How Virgin Money is helping Yorkshire businesses to grow

As Yorkshire – and the rest of the UK – sees a rise in entrepreneurship, Virgin Money is taking steps to help these homegrown start-ups to flourish, writes Group Business Director Gavin Opperman.

"We’ve seen a rise in entrepreneurship, as people have taken this time to consider what they want to do with their lives"

Events of the last 18 months will have affected everyone in one way or another, and many people have not been able to see their family for months, or even longer.

Some who used to regularly travel for work won’t have stepped foot in an airport for well over a year. And many of us have experienced the pros and cons of working from home long-term.

We’ve seen a rise in entrepreneurship, as people have taken this time to consider what they want to do with their lives. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for many people to take their passion and turn it into a full-time business, and we’re seeing more people starting out on the road to being their own boss.

Companies House data reveals 810,316 companies were incorporated between March 2020 and March 2021, an increase of 21.8 per cent when compared with the previous 12 months.

Our latest research shows more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of new UK entrepreneurs admit to needing more support when starting out than they thought they would. The research also reveals that access to funding, establishing the brand, finding their audience and staying open during Covid are all front of mind for entrepreneurs, whether they are established business owners or someone who is considering becoming their own boss.

Additionally, more than one in three (36 per cent) would-be entrepreneurs are concerned about what financial support is out there.

So, with all these new businesses out there, it’s important there is the right support to help them grow and flourish. That is one of the reasons we have started to work alongside Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit organisation within the Virgin Group which focuses on supporting business founders in the UK with expert guidance, funding and mentorship.

This is the first joint business banking initiative by two Virgin companies, and we are combining our expertise to help more businesses on their journey.

It’s vital that there is the right support and guidance in key areas to help make people’s entrepreneurial dreams a reality. As we emerge from the pandemic we want to work closely with business founders to help them grow their businesses.

All Virgin Money business customers now have access to the expertise of Virgin StartUp, which includes free digital events designed to guide founders on specialist topics; free digital resources to tackle knowledge gaps; and discounted Masterclasses from renowned business leaders.

As Linda Grant, Chair of Virgin StartUp, explains: “We know that the right support is vital for new businesses in those early days, yet many people underestimate how much help they will need. And there is also a pool of would-be entrepreneurs whose concerns may be holding them back from taking that next step and setting up – establishing their brand, finding their audience and access to funding are all areas they feel they need help with.

“At Virgin StartUp we understand the road to starting a business isn’t all plain sailing and have a wealth of knowledge of experience in helping founders make their ideas a reality – it’s something we’ve been doing at Virgin for 50 years. By working alongside Virgin Money, we can offer this support to even more people who want to start up and scale.”

As the near-full easing of Covid-related restrictions arrived recently, it has been encouraging to see Yorkshire starting to open back up.

And although businesses are still facing a lot of uncertainty, I was heartened that in our research, entrepreneurs said that they are quite optimistic with almost three quarters (74 per cent) saying they feel more confident about the future. The economy bouncing back (45 per cent), customers’ willingness to spend again (44 per cent) and more demand for what their business offers (41 per cent) were cited as key drivers of this increased confidence.

Whatever lies ahead for our economy, Virgin Money is committed to working with our business customers to help them succeed as we rebound from this pandemic.