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Joe Philips studied at Exeter.

University of Exeter graduate stars in BBC One’s The Apprentice

A former student from the University of Exeter is a contestant in the current series of The Apprentice. 

University of Exeter graduate Joe Phillips is part of the line-up of 18 budding young entrepreneurs, competing for Lord Sugar’s investment on the BBC One show.

Joe, who studied Zoology on Exeter’s Cornwall campus, decided to apply to the show to seek investment for his sustainable brand Surf Balm, which he developed whilst at university.

Currently working as a safari guide in South Africa, Joe is passionate about nature and conservation, and has always put this at the heart of his business ventures.

After the end of last year’s series of the show, Joe’s father (also an Exeter alum) encouraged him to apply for the next series with his small business.

Joe has already made a good start on the show, leading the boys’ team to win the first task in the first episode.

Joe said: “I have watched The Apprentice for years and have always loved it. I feel privileged to be appearing on the show and to be a part of the process”.

Joe’s business venture Surf Balm, is an ocean-friendly lip balm range, which aims to tackle the huge amounts of plastic waste found on our coastlines. Joe fell in love with the Cornish coastline whilst studying in Penryn, and combined this with his passion for tackling environmental issues to create the business idea.

Joe developed his venture on the Startup Incubator Programme delivered by the SETsquared Exeter Student Startups team, and successfully pitched for a £1,700 startup grant to get the business going.

Nick Pearson, University of Exeter Student Startup Officer for Cornwall said: “We are delighted to have supported Joe in his ambition to bring to market a product that is invaluable to ocean-lovers while reducing plastic waste.”

“While I can’t rival the boardroom one liners of The Apprentice: we wish Joe sweet success with or without Sugar. While we hope he surfs to victory on the show, either way we commend the work he has already done in raising awareness about sustainable packaging and ocean plastics.”

Prior to starting up Surf Balm, Joe also launched a merchandise business on the Cornwall campus, selling a range of products in the campus shop. He called the brand Falifornia, inspired by the campus’ nickname used by students, due to its coastal location.

Joe explained: “I heard the nickname used a lot and thought there could be value in this… so I set out to turn the name and lifestyle into a business and brand that students could wear on campus and be proud of.”  

Since appearing on The Apprentice, Joe has started releasing safari guide video content on social media, which has proved popular.

In the future, Joe hopes to expand his Surf Balm business, launching other sustainable personal care products, whilst also continuing his work as a safari guide and conservationist.

The Apprentice is airing on Thursdays at 9pm on BBC One.

Date: 7 February 2023