Luca Parmeggiani: how i'm using a startup budget to launch my business

'Doing well by doing good.' It's a philosophy close to our hearts at Virgin and it's also a core part of the business model for one of our latest Virgin StartUp's, Atipico. Luca Parmeggiani wants to turn selling fashion accessories, starting with shoelaces, into providing school meals for undernourished children. We supplied £5,000 in funding, this is how he's using a shoestring budget to launch his shoelace business.

"When we started, we had what could only be called ‘very limited’ resources. In fact, it was just £1,500 to spend on creating our business!

Raising finance was an issue, due to the fact our products are so basic and our model of giving away a school meal every time one of our products was sold has never been done before.

We’re obsessed with an idea to create little fashion accessories that make the world a better place. We want to do this by making a positive change in the world every time an Atipico product is purchased.

Atipico was born from the idea that we could and should make a difference. Having experienced problems feeding our first child, the fundamental truth that every child needs and deserves to eat really hit home. And with 925 million undernourished people in the world, our son was actually one of the lucky ones. So for every Atipico accessory purchased, we provide funding for a school meal to a child in need. We Lace Up to fight hunger!

We started this idea with no money, no likihood of raising it, and no proven business model. We just wanted to bring colour and quality into people’s lives, while helping those less fortunate. To make products which are fun and beautiful, but which also make a real difference. So we ended up spending £1,500 of our own money to manufacturing the product in minimum quantity.

But a lack of resources is no reason to avoid starting a company. One quote that helped inspire us was from the founder of TOMS shoes, Blake Mycoskie

“Being comfortable can hurt your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.”

While frantically looking for how to make this idea happen, we were told about Virgin StartUp by a friend. After working with a business advisor to create a business plan we were awarded a £5,000 Virgin StartUp Loan.

This led to long discussions about how to use our Virgin Start Up Loan to grow our business. Finally, we decided to spend £1,500 on packaging, £500 on showcase/display system for retailers, £2,000 on a dedicated website and the rest to cover administration costs already outstanding.

The reason for spending the loan on these components was because investing in packaging and showcasing is the perfect way to engage customers and is also a huge part of persuading retailers to stock our product.  Creating a bespoke website is important as it’s the home of where we will spread our message and will also allow customers to buy our products online.

It’s in our DNA to finish our project and thanks to Virgin Start Up Loan we can now finally test the idea and see if works as a profitable business!

Being the founder of a start-up is not an easy job, but so far has been more rewarding than my last 10 year’s of employment. The greatest thing about that is, we haven’t even launched yet!

If you’re starting a business yourself, then good luck and I’ll leave you with this qoute from Gandhi: “ Be the change you want to see in the world.”


Luca Parmeggiani (co-founder and chief of school meal giver)"