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North East Start-Ups flex their muscles in live Google+ hangout


  • The start-ups quizzed the CEOs from fitness-based giants Tough Mudder and Soul Cycle
  • Almost 10,000 global views in just two days

Four of the region’s newest entrepreneurs were given the opportunity of a lifetime at Virgin Money’s Gosforth office this week as they took part in a live event to probe three world-renowned entrepreneurs on their experiences in business.

The live event was the latest in a series of Google+ Hangouts on Air, devised by Virgin Unite, Virgin Group’s not-for-profit foundation, which supports the group’s numerous enterprise programmes, including the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and Cumbria; in conjunction with Google, the multinational cloud computing, Internet search and advertising technologies corporation.

Following on from the inaugural Hangout, in which Sir Richard Branson and Paypal founder Elon Musk took part, the latest event focused on health and fitness entrepreneurship, with Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, founders of Soul Cycle, New York City’s full-body indoor cycling workout; and Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder, whose hardcore 12 mile-long obstacle courses designed by the Special Forces are known as the toughest on the planet.

The new businesses taking part, all of which have been supported by the North East and Cumbria’s Start-Up Loans scheme, were:

  • LC Sports Coaching - which specialises in coaching infant, girl’s and women’s football, based in Teesside
  • Blast Nutrition - offering quality sports supplements at affordable prices, based in Chester-le-Street
  • Operation Fitness - providing safe, fun, effective and friendly fitness training for all abilities in Newcastle and Gateshead, and
  • R Cares Specialist Fitness - offering personal training for those with special needs and disabilities in Sunderland.

Streamed live via Google, an informal chat kicked off the event, before the respective CEOs answered a series of questions about different aspects of business and entrepreneurship. Following this, budding entrepreneurs from around the world, including South Africa and the Caribbean, posed their own questions to the pair.

Michael Weston, 22, of Blast Nutrition said: “Taking part in the event was awesome and to excuse the pun, I had a Blast! It was great exposure for my business.”

Lucy Hart, 22, owner of LC Sports Coaching added: “In the not too distant future I’m hoping to take on some staff so it was really great to be able to ask how such big and successful businesses recruit like-minded staff.”

Brian Giles, Virgin Money’s Head of Communications and Community, hosted the event and said: “We were proud to take part in the inaugural event back in the summer, which was one of the most successful hangouts in the history of the platform. It was great to have the opportunity to take part in another global hangout and see four more young entrepreneurs, all just starting out on their business ventures, engaging and getting advice from the founders of two established and highly successful businesses. We were delighted to help them take part in such a unique and valuable event.”

The Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and Cumbria is delivered through a consortium including Virgin Money, Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loan.

The scheme has already delivered over 100 loans to start-up companies and it continues to open doors for entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 who have a great business idea. With funding still available to start-ups in the North East and Cumbria during 2013, successful applicants can benefit from Virgin Money’s mentoring support and Project North East’s many years’ working specifically with young business people.

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To find out more about the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and how to apply, young entrepreneurs should visit


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Notes to Editors

The Start-Up Loans North East and Cumbria scheme for young entrepreneurs was formally launched at Virgin Money’s Gosforth headquarters on Tuesday 20 November 2012.

Virgin Money has partnered with Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) to form a consortium in the delivery of ‘Start-Up Loans’ – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loan.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), through Start-Up Loans, is providing funding to be offered in the form of small business start-up loans in the North East and Cumbria. The initiative is aimed at young entrepreneurs between 18 and 30 years of age. Loan sizes are between £250 and £25,000, with an average of around £5,000.

The consortium also provides a training, mentoring and engagement programme, to enable unemployed young people and young people from the region’s deprived areas to learn how to run a business and to find out more about the Start-Up Loans programme.

PNE is regulated under the consumer credit act and is responsible for making the loans and administering the full lending process. PNE has nearly thirty years experience of successfully undertaking this type of work in the region, partnering organisations such as the Sainsbury family trusts and Royal Dutch Shell. More information about PNE can be found at and information on start-up loans can be found at