Whatever is happening in the world, business never stops. It’s been a fascinating, fast-paced week in the world of Virgin. On Monday we officially launched our Virgin Red app with a treasure hunt at The Roof Gardens in Kensington. On Tuesday we concluded our Virgin Media Business search for the UK and Ireland’s next top businesses and crowned the winners of VOOM 2016 at ITV studios on London’s South Bank. And on Wednesday we opened up my children’s homes in Oxfordshire, to meet with friends and family of the Virgin Group, and to celebrate the UK’s fastest-growing private companies at the 19th annual Fast Track awards.
Constant rain couldn’t dampen the festivities on Wednesday, as hundreds of entrepreneurially-spirited people joined us in Kidlington. I started the day by popping in for a cuppa to surprise our Virgin StartUp team and ambassadors during their breakfast branding workshop. The group will be working throughout 2016 and 2017 to help spread the word about the programme and guide others on their business journeys. They are a delightfully diverse bunch of entrepreneurs, with so many great ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing what successes they achieve in the future.
The Virgin Group is not just helping entrepreneurs within the UK, we’re also nurturing young business talent in Nigeria. After dropping in to see our Virgin StartUp ambassadors, I met with this year’s winners of the Virgin Atlantic sponsored Enterprise Challenge: founder of Qeturah.com, Keturah Ovio Onoweya; and founder of The5kshop.com, Sophia Ike Onu. Both women were selected from over 10,000 applicants, and will receive mentoring and financial support, including a scholarship to attend the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
Doing business is hungry work, so I crashed a brunch that my daughter, Holly, was hosting with people from around the Virgin Group. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with members of the Virgin family. I love to hear about what’s going on within the various companies, and get feedback as to what we could be doing better. I’m firmly of the opinion that innovation is for everyone, and that often the best ideas for positive change come from those that work closest to the product or service.
As I mentioned, on Tuesday we crowned the winner of VOOM 2016. It was a spectacularly dramatic event with so much going on. I didn’t get a huge amount of time to chat to the finalists after the live finale, so we invited them to Oxfordshire for lunch. It was inspiring to hear more about their outstanding business ideas. I wish we could have had six winners! Regardless of whether or not they took the top prize, I could see they all had a fun time – behind the smiles there were definitely a few sore heads!
I’m sure they were hundreds of aching heads this morning after the Fast Track conference and awards dinner – an event that Virgin is proud to sponsor. 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. Special congratulations must go to GreenTech Distribution for topping the 2015 list – putting purpose on par with profit, they are doing spectacular work. 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.
I’m now enjoying to some downtime with the family, playing tennis and watching Wimbledon, before hitting the track for the London Formula E race this week. I’m backing local DS Virgin Racing driver, Sam Bird, to win. You can help him get across the line by supporting him in #Fanboost on social media.