Lunch with Richard Branson

Meet our Virgin StartUp ambassadors – the entrepreneurs who we’ll be following on their journeys to start up or expand a new business in the UK. These  ambassadors have all taken out a Virgin StartUp loan and they’re are a varied lot – we’ve got everything from the funeral industry, to B2B technology, to food and drink covered (and beyond!)

To kick off their roles as ambassadors, we took them for lunch with Sir Richard Branson. Food was provided by Virgin StartUp-funded business Ofood, who served up wholesome Scandinavian sandwiches, salads, potato wedges and cold-pressed juices. As well as this, ambassador Zara Cakes brought along some of her brilliant confections.

Each business got the opportunity to have a one-on-one chat with Richard during a stroll with him around a nearby lake. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our ambassadors to pitch their business to him, as well as to have a chat about the challenges of starting up and to share their own unique story.

Here’s what our entrepreneurs learnt from the day.

Hazel Merlino, The Rainbow Factory


“Richard told me to think about the future before becoming ready to embark on it - prepare for the future, don’t wait for it to happen. Being an entrepreneur isn’t about meeting goals or objectives - it’s about growing an idea and the journey you embark on – that a true entrepreneur's idea/s never end, there is no end goal. They just keep getting bigger!

Richard thought that the way I was talking we had two or three Rainbow Factories in existence. When I said that we were just about to open our first one in June, his response was 'well if you’ve had such a positive response and investment, both financially and emotionally, from the community why aren’t you thinking about the next already? It was great to tell him about the business idea and for him to say “what a great idea, fabulous” - to get his stamp of approval meant a lot to me.”

Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover, A Natural Undertaking


“The words that stuck out for us from Richard were his comment “100% a great idea” - always good to hear from someone who has experience successfully turning ideas into reality! He was interested to know about what can and can’t be done when it comes to funerals and burial, which re-enforces what we’ve found about people not being fully aware of their choices – a real tenet of what we aim to provide.”

Zara Neild, Zara Cakes


“Richard told Hazel from the Rainbow Factory that we should work together! So we have decided to do a little collaboration with her children's parties and my cakes, as we live quite close!”

Oli Hawkins, G2 Brewing


“Richard was incredibly encouraging, and also reinforced my decision to start the business – he told me that starting up is always hard but to keep going, and that I’d made the right decision.”

Suzanne Noble, Frugl


"Richard very quickly understood what Frugl was about and how we would be generating revenue! It can be difficult to know how to monetise a free app, but he said at once “Oh, so you’re charging a commission on each sale?”, which we are."

Matt Doyle, Launchcloud


"Richard very quickly understood what we do at Launchcloud. He was impressed we were enervating in paper saving. He thought it was good we were already creating revenue with big clients."

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