National Entrepreneurs Day: The Origins of Oxford Summer Courses
On National Entrepreneurs Day, we decided to reflect on two hugely influential entrepreneurs here at Oxford Summer Courses; the CEOs and founders of the company, Rob and Harry.
A Bit of Background
Rob and Harry are childhood friends, who met at school in Reading aged 11. Since the days of playing around, their friendship has evolved massively over the past 22 years. From young school friends, to studying at the University of Oxford together, today, the pair can boast about having spent the past 10 years together as business partners.
Harry’s older brother was his inspiration when it came to applying to study at the University of Oxford. At the time, his brother was studying PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Lincoln College. Harry spent much of his time borrowing his books which drew him towards both the course and to Oxford. When he visited him during term time and saw how much fun he was having, it was the final push he needed to apply to the University of Oxford.
Harry subsequently followed in his brothers footsteps, studying PPE at Oriel College at the University of Oxford, before taking an M.Phil in Political Theory. During his time in Oxford, he won numerous academic prizes for essays on Rousseau and Plato, taught visiting students Politics, and also found time to play football for the university.
Alternatively, for Rob, it was his teachers’ active discouragement of applying to Oxford which drove his passion to get into the university, keen to prove his teachers wrong.
Determined, Rob secured a place at the University of Oxford, where he studied Modern History and spent his time tutoring internationally, before moving into the corporate world as a strategy consultant.
The Idea of Oxford Summer Courses
Harry and Rob both stayed in Oxford over the summer following their graduation, and taught visiting students in their colleges. It was here that they both saw a gap in the market for a course that more faithfully replicated the Oxbridge experience.
They both wanted to share the amazing experience they’d had during university with the wider world. They saw that there were different summer programmes in Oxford during the summer, and they wanted to do something more academic which to them, better reflected the authentic Oxford experience. That is where Oxford Summer Courses was born.
The Early Years of the Business
During the first few years of Oxford Summer Courses, Rob and Harry both worked full time in London and used evenings and weekends to keep things afloat during the year, before taking time off in the summer to run the courses.
Calling in favours from connections and friends to staff and teach the course, the company gained BAC accreditation in 2013, which was a springboard in helping them both to professionalise. Accreditation is a rigorous quality assurance process which ensures all operations at the company are evaluated and verified to confirm that recognised standards are met. It means to prospective students that Oxford Summer Courses can promise an excellent cultural experience with high-quality teaching.
Oxford Summer Courses' Success
Oxford Summer Courses has had a number of students go on to achieve incredible things: publishing poetry books, writing computer programmes for smart homes, and securing places at world-class universities. Our students have consistently told us that the course has had an impact on their trajectory and future success.
From a business perspective, their successes have been momentous. Oxford Summer Courses was recently ranked 20th on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 (fastest growing companies in the UK). It’s a testament to the incredible hard work of the head office team, as well as the tutors and on-course staff that look after the students and deliver amazing courses.
It’s a source of personal pride for them both too, having both left jobs to pursue Oxford Summer Courses full-time in 2015 and seeing how things have taken off since then.
Also important to mention is the award which the pair have won for excellent workplace culture - BreatheHR. It shows that though the company has grown fast, it hasn't been at the expense of the team.
Both Harry and Rob are still heavily involved with the running of Oxford Summer Courses. Harry leads the Course Delivery Team, while Rob works closely with the Sales, Marketing and Technical Development departments.
Their entrepreneurial spirit still shines through, and since their expansion of Oxford Summer Courses, the pair are dedicated to bringing new products and services. Under the parent company, Bridgemark, Oxford Summer Courses and their charity, Universify, firmly sit beneath, while online courses and specialist STEM programmes are currently being developed, with even more in the pipeline for the future!
Lastly, Some Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
‘The best thing about being an entrepreneur is how quickly things can happen. From seeing an opportunity to developing a product to (hopefully) having satisfied customers can be as quick as you (and your team) want to move. This can also be a challenge too because as soon as you stop moving forward, your momentum stops and you can lose customers as quickly as you found them. But if you seek pace, thrive on pressure and enjoy building a team around you that want the same thing, it's a career path that you'll probably find too addictive to stop! Good luck.’ - Harry Hortyn
Feeling inspired? Why not get a head-start in the business sector and join one of our Business and Entrepreneurship courses? You never know where it could take you...
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On National Entrepreneurs Day, we take a look at two hugely influential entrepreneurs at Oxford Summer Courses - our Co-Founders and joint CEOs, Rob and Harry.