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Entrepreneurs in High Spirits as They Bag Backing from Richard Branson


South London brothers triumph in Branson’s Virgin Media Pioneers ‘Pitch to Rich’ competition and win prize package worth £5,000

Two budding entrepreneurs have been named the winners of the Virgin Media Pioneers Pitch to Rich competition – after pitching their business idea to Sir Richard Branson and a panel of successful business leaders securing a prize package worth £5,000.

Joshua, and John Okungbaiye, 25 and 23 respectively, from South East London were one of four businesses who made it to the final of the nationwide search by Virgin Media Pioneers – the online community for entrepreneurs – to find the best new business start-up.

The brothers are the founders of ‘High Spirit’ which creates leather, theft-proof rucksacks, and were quizzed by Sir Richard and the panel of other judges, including Virgin Media Pioneers’ success story and founder of SBTV, Jamal Edwards; Thea Green, the founder of Nails Inc; Hummingbird Bakery founder Tarek Malouf; and last year’s Pitch to Rich winner Dan Watson who was invited by Sir Richard to join the judging panel. The brothers gave a lively pitch in front of an audience of business leaders, entrepreneurs and media about their plans for the company and finished by gifting the judges with a rucksack each, including a red bag for Sir Richard and a green version for Thea.

Following deliberations between the judges, Joshua and John were eventually named the overall winner and were awarded with a £5,000 investment package, including mentoring, towards their start-up business.

Joshua from High Spirit, said: “We are thrilled and honoured to be selected as the winners of the Pitch to Rich competition, especially by such a prestigious panel of judges. The whole process has been extremely exciting and an amazing learning curve for us. We have already met some fantastic people through the Virgin Media Pioneers network and received some very useful advice and information. We would recommend it to any new start-up or budding entrepreneurs with a bright idea. We will be using the prize money to now create the website we have always dreamed of having for our business.”

Sir Richard Branson, Pioneer-At-Large of Virgin Media Pioneers and founder of the Virgin Group, said: “My desire to do something different and take a few risks along the way has been at the heart of the Virgin story from the very beginning. I always look forward to judging the Pitch to Rich final as it gives me a wonderful opportunity to meet a host of interesting entrepreneurs. This year was no different, I was very impressed by High Spirit and their innovative take on the rucksack. I’ll be using my red bag and I’m very happy to be one of their first brand ambassadors.”

Jamal Edwards, Pioneer-At-Large and founder of SBTV also commented: “The High Sprit pitch was something I could instantly relate to. I’ve had a camera stolen from my bag on the tube before, and so their rucksacks are something I would personally want to buy. The guys have identified a strong opportunity in the market, and I look forward to seeing their business progress.”

Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead said of the brothers’ success: “I am extremely happy that we have young people like Joshua and John in my constituency. That they have developed their own product, set-up their own business, and pitched their ideas at the highest level with such great success is extremely impressive, and I am sure their business will be very successful.

“Joshua and John are shining examples of what young people can achieve when they put their minds to it, and when they are given the opportunity to express their originality and dynamism. They are excellent role models for young people across Erith and Thamesmead, and they should be very proud of their achievement.”

The other finalists included Barbara Jones from Halifax who runs Straw Works, an innovative design, building and training company that specialises in using natural materials such as straw bales to create affordable and efficient home and offices. Dr Stephen Terry from Liverpool, who has established TCK engines and has developed a fuel injection system which maximises the efficiency of combustion and hybrid engines, and Imran Merza from South West London who has established The Jealous Life which makes ‘sweets for grown ups’ containing no gelatine, gluten or artificial flavours.

The runners up also received £1,000 worth of investment, as well as an opportunity to build their network and raise their profile to further their business prospects.

Last year’s winner, Dan Watson from London, designed SafetyNet, a sustainable fishing system designed to help juvenile fish escape during the trawling process.

Virgin Media Pioneers was founded by Virgin Media in 2010. Today, the free peer-to-peer network supports 5,000 young entrepreneurs, providing mentoring, advice and unique business opportunities.

To find out more about the Virgin Media Pioneers, visit: or @VMPioneers #VMPitch2Rich

Notes to Editors

About Virgin Media Pioneers

Virgin Media Pioneers was formed by Virgin Media in 2010 as an online community for aspiring entrepreneurs. Over 5,000 members now interact, using videos and blogging to create a peer-to-peer support and mentoring service. Virgin Media Pioneers also offers original content including the Pioneers TV series targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs as well as connecting people from all walks of life who are passionate about business across a range of industries – from fashion to digital to catering. Regular free events and unique opportunities are also offered, such as the Regional Ambassadors event series, which will see 13 Pioneers across the UK coordinate local meetings for networking, training and inspiration.

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media is the first provider of all four broadband, TV, mobile phone and home phone services in the UK.

The company delivers ultrafast broadband connections to over half of all UK homes, with speeds of up to 120Mb, and is expanding this cable network – the result of a multi-billion pound investment – to reach thousands more people across the country.

Virgin Media has developed the most advanced interactive television service, bringing together broadcast TV, thousands of hours of on demand programming and the best of the web in a single set-top box powered by TiVo. The company was the first to offer HD TV and 3D on demand to millions of UK households.

Virgin Media also operates the most popular virtual mobile network in the UK which, when launched, was the world’s first such mobile phone service. It is also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the country.

Virgin Media Inc. is listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market and the London Stock Exchange (VMED).

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