Virgin StartUp Ignition – The keynote speakers announced!

We’re already unbelievably excited about Virgin StartUp Ignition, our event celebrating female entrepreneurs and their amazing businesses. Whatever stage you’re at – even if just starting out – it’s going to be a day of learning, networking, and generally being inspired.

So (drum roll please), here are the keynote speakers for Ignition, who’ll be sharing their stories and taking your questions. And with such a line-up, we think you’ll agree inspiration is going to be in plentiful supply…

Annabel Karmel MBE

UK’s No.1 Children’s Cookery Author and Entrepreneur

annabel karmel

Mother of three, Annabel Karmel MBE is the UK's No.1 children’s cookery author. Since launching with The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner more than 20 years ago, Annabel’s 39 books have sold over four million copies worldwide.

It’s safe to say that Annabel Karmel is still at the forefront of child nutrition, decades on – in fact, if you’re born after 1991, there’s a good chance that you were raised on recipes she came up with.

Annabel is also one of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs, and her new book Mumpreneur: The complete guide to starting and running a successful business launches on 12th February 2015. As well as her own tips and advice, the book shares the incredible stories, ideas and insights of other influential women in business.

In 2006, Annabel was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her outstanding work in the field of child nutrition. She is also a regular contributor on children’s health and food in the media, and writes for the UK’s leading magazines and newspapers.

Jacqueline Gold

Chief Executive of Ann Summers


As the chief executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox – a company which revolutionised the high street by truly putting women first, empowering them to shop for lingerie and sex toys in a female-friendly environment – Jacqueline Gold has an amazing insight into the UK business industry.

She began her career at 21 at her father’s company, Ann Summers. She saw the potential to change the focus of the business and create a brand which focused on women, and also pioneered the famous Ann Summers party (based on Tupperware’s home-selling model!)

30 years after her first pitch to the board, the business now boasts gross annual sales turnover of over £150 million, 145 UK & Ireland stores, 7,000 party planners and a thriving online business.

Jacqueline has been named Retail Week’s Most Powerful Woman in Business and Barclays Bank’s Most Inspirational Businesswoman in the UK, and numerous awards and accolades from publications including Cosmopolitan and Esquire.

Sharmadean Reid

Founder of WAH Nails


Sharmadean Reid is the inspirational powerhouse behind all things WAH – which goes far beyond nails. WAH started as a London-based fanzine about girls in hip-hop, championing those contributing to the music and clothing scene. From this developed the WAHappenings blog, events, and a community of street-smart WAH girls.

In 2008, Sharmadean had an inkling that the nail art she and her friends had been sporting for years was about to go mainstream. After another bad experience at a nail salon she decided she was going to open her own salon where you could have "whatever you wanted on your fingertips" - WAH Nails. A true pioneer, nail art is now ubiquitous all over the UK – but Sharmadean got there first!

In 2009, WAH Nails opened its doors in the East End of London. They now have a branch in TopShop Oxford Circus, have worked with brands such as Nike and Marc Jacobs, and have been featured in leading magazines such as Vogue.

Louise Court, Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan


Louise Court, UK Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan, has probably one of the most-envied jobs on the planet . Cosmopolitan is one of the world’s most long-running and famous magazines, distributed in 110 countries worldwide and read by millions across the globe, and Louise has been at the helm since 2006.

Starting out as a local reporter, Louise went on to become a showbiz reporter for the Daily Express, assistant editor of Woman’s Own, and editor of Best before joining Cosmopolitan. Playing such a key role in journalism for so many years has given her plenty of experience with recognising a newsworthy story – and with deciding on which brands are deserving of appearing on the coveted Cosmo pages.

Excited yet? It doesn’t end there. The event will be presented by TV presenter and former Paralympian Rachael Latham, who competed in Beijing 2008 and is the current world record holder for 50m butterfly, European record holder for 200m butterfly, and 200m backstroke British record holder. We’ll also get to hear from Claire Oldfield – a top financial journalist turned MD of leading marketing firm Wardour – and Martha Swift, founder of well-loved institution Primrose Bakery. Plus more to come!

Tickets are available here – get yours today, and join us for a day to remember!