Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 12:31 pm

A group of Scottish business founders looking to scale-up and grow their new sustainable brands received advice from Sir Richard Branson as he attended the official launch of Virgin Hotels Edinburgh.

The six businesses, who have all had support from Virgin StartUp, Virgin’s not-for-profit incubator, were given the opportunity to show their products to the entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group and chat about their business ideas, as Sir Richard also shared his top tips for growing a business.

24.03.2023 – Edinburgh, UK.
Richard Branson during his visit to launch the Virgin Hotel, Edinburgh.
Photo: Professional Images/@ProfImages

The start-ups were joined by Virgin StartUp’s Managing Director, Andy Fishburn, who introduced Sir Richard to an area in Virgin Hotels Edinburgh called The Curiosity Shop, which has been created in partnership with Virgin StartUp to enable hotel guests to discover and support local Scottish businesses.

The founders attending included Dr Sally Gouldstone, founder of Seilich, a company that makes skincare products from Scottish wildflowers, which she now sells on Virgin Red, Virgin’s Group-wide rewards club, as well as Jill and Steve Henry who run Edinburgh-based, Meander Apparel, an outdoor clothing company using natural or recycled materials.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, says: “Virgin StartUp has been going strong for nearly 10 years now and we are proud to have supported thousands of new business founders on their start-up journey. It’s always a pleasure to meet some of the founders and hear about their business ideas and ambitions, especially when they are so passionate about improving something for the better. I love the idea of The Curiosity Shop and it’s great to see Virgin Hotels Edinburgh supporting local businesses in this way.”

26-year-old Jennifer Norrie, founder of Sensi, which makes high-quality silk pillowcases and sleep masks, says: “Meeting Sir Richard was an experience I’ll never forget. Something that really resonated with me was when he explained that no matter how big or small your business is, you will always have ups and downs. Hearing that was inspiring and extremely comforting for founders of start-up businesses to hear. I feel more motivated than ever to succeed and feel honoured to be one of the businesses supported by Virgin StartUp.”

As a leading Delivery Partner of the Government-backed Start Up Loans Programme, Virgin StartUp provides access to funding between £500 – £25,000 to help founders start or scale early-stage businesses in the UK. Every founder who receives a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp is matched with their own mentor and receives a programme of post-funding support for 12 months as part of Virgin StartUp’s ‘Funded Club’. The not-for-profit launched in 2013 and has distributed more than £69 million in Start Up Loans.

Andy Fishburn, Managing Director of Virgin StartUp, adds: “Supporting new businesses is about more than just providing access to capital, which is why all Virgin StartUp founders also receive mentoring and other support on their journey. The Curiosity Shop is another way we can support Scottish start-ups by raising their profile in the local community and I’d like to thank Virgin Hotels Edinburgh for helping us to bring this idea to life. Entrepreneurial spirit is strong in Scotland this year, with a quarter of Scots saying they’d like to start a business in 2023, so we look forward to helping lots of new Scottish founders to start, scale and thrive.”

Virgin StartUp supported Scottish businesses:

  1. Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful Founded by a Scottish marine biologist, a wide range of seaweed supplements made using organic Hebridean seaweed that is sustainably wild-harvested from pristine Scottish waters.
  2. Genevieve Sweeney Timeless knitwear, made in Scotland with both traditional artisan and innovative knitting techniques that showcase the natural beauty of Scottish spun yarns.
  3. Meander ApparelEdinburgh-based outdoor clothing brand. Around 90% of the collection is made using natural or recycled, low-impact materials.
  4. Seilich A small, family-run company based in the Lothians and created by botanist, Dr Sally Gouldstone. Inspired by a passion for Scottish wildlife, the family sell an award-winning range of natural skincare products, made using ingredients grown in their wildflower meadow. 
  5. Sensi – launched in 2022 by 25-year-old Jennifer Norrie. Jennifer discovered a love of silk when she tried sleeping on silk pillowslips for the first time and found that her skin was glowier and her hair less frizzy.
  6. Project Harmless Makers of an award-winning dog poop bag made from water-reactive and non-toxic material.  
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