrepreneur in this interview series. If you could give one fortune cookie to every budding student entrepreneur in the country, what would it say?

Always look at the bigger picture - think global.

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