Manchester gets a visit from the Voom Tour bus

The rain in Manchester couldn’t dampen the bright ideas of the entrepreneurs who dropped in to see the Voom Tour bus when it hit the northern city recently.

The climate might have been truly Mancunian, but so were the people – creative, innovative and oh so friendly. With experts on board the Voom Tour bus to help with everything from business plans to online presence to funding, entrepreneurs could get some advice on how to take their businesses to the next level.

As well as time for one-to-one meetings, Virgin Media Business had some brilliant speakers lined up to take to the stage to share their stories of making it in business, including Herb Kim, founder of Thinking Digital. Herb shared some of his advice for start-ups and scale-ups, he said: “Even if you’re doing well, make sure that you continue to invest in your learning.”

On the same theme, a panel featuring Rachel de Caux and Paula Short, founders of Beauty Blvd, tackled the challenge of going from start-up to success. Ian Mason, head of development at Virgin StartUp, said that the key is execution of a good idea. “Anyone can come up with an idea,” he said. “The difference is how you apply that. If you’re a good start-up it’s because you know how to execute an idea. We look for people who have a good sense of what it’s going to take to launch the business they propose.”

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Rachel said that having a partner in business had helped her. “Having two people is a lot better, you have a ‘marriage’.” But she added: “Even if you haven’t got a business partner, you need a good support network. You need a shoulder to cry on.”

The second day in Manchester saw a panel tackle the question on many people’s minds: could Manchester overtake London to become the UK start-up capital? Angela Middleton of Middleton Murray (who is from London but recently opened an office in Manchester) took on Steven Wall from Manchester Growth Hub and Luke Massie of Vibe Tickets (who set up his business in nearby Preston).

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While all three of the panel support Manchester’s business hub and want to see it grow, Luke did admit that it’s lacking one thing. “If Manchester is going to compete then it needs to attract a Google or a LinkedIn,” he said. “The BBC made a business case for moving to Manchester and it’s had a big impact on the creative scene. If Manchester is going to compete then it needs to become the tech city.”

Then, as the rain started up again, some of Manchester’s brightest entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch for £5,000 investment and an invitation to brunch with Richard Branson. The ideas were varied but all equally interesting – from a soft drinks company to an innovative housing solution to a marriage proposal planning and photography business, whose pitch even included a proposal to the judges! Ultimately though it was Alex Hind’s Go Sweat, a centralised marketplace for the sports industry, that impressed the judges and he took home the prize.

Voom Manchester pitch winner

The Voom Tour is heading to Birmingham next on September 27th and 28th. Find out more and enter your business to the competition to win £5,000 and brunch with Richard Branson on the Virgin Media Business website.

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