I’ve always had a fertile, questioning and imaginative mind. ‘Just imagine if’ has started endless sentences in my head since I was a toddler. 

Just imagine if… baby food was completely re-thought – with innovative packaging, a different mix of ingredients, a completely new take on marketing, and the purpose of the company was not to sell baby food at all, but a higher goal of improving children’s lives. This ‘just imagine if…’ became Britain’s biggest baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen. 

Just imagine if… all adults had the same imagination, free thought, and self-confidence that they did when they were toddlers. How much better would their lives, their work and our world be then?  This ‘just imagine if…’ became my best-selling book, Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler – which Richard Branson was so taken by, that he piled in and wrote my foreword!


Virgin Unite, Just Imagine If

Just imagine if you had an idea that could tackle a global problem. Just imagine if there was a competition to find such ideas and help make them a reality. Well, now there is.

‘just IMAGINE if…’ is an idea I had – that I’ve now developed with key partners – to deliver an annual, university hosted, business focused, non-profit competition to address the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It’s my idea about ideas, if you like. It finds people with early stage, simple business ideas that could provide sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges facing society, and gives them a real chance of development into impactful actions.

We are eager to identify and support a new generation of social entrepreneurs, whose system-changing ideas could be developed for the good of all. 

The competition is now open and the initial event is coming up. The University of Reading and Henley Business School in the UK are staging the initial innovation competition in conjunction with our high-profile supporters in February 2019. Those invaluable supporters include Grant Thornton, Kames Capital, Seven Hills Communications, Innovation Catalyst and the University of Reading KTP Centre. The competition is in part inspired by the success of Voom, Foodpreneur, and some of the other Virgin StartUp competitions I’ve had the privilege to support, judge and help develop over recent years for the Virgin team.

Virgin Unite, Just Imagine If

We aim to demonstrate that business initiatives and university-led research can be harnessed as a force for social good. We are eager to identify and support a new generation of social entrepreneurs, whose system-changing ideas could be developed for the good of all. ‘just IMAGINE if…’ offers an exceptional opportunity for ordinary people from anywhere in the world to submit an idea for consideration, have it evaluated by a panel of experts, amplified and publicly pitched with the help of ten high-profile and experienced British business people. It will then be worked on in collaboration with leading academics in a related field to develop it so that it has a real chance to be investment/grant ready.

Virgin Unite, Just Imagine If, Little Wins

The contest has now launched via a call for ideas via an online application process. A shortlist of the ten best ideas will be selected by the panel, with a shortlisted idea then assigned to a counsellor, who will counsel and support their competitor as they work towards presenting their idea at the just IMAGINE if… 2019 event. 

The competition will comprise of ten ‘TED’ type talks, with each entrant introduced by their counsellor. Each entrant will then present their idea, with a focus on the social or environmental impact they believe it will have, to an invited audience of business people and entrepreneurs. The audience will vote to decide the winner, who will be announced at a gala dinner to take place that evening, when a £75,000 prize will be awarded. The prize money will fund the development of the winner’s pioneering idea by bespoke research at the University of Reading.

Virgin Unite, Just Imagine If

The Counsellors are not just any old counsellors either. They are the crème of British entrepreneurship and social enterprise. People who truly belief business should operate as a force for good – and have built them! People such as: Piers Linney, Will Butler Adams, Tristram Stuart, Sarah Wood, Iqbal Wahhab, Yasmina Siadatan, Rob Hamilton, Mark Cuddigan, Ella Robertson, Kate Robertson, Sasha Romanovitch, Steve Jones, June O'Sullivan and Jenny Costa. 

Please have a think if you have an idea that’s worth testing with an application or if you know someone that does. Just imagine if… we could change the world with one idea. Just imagine if it came as a result of this blog!? We can!

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.