Pals shortlisted for Olympics’ business prize—but it’s just a facade

BUSINESS whizzkids Michael and Richard Matthias have got through to the regional finals of a national business contest looking for Britain’s 10 freshest ideas, after being made redundant last year. They install facades in empty shops around the 2012 Olympics site to make them look occupied

By Mike Brooke

BUSINESS whizzkids Michael and Richard Matthias have got through to the regional finals of a national business contest looking for Britain's 10 freshest ideas, after being made redundant last year.

Michael, 35, and business partner Richard, 34, set up their 'Woo! Design and Marketing' company in Bethnal Green to install specially-created facades for empty shops around East London's massive 2012 Olympics site to give the appearance of continued occupation. They hope to expand all over London by the time the Games start.

"We were both made redundant following the onset of the recession," Richard explained. "That motivated us to finally give our idea a real push.

"The main concept is combining design and marketing to provide commercial property owners with a solution to empty premises, bearing in mind the economic difficulties the retail industry currently faces."

Richard gets the business while artist Michael creates the designs to stick onto empty shop windows in place of whitewash to prevent neighbourhoods looking run down and risk being vandalised.

The company is one of three shortlisted in London from 3,600 entrants across the country in Barclay's 'Take One Small Step' business competition with a �50,000 prize to put towards making their dream a reality.

Woo! Design and Marketing now needs the public to vote online before the July 4 closing date to stand a chance of winning the cash to develop the business.

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