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Shortlist announced for £1,000 business challenge


  • Three North East start-ups stand out from the 100 entries in competition to become finalists
  • £1,000 cash prize to be won, together with a marketing package worth up to £5,000
  • The finalists are:
    • Weekend Box Club
    • Look Good Feel Good
    • Shambo and Cheng’s LED t-shirts
  • Vote for your favourite and you could win an iPad
  • Winner will be announced on 22 October

Three North East entrepreneurs are celebrating after being named as finalists in the £1,000 Business Challenge, in association with Virgin Money. And if you vote for your favourite you could win an iPad.

The competition on Metro Radio, also supported by the Project North East Group and Virgin Unite, launched last month, giving entrepreneurs aged 18 and over the opportunity to win £1,000 cash, a business marketing package worth up to £5,000 and support from a Virgin Money mentor.

Exactly 100 hopefuls applied, whether they were in their first year of trading or were hoping to bring a great business idea to market; writing a business pitch in just 300 words or less. Eight semi-finalists were given the chance to bring their pitch to life in person, presenting to a panel of enterprise experts from Virgin Money, Project North East, Virgin Unite and Metro Radio.

It is now up to the businesses to canvas for your votes via social media. Who wins is up to you, but here is a little more about each of them:

Andy Stephenson, Weekend Box Club

Weekend Boxes are fun-filled activity packs for children aged three to eight, delivered directly through your letterbox every fortnight. Each box contains four engaging activities as well as an activity book and since everything you need is in the box (even glue!) you get to spend even more quality time with your little ones. Have a look at

Nikita Hatfield, Look Good Feel Good

Teesside-based Look Good Feel Good is an independent fashion store that began online. Bringing you the latest trends, it also stocks lingerie, shoes, bags, hair, make up, perfume and young girls clothing at affordable prices, posting all over the UK and offering a home delivery service as well.

Shambo and Cheng’s LED t-shirts

Shambo Matia and Cheng Zeng are studying for their respective MBAs at Sunderland University. They are hoping to take the fashion world by storm with their innovative LED t-shirts, which react to sound, flashing in time when music plays, whether at clubs, festivals or gigs.

Pete Wood, Virgin Money’s Head of Social Enterprise Projects, including the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and Cumbria, said: “We are delighted to be able to support driven young business minds in new and innovative ways, and backing this challenge is part of that.

“All the business ideas that were submitted were great and we want to thank everyone for taking part. Now we need help from the North East public to choose which of the three will win the challenge. We are looking forward to revealing the winner and seeing their business become a vibrant new company in the marketplace over the coming months.”

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 loans.

The scheme continues to open doors for entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 who have a great business idea. Loans range from £500 to £25,000 with new ‘Lean Start-Up Loans’, of up to £1,000, aimed at those who would like to carry out market research before launching, or need a bit of a push to begin trading. With funding still to be awarded 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.

To be in with a chance at bagging an iPad, vote for your favourite business idea at And to find out more about the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East, as well as the new ‘Lean’ loans and how to apply, young entrepreneurs should visit


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Notes to Editors

The Start-Up Loans scheme for young entrepreneurs was formally launched at Virgin Money’s Gosforth operational 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