Richard Branson was just a teenager when he started his first business venture. Now, after more than 50 years in business, he’s passionate about helping others turn their idea into a reality. Take a look at just a few of the ways that Virgin is supporting entrepreneurs…
In 2013, Virgin StartUp launched to provide UK entrepreneurs with start-up loans to get their businesses off the ground. In May 2016, Virgin StartUp celebrated having backed more than a thousand entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality - giving them advice, promotion and mentoring, as well as financial support.
"Entrepreneurship has great power to change the world for the better. Everyday, start-ups around the globe are coming up with wonderful products and services that improve lives and benefit Earth," Richard said. "Knowing what huge positive impact business can have on people and the planet, we set up Virgin StartUp in 2013... And wow, have we come a long way since then!"
And the work isn’t done yet. Virgin StartUp is still working hard to support entrepreneurs in the UK and create more opportunities for businesses. Find out more about the support available for start-ups on the Virgin StartUp website.
Virgin Trains Pop-Up
Virgin Trains made the decision to bring local businesses onto the platforms at some of their train stations to help small enterprises. The move came after a member of staff at Crewe saw a seller trying to flog the last of his football merchandise right at the door of the station when Crewe Alexander had a big match at Wembley Stadium in 2012.
“I had a couple of thoughts: 1) Should he be there? 2) What a shame we didn't have him on the platforms because it had brought such a fantastic atmosphere and the customers had loved it and everyone was so excited and why couldn't we support it in a different way?” Nicola Griffiths says.
And thus an idea was born. “It's always frustrated me that we have all of this space in our stations and we don't do anything with it so that's where the idea started to formulate,” she says. “I started to think about how it would work and what we could include.”
Since then, Virgin Trains has run a number of Pop Up events, inviting many businesses onto the platform. "It's a unique way of showcasing their products and getting a wider audience," Nicola says. "We also do taster days on board our trains. So we get lots of things going on around customer engagement and there might be samples of a food product or beverage or a service that customers can try.”
The Pitch to Rich competition launched in 2011 to give entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their business idea to Richard to get funding for their start-up. Since then, the competition has evolved into VOOM, which last year saw more than 3,000 businesses compete to showcase their business to the Virgin Group founder.
Throughout the stages of last year’s competition, the entrepreneurs were matched with mentors to support them and guide them through the tasks. Toby McCartney, who was named the winner of VOOM 2016 with his business MacRebur, explained how the competition helped his business: “We’ve had loads and loads of work come through from councils and local authorities but also some private work too, which could be a massive opportunity for us. And it’s all off the back of VOOM, it’s phenomenal really.”
This year, Virgin Media Business is taking VOOM on the road and will be visiting a number of towns and cities across the UK and Ireland, with the opportunity for entrepreneurs to win £5,000 in a pitching competition on the day – plus the possibility of getting a golden ticket to a brunch with Richard himself.
Fast Track 100
As well as initiatives such as Virgin StartUp and VOOM, which help to launch businesses, since 1997 Virgin has sponsored the Fast Track 100 – a league table of the fastest growing businesses. This list highlights some of the best businesses in the UK and Richard has hosted an annual conference and dinner for the 100, helping to boost their businesses even more.
“I look forward to Fast Track every year; it’s a wonderful opportunity for people from the UK’s fastest-growing private companies to come together, celebrate their achievements, and let their hair down,” Richard said after last year’s conference and dinner. “I was pleased to see that almost two-thirds of the companies on the league table are less than 10 years old, confirming that the UK is a great place to set up and grow business.”