THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

29 August 2017

Are you a business virgin? We’ve partnered with Virgin StartUp to support new business ideas around the UK

On Thursday 21st September, the British Library is to co-ordinate a Start-up Day taking place across eleven UK city libraries through the Business & IP Centre network. The event is set to be the largest national effort to help turn fantastic ideas into business realities, with over 3,500 aspiring entrepreneurs predicted to take part in over 100 sessions over the course of the day. Joining us in this huge effort are our event partner Virgin StartUp, a start-up loans provider, who themselves have lots of experience in funding and mentoring. We are delighted to be working with them on our Start-up Day 2017 campaign, and here’s why.

 

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In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’.  In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands.

2,000 is a big number, but behind it are thousands of ‘ones’.  One person, with one goal, striving to live out one dream. Such as Cemal Ezel, who took out a £25,000 start-up loan from Virgin StartUp to launch his coffee business Change Please. He used the funds to buy his first mobile coffee van which was managed by a homeless person near London Bridge who he trained to be a barista. Fast-forward to today and that business now has multiple vans across London and the U.S. which are exclusively run by homeless people, providing training, income and stability to help lift them off the streets.  As part of this journey, Cemal won an all-expenses paid trip to Necker Island where he was mentored by some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world including the one and only, Sir Richard Branson.

Cemal Ezel

Another ‘one’ in the 2,000 is Melanie Goldsmith, co-founder of Smith & Sinclair who also received a £25,000 start-up loan, plus one-to-one guidance from a Virgin StartUp mentor. Melanie used the loan to produce her first product – an alcoholic fruit pastille. That first batch flew out the doors and the company are now manufacturing much larger volumes with products listed in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and more!

These are just two of the thousands of entrepreneurs who’ve taken a Virgin StartUp loan from ranging from £500 - £25,000 per co-founder. These loans are funded by the British Business Bank and given at a fixed rate of 6% interest pa over a 1-5 year period. Every single one of those founders has also been given access to their own locally-based mentor. Virgin StartUp mentors commit 15 hours of face-to-face support over a 12 month period. Even though a lot of people first think about the loan, it’s the mentoring that makes a real difference to the success for your business.

Like the British Library, once you become part of the Virgin StartUp community other opportunities do crop up. At Virgin StartUp, founders and businesses can take advantage of a whole range of activities including the popular scale-up accelerators, the most recent being ‘Platform-X’, which linked up with Virgin Trains to find start-ups who had ideas that could impact on the future of train travel and improve customers’ experience.  Five of the entrepreneurs we took onto that programme are now developing offerings with the likes of Virgin Trains and the Department for Transport.

Working with big businesses is something that we, like Virgin StartUp, urge start-ups to do. Winning contracts with corporates can give a small business the platform it needs to thrive. A recent attendee on the ‘Doing Business with Big Business’ event was Jamie McCloskey of Love Corn. Since going along he’s managed to secure deals with a whole host of retailers for his roasted corn snack product, including big high-street players such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s.

Virgin StartUp will be at all our Start-up Day events and will be running a special master class in London at 1.15pm. This is free to attend but make sure you book your place soon to secure your seat as places are filling up fast! Come along on September 21st to find out how Virgin StartUp can help you take the first steps on your business journey. Don’t forget to check out the full programme for the day too, which features advice on a whole range of business topics including marketing, cash-flow management, building a website and implementing a social media strategy, all designed to help you turn your great idea into a booming business.

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