Five Virgin Balloon Flights employees have been accepted onto the Virgin Startup mentorship scheme! Now the hard work begins…

Virgin Startup aims to grow small businesses and help budding entrepreneurs by offering low cost loans. As well as financial support, the scheme matches entrepreneurs to a mentor, who can offer them specialist advice and experience from specific areas of business.

From marketing, to finance, Virgin Startup aims to equip budding entrepreneurs with the skills and motivation they need to be successful in their business ventures.

Four lucky Virgin Balloon Flights mentors attended the final round of Pitch 2 Rich on Tuesday. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Sir Richard’s family home in Oxfordshire, five entrepreneurs battled it out for the ultimate prize.

Mentors were invited to the event to see for themselves, first-hand, how small businesses grow and develop. The whole event stressed the important part that start-up businesses play in strengthening our economy and developing reliable foundations upon which to keep innovating.

First on stage was Carl Thomas. His 90-second pitch aimed to convince the audience and judging panel (which included Sir Richard Branson himself) that his company, Audiowings, offered the future in wireless headphone technology. Getting trapped in pesky wires whilst exercising would be history with the Audiowings headphones, Carl explained. Stream music live from your Spotify account or smartphone, straight to your headphones.

To follow, the audience heard from Lettija Lee who represented her company PecoPoncho. Offering a sustainable, compostable poncho solution, Lettija explained how her product would prove popular for the festival goers market.

Another Carl Thomas then faced the panel to introduce his image sharing invention, MiPic. MiPic is a social platform for mobile cartographers, Carl explained, enabling them to share images and sell art to a global audience.

Chris Thorpe, founder of I Can Make, wowed the audience with his 3D printer and content kit. He saw his vision as a useful learning device in classrooms across the UK.

Igor Roberts, founder of Boxhug, treated each panel member to a little cuddle before he started his pitch. Boxhug is a first class storage system which promises same day delivery. The service allows you to store as much or as little as you need, and you can manage your items online or directly from your smartphone.

Sir Richard and the panel went offstage to deliberate their choice, whilst the rest of us were treated to a spot of lunch and a glass of bubbles. Cake maker to the stars - Choccywoccydoodah unveiled this incredible Virgin cake for Sir Richard. We thought it looked too good to eat!

Before announcing the winner, Sir Richard explained how new business ideas should aim to solve everyday problems and thereby improve and simplify people’s lives.

Igor and Boxhug were chosen for the Virgin Startup award. The panel thought that the product had the potential to grow quickly and satisfy high market demand. He received £5,000 to invest in his business. Carl Thomas from MiPic won the innovation award – we think Sir Richard was swayed by the image of Virgin Galactic’s spaceship that Carl gifted him!

Well done to all the entrepreneurs! There was some fantastic pitching, which made for a wonderful day. Virgin Balloon Flights certainly came away with vigour to help their Virgin Startup mentees and guide them on their way to business success.