Virgin StartUp’s 50:50 gender funding pledge

So proud that Virgin StartUp is pledging to fund an equal number of men and women business founders. It’s shocking that for every 10 new businesses founded by men, there are currently fewer than five started by women.

I’ve always believed there are so many amazing ideas out there, but some just need a little bit of help getting off the ground. It’s the whole reason we decided to launch the not-for-profit entrepreneurial hub in the first place - to help entrepreneurs across the UK to start, fund and scale their business.

I was thrilled to hear that Virgin StartUp recently funded their 3,000th business and I’m so proud of all they have achieved in just over five years. 

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It’s great to see Virgin StartUp already outperforming other UK funders by financing and supporting 41 per cent women founders, double the national average – but we want to go further and fund an equal number of men and women.

It can be really tough to start a business but Virgin StartUp provide a huge amount of support from workshops, mentoring and practical advice to help new businesses survive and thrive. Virgin StartUp are going to put together a programme dedicated to helping break down some of the barriers that stop women from making the jump. It’s great to see the business survival rates for Virgin StartUp supported businesses surpassing the national average of 54 per cent – with 76 per cent of women-founded businesses and 73 per cent of men-founded businesses still trading after three years. Virgin StartUp are going to invest in more women, while continuing to invest in at least the same number of men.

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I really believe that entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the economy. In a climate of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to recognise the entrepreneurs challenging the norm, chasing improvements and driving innovation in industries.

I met two wonderful entrepreneurs recently in LA, who both received Virgin Startup loans and support to help get them off the ground. I loved seeing the progress of Sustainably, a business founded by a mother-daughter duo, which helps people donate their digital spare change to charity. I saw them in start-up mode last year in Scotland when it was just an idea, so it was lovely to catch up and hear about their launch and how they’ve secured dozens of charities to sign up.

Richard Branson with Sustainably entrepreneurs

Another is Cemal Ezel, the founder of Change Please, who has found a way to make your daily coffee change people’s lives – 100per cent of Change Please’s profits go towards helping reduce homelessness. They train homeless people to become baristas and pay the living wage, and support with housing, bank accounts and mental wellbeing. Change Please has been a real hit across the Virgin Group – signing contracts to supply coffee onboard Virgin Atlantic (following on from a successful contract with VirginTrains).

Richard Branson and Cemal

These businesses are great examples of entrepreneurs with good ideas who just needed a little support and could go on to achieve incredible things. Virgin StartUp have thousands of examples like these and I hope there will be thousands more to come.

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