A Screenshot of people on a virtual meeting
Top left: Hector Hughes, co-founder of Unplugged. Top right: Molly Johnson-Jones, founder of Flexa Careers. Bottom left: Virgin StartUp host, Ben Keene. Bottom right: CEO of Betterspace UK, Jim Woods

“People come first” - Richard Branson

Without its people, our businesses aren’t anything. As founders of new startups, you’re the beating heart and soul of your business, and how you build it will reflect your culture, values, practices and design. 

We recently sat down with three founders with unique perspectives on why the culture you curate and the people you hire are key to building strong foundations upon which your startup can thrive. 

Molly Johnson-Jones was working at an investment bank in a fast-paced environment. After she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, she approached her boss about what options there were for flexible working. What happened next was a shock. 

"I was fired on the spot after asking about flexible working."

After leaving her role, Molly found that when looking for a new job which offered flexible options to meet her needs, there weren't easy ways to uncover what was out there. 

"There are two types of founder: those who always knew it was what they wanted to do, and the accidental entrepreneur. I am the latter"

She then started her journey as a founder and launched Flexa Careers to help people find the right roles for them. 

At Flexa, culture is key. Molly says that they only have "one meeting a week" and that employees manage their own notifications to suit their workflow. 




Hector Huges was working in a high-growth scaleup, travelling around the world to set up new offices for the company. When things started to go downhill, he says he came back crashing down to earth exhausted and burnt out. After going on a silent retreat, he came home and quit his job. 

"My first chapter ended in failure. I had lost the joy for life."

Hector realised there was more to life than working at full-speed. He joined forces with his co-founder to launch Unplugged - a way for city-dwellers to reconnect with themselves and nature. Unplugged offer a "no phone" getaway, where you're encouraged to lock your phone away for 48 hours and switch off. 

Conscious of the impact over-working can have, Hector manages his time carefully. 

"Running a startup can be addictive. That's why I have no notifications and don't send emails out of hours."

Hector also makes sure he goes to stay at one of Unplugged's cabins every so often to switch off. Practice what you preach! 

Jim Woods lost several close friends to suicide. He realised then that his purpose was to do something about it. 

"I wanted to help employees build wellbeing habits"

Jim started Betterspace to help employers empower teams and their wellbeing. He says they wanted to build the "Tesla of mental health" and joined the Zinc tech-for-good accelerator.

For his teams, Jim offers a fully remote workplace with the option of going to an office. 

"Culture is so critical. The most important thing for us is the mission of tackling the mental health crisis - and we attract people who share that mission. Where personal and business missions align. The mission is the glue."

Finding the right people who share your values and mission will be key to unlocking how to scale your culture. Ensuring that you take care of not just your employees, but yourself, can create trust within a new and growing team. 

Virgin Money Logo

Virgin Money are here to disrupt the status quo. They want everyone to have a much happier relationship with money. They provide a full range of banking products, services and digital solutions to help founders at every stage of their business journey. Find out more by visiting their website.

Virgin StartUp MeetUp events are designed for digital and delivered monthly. To be amongst the first to hear about upcoming events and more, sign up to our newsletter.