Meeting exciting start-up founders and visiting Virgin Money

Richard Branson with founders who have been supported by Virgin StartUp in Edinburgh
Virgin StartUp
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 17 May 2023

It was wonderful to meet a group of Scottish founders who have launched brilliant sustainable businesses, on a recent visit to Virgin Hotels in Edinburgh.

The founders have all received support from Virgin StartUp, which is our not-for-profit entrepreneurship incubator that has been going strong for nearly 10 years now and has supported nearly 5,000 founders through funding, support and mentoring. We were also joined by Virgin StartUp’s managing director, Andy Fishburn, who has been with us since the very beginning, so it was great to look back on how Virgin StartUp came to be.

Richard Branson looks back on the early days of Virgin StartUp

Andy also shared a great story about the first time we met at a venue we owned called the Kensington Roof Gardens. Andy’s mum worked for a business we ran called Virgin Vie and she brought Andy along to an event. He was underage at the time so was turned away at the door, but he looked a bit dejected in his over-sized tuxedo, so we snuck him back in! I was once turned away from the same venue as a teenager for being barefoot, so it felt fitting... It’s also why I ended up buying the venue and changing the dress code!

Andy Fishburn from Virgin StartUp on the first time he met Richard Branson

The founders in the room have built some incredible businesses that exemplify what a local, sustainable start-up should be. From seaweed supplements made using organic seaweed wild-harvested from Scottish waters, to natural skincare products made with ingredients grown in the founder’s wildflower meadow, to knitwear collections made in Scotland using both traditional and innovative techniques – it was inspiring to meet entrepreneurs so committed to both sustainability and their communities. One of the businesses that really stood out to me was Project Harmless – who have created an eco-friendly alternative to dog poo bags. It’s such an everyday item that every dog walker needs, so it’s great to see it reinvented to be kinder to the planet.

We chatted about what motivates us and the satisfaction you get from creating something from scratch. It’s a feeling that doesn’t ebb with age, so I encouraged the founders to keep creating and keep building businesses that make a difference to people’s lives.

How to stay inspired and keep creating - Richard Branson chats to Virgin StartUp supported founders in Edinburgh

Entrepreneurship runs in our DNA at Virgin, so it’s always wonderful to see the different ways our Virgin companies support entrepreneurs too. After meeting the founders, Andy showed me The Curiosity Shop inside Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, which features a wide range of beautifully crafted Scottish products from Virgin StartUp-supported businesses. I was also thrilled to hear that some of the founders I met have come full circle to stock their products on Virgin Red too.

Nishant Sharmer and Jill and Steve Henry next to The Curiosity Shop display at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh
Virgin StartUp

While in the city, I also met the wonderful team at the Virgin Money Edinburgh store and chatted to David Duffy (Virgin Money’s CEO).

It was so great to see the different ways they use the store spaces to support local communities, and to see how the team are living up to their purpose of making people happier about money. The community impact being made by the Virgin Money Foundation alone has been remarkable, as you can see in the video below.

Virgin Money Foundation impact film

It was such a fun day meeting the amazing people who make Virgin StartUp, Virgin Money, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Red such great companies. Here’s more about my trip to Edinburgh, and you can learn more about the wonderful Scottish businesses I met with below: