A shout out for Scotland’s entrepreneurs

I’ve always loved Scotland – my grandparents and my wife Joan are from the country, and we’ve spent many happy times there.


So it put a huge smile on my face when I saw that the number of businesses in Scotland has reached its highest point since records began. As we announced yesterday, we’re opening our first Virgin Hotels in Edinburgh too.

Official figures show there were 366,000 private businesses in Scotland at the end of last year. A figure that’s increased by more than half when compared to the year 2000. 

What’s even more special is that 98 per cent of those organisations are small businesses with less than 50 employees. Businesses like these are the backbone of any economy, in Scotland they account for 42.6 per cent of private sector employment.

Richard Branson Virgin StartUp live mentoring

Whenever I’ve visited I always felt a special entrepreneurial spirit in the air and I’m excited to see the numbers backing this feeling up. This appetite for entrepreneurship in Scotland is keeping Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit entrepreneurial arm of the Virgin Group, busy too. Virgin StartUp is on a mission to improve the survival rate of start-ups in Scotland. It provides government-backed StartUp Loans to new businesses and matches every entrepreneur that comes through the scheme with their own mentor to help them navigate the notoriously difficult first 12 months of launching a business. 

Since launching in Scotland in 2016 Virgin StartUp has helped 69 entrepreneurs in the region to launch, distributing £1.2m in the process.

To celebrate the boom in Scottish entrepreneurship and to shine a light on the entrepreneurs making a difference, Virgin StartUp is searching for Scotland’s leading start-up businesses with a special competition, Virgin StartUp 10 Scotland.

This will see them name the top 10 start-ups in Scotland and crown one of them the overall winner.

Virgin StartUp ambassadors and Richard Branson

It’s great to see some already established Scottish entrepreneurs acting as judges and promising to mentor the overall winner of the competition. This mentoring provides the prize, which for me is invaluable. I’ve had many mentors throughout my time as an entrepreneur. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker, to name just one.

The judges for Virgin StartUp 10 Scotland include Cally Russell, founder of Mallzee – the UK’s leading multi-retailer shopping app. After graduating from Dundee University he launched Mallzee and has grown it to employ 25 people and raised over £3m in investment – all in under six years. Then there’s Leah Hutcheon, founder of Appointedd, an Edinburgh-based tech company that’s revolutionising the way bookings are made online.

The small businesses applying will be judged on four categories: Impact, Inspiration, Disruption and Growth. The closing date for entries is February 12th, with the overall winner being announced during an awards ceremony taking place in Edinburgh in March.

You can find out more about the competition and see who the judges are over on www.virginstartup.org/10-scotland.

More from Virgin