Yesterday, I was honoured to give the welcome for the 21st Fast Track 100 event (the league table of Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing sales, covering all sectors except technology). I love attending Fast Track, it’s one of my favourite events of the year.
Fast Track is the brainchild of the wonderful Hamish Stevenson and Dad has hosted the event from year one. I remember as a young teenager running about the marquee, with my brother Sam, enjoying the buzz of the event and encouraging the guests to bid higher in the charity auction.
Today, the majority of headlines we read concentrate on the decline of some of our major high street retailers. It is often difficult to view our economy as anything other than stagnant or worse. But sitting in a room with these incredible companies, led by inspiring female and male entrepreneurs, you can’t help feeling positive about the strength of innovation and commerce in the UK today. As a little ray of sunshine, in a somewhat gloomy economic climate: this year’s 100 companies achieved, on average, sales growth of 65% a year over their last three years of accounts, to a combined total of £3.9bn. They employ 19,300 staff, and have added 14,000 jobs over the same period. Proving that the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and kicking in the UK!
Celebrating female entrepreneurs and business leaders, guests at this year’s event were treated to two fantastic keynote speakers in Karen Jones CBE co-founder of Café Rouge and former CEO of the Spirit Pub Group, and Clare Gilmartin, CEO of Trainline; as well as a panel of impressive female founders of Fast Track 100 companies.
Later in the afternoon, I got to take to the stage for a Q&A session with my dad and my good friend, Virgin Group’s CEO Josh Bayliss. In the last few months, while promoting WEconomy on our book tour, I’ve taken part in many panels and Q&As – I must admit though, nothing quite compares to sharing the stage with dad. After the first five minutes it genuinely feels like we’re sitting around the kitchen table at home, having a chit chat. Very much like at home, we covered subjects as diverse as gender equality in the workplace, all things book writing (the paperback of dad’s Finding My Virginity is published early July) through to Hyperloop and training (or lack of training!) for this year’s Virgin Strive Challenge.
I only wish we had had my mum on stage to make the discussion really feel like home. My mum loves a good debate but not an audience!