Ten exciting start-ups changing business for good

Change Please founder Cemal Ezel with Richard Branson
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Published on 16 November 2020

Entrepreneurs are the dreamers, doers and risk takers that have the opportunity to transform society for the better. I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur when I started Virgin – the word wasn’t really used back then. I was just a young man with big dreams of creating businesses that solved problems and helped improve people’s lives. When I first learned the word, I had to ask how to pronounce it - French was never my strong point!

Here are my top 10 changemakers that are figuring out better ways of doing things and creating positive change in their communities.

These entrepreneurs have all been supported with a Virgin StartUp loan – and all the mentoring and advice that comes with choosing Virgin StartUp.

1. Change Please

Change Please is a coffee brand brewing up social impact. The ethos of Change Please is straightforward: 100% of its profits go towards helping to reduce homelessness. It does this by transforming members of the homeless community into skilled co­ffee baristas. Change Please provides full barista training, jobs that pay the living wage, and support with housing, bank accounts and mental wellbeing. Its coffee has been stocked by Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains and they also sell the beans wholesale to Virgin Management.


2. UpCircle

UpCircle is a clean skincare company that is turning waste products such as coffee grounds into beauty products. Every UpCircle product is made from a core ingredient that would otherwise have been discarded. It’s so impressive seeing the team turn one person’s trash into another person’s treasure – helping both the planet and people at the same time.

3. Karma Kans

Karma Kans is a catering company with a focus on sustainability. It uses compostable and recyclable packaging, has ditched red meat from the menu and sources everything as responsibly and seasonally as possible. Its dark site kitchens have been a huge success story – raising £252 million in a funding round to open dozens of new sites across Europe.

Karma Kans
Karma Kans

4. Dash Water Sparkling

When life gives you (wonky) lemons… Dash Water Sparkling has made some delicious sparkling water! The business reduces food waste by putting all those odd-shaped fruit and vegetables that don’t make it to the supermarkets to good use.

5. Denzel’s

It seems you can do a lot with wonky fruit… In less than two years since receiving a loan from Virgin StartUp, Denzel’s has managed to shake up the UK pet food market with its healthy dog treats by combining weird and wonderful flavours to make tasty snacks and using fresh wonky fruit from local suppliers that would have otherwise gone to waste. Denzel’s is also Holly’s first purposeful investment.


6. Vitae London

Vitae London is a watch brand based in London. Every sale helps support a child through education across sub-saharan Africa. William Adoasi, Founder and CEO, says that while time on this planet is something we all share, the life chances that occupy it are far from evenly distributed—even in this day and age. It’s great to see a company that helps children unlock their potential.

7. Secret Projects

Secret Projects empowers women in India by providing training to make and sell clothing and homeware. This is mainly aimed at women who have been rescued from human trafficking. Every product tells a story of resilience and beating the odds.

8. Pursuit the Label

I am passionate about protecting the ocean so I think it’s brilliant that Pursuit the Label was set up to help fight marine pollution by turning ocean waste into beautiful quality swimwear. Each individual piece is created from ECONYL® - a yarn made from regenerated discarded fishing nets and other waste from the land and sea.

9. Arc Marine Design

Another business that was set up to help protect the ocean is Arc Marine Design. It is disrupting the offshore construction industries with its award-winning patented product Reef Cubes®, by accelerating reef creation through its nature inclusive design. The team also work on offshore renewable energy, aquaculture and sustainable fisheries, alongside the innovative design and development and Reef cubes.

10. Minor Figures

Minor Figures is another coffee company with purpose at its heart – it makes plant-based, 100% vegan products to lift your coffee and your mind – and it has recently announced it is carbon neutral.

Minor Figures
Minor Figures

If you’ve ever wanted to start a business, head over to Virgin StartUp and check out all the great resources they have available.