Virgin Money: Yorkshire Bank rebrands

Gavin Opperman, of Virgin Money, reflects on a challenging year for Yorkshire – and notes an astonishing trend in business start-ups.

Gavin Opperman
Gavin Opperman

As we near the anniversary of lockdown, it’s hard to believe what’s happened over the last 12 months. People told to stay at home and not to go about their daily lives. Children kept home from school and made to learn via Zoom or Teams. Businesses faced with massive operational challenges or forced to close completely. It really has been a year we will not forget.

But with every challenge, comes opportunity. And one of the more positive statistics coming out of the UK is that COVID-19 seems to have sparked our entrepreneurial spirit. According to Companies House, 768,777 new businesses were incorporated in 2020, which is an increase of more than 13% on 2019 (678,419), suggesting that many are seizing the opportunity for innovation.

Yorkshire entrepreneurs

And that trend seems to have carried into the new year. During the first two months of 2021, 135,014 new businesses have already been created in the UK and specifically in Yorkshire and the Humber, we have welcomed almost 7,700 new businesses. Companies House recorded a total of 7,696 businesses incorporated in January and February, which equates to one new business for every 563 adults in the region – a remarkable figure and one that is encouraging to see.

Many people will tell you that starting a new business isn’t an easy task, especially in the middle of a pandemic. You’ve managed to spot a gap in the market and have a great product or service that you are confident will be popular, but what’s next? How do you create a business from scratch?

Virgin StartUp

We are delighted that Virgin Money’s new partnership with Virgin StartUp is coming at a really great time for our business customers, especially those who are in the early stages of their ventures. The independent, not-for-profit organisation has a keen focus on entrepreneurship and was founded in 2013 by Sir Richard Branson. Virgin StartUp exists to empower new business owners to not only start-up and survive, but thrive, by providing business advice, funding, mentoring, training and networking to thousands of founders around the UK each year.

Brewery start-up

One business who has benefited from being involved with Virgin StartUp is York-based FITCH Brew Co. Founded by husband-and-wife duo in 2017, Andy Deeley and Emily Fitch-Deeley wanted to bring Cold Brew drinks to the UK, which are natural and innovative, while tasting great and being functional and sustainable. They applied brewing techniques to re-define and to shake up the soft drink industry and have recently secured stockists in the US.

FITCH operates out of its own brewery in York and produces a range of Cold Brew coffee and tea, alongside an Oat Latte, which has recently launched. Emily and Andy’s entrepreneurial journey began with crowdfunding from Crowdcube, before joining the Virgin StartUp community where they received both a loan and a mentorship opportunity.

Help for all

From June 2021, all Virgin Money business customers, including those under the heritage Yorkshire Bank brand, will have access to the support provided by Virgin StartUp and be able to join its growing community of 190,000 founders and future founders. As well as providing guidance and support for SMEs, this partnership will also provide customers with the opportunity to take part in a range of discounted training opportunities, as well as access to new digital resources, including podcasts and video guides, which we are helping develop.

Small businesses will be vital in helping to rebuild the economy so it’s important our customers have access to the right type of funding and expertise to help their business thrive. By having a network to learn from and open opportunities, it can really help take a business to the next level and we are right beside our customers to reach their goals and ambitions. Our rebrand to Virgin Money is complete this month, which is an important milestone for our business, and customers will experience the same great service and support we are known for.

Gavin Opperman