In the Bag: The Story of WANDRD


UVU alumni Ryan Cope and Spencer Cope reveal the strategy behind co-founding their multimillion-dollar family business.

When many kids try to earn money, they pop up a lemonade stand or mow a neighbor’s lawn. But Utah Valley University graduates Ryan Cope and Spencer Cope had more original strategies as youth.

“Ryan and I have both, throughout our lives, been a little entrepreneurial,” says Spencer, who graduated from UVU in 2015 in business management. “We were the kids with the candy stand. Ryan had a shoe-shining business in high school. He’d go door to door collecting shoes and shine them and return them. I’ve done window washing and a few other things.”

Some of the brothers’ endeavors were more inventive than others.

“We did ‘No Soliciting’ signs and sold them door to door,” Spencer says. “It didn’t go so great. I thought we would sell out of them like hot cakes. But it was a harder sell than I anticipated.”

But how did they transition from selling services door to door to co-founding a multimillion-dollar LLC? According to Ryan, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, it started at his parents’ kitchen table. He and Spencer were contemplating the lack of gear for their cameras. They’d bought and tried several camera bags, but they were either functional or fashionable. Never both.

“I remember looking at each other and being like, ‘You know what? Why don’t we start something? Why don’t we take a crack at making a camera bag?’ And it just felt right,” Ryan says. “We started with basically no ideas on how to get going. But our dad had a friend that did sourcing for a living. We reached out to him to pick his brain and got going from there.”

They visited manufacturers, tested materials, researched their market, and began preparing for their first big milestone: a Kickstarter campaign. While only 36% of projects manage to get fully funded in that manner, the WANDRD campaigns had several smash hits. The first campaign raised $113,000. The second surpassed it at $400,000. And the third managed to eclipse the previous two with $750,000. How did they beat those odds?

“People want to see a polished page and a polished product on Kickstarter,” Spencer says. “Even though it’s not out and you haven’t produced a bunch of them yet, they want to see it. People are giving you their money, pre-ordering a product, with no guarantee that they get a product.”

With both the creative mind of a photographer and the structured approach of an entrepreneur, Ryan found marketing to be a perfect fit. While still a student, he joined the American Marketing Association (AMA), won national marketing competitions, and was named marketing student of the year.

“One of the reasons that I went into marketing was that I like both of those areas — both the creative and the analytical. That’s really what marketing is and why I studied it at UVU,” Ryan says. “You get the creative campaigns and the branding side of things, but you also get the market research and the data collection and the analytics behind the websites.”

One of the reasons that I went into marketing was that I like both of those areas — both the creative and the analytical. That’s really what marketing is and why I studied it at UVU.  

Since its founding, WANDRD has become a true family business. Older brother Austin Cope came on board as the director of operations and finance. Younger brother Conner Cope, still studying at UVU, works in customer relations. And Kevin Cope, father of the family, helped WANDRD get on its feet as a company partner.  

“As a father, one of the things I’m most excited about in life right now is watching this business go,” Kevin says. “And not because the business is doing well — it’s because the boys are really coming into their own with it. It’s really fulfilling to see them develop into good men, into good leaders, into individuals who are creating a great product for society.”

As alumni of the Woodbury School of Business, Ryan and Spencer earned valuable real-world experience through engaged learning. To help more students achieve greatness in work and life, Utah Valley University officials look forward to a long-awaited, new facility. The groundbreaking for the Scott C. Keller Business Building occurred on Nov. 11, 2019. The new facility will have several resources, including the Money Management Resource Center, Bloomberg Lab, and Entrepreneurship Institute. The building will also house a student success center to help with placement, tutoring, internships, and advisement.