Jess Ford (SHU placement student) and her visit to Richard Branson' House
As the placement student at the Sheffield Hallam Enterprise Centre, I was given the opportunity to visit Richard Branson's house last week. I was invited by Michael Overton, a student supported by the Hatchery team, who had entered a Virgin Pioneers competition with his business idea. He was shortlisted to a group of 8 people down from 500 entrants which gave him and one guest the opportunity to visit Richard Branson's house and to network with his top 100 investors. Michael, a first year Geography student at SHU, and myself, a placement student studying Business and Enterprise Management also at SHU, travelled down to London and stayed in a hotel, all expenses paid by Virgin Pioneers. We woke early to be picked up and driven to Richard's house near Oxford with all the other pioneers and their business partners or guests. At this point, I was probably the most nervous and excited that I have ever been.
The event was held in a marquee in the garden of his house with some luxury outdoor toilets, very different to the standard 'festival-like' portaloos I am used to. On arrival there was a fine selection of refreshments and waiting were some of Richard Bransons' top investors.
After being seated, everyone waited eagerly for the arrival of Sir Richard Branson himself and the minute he entered the marquee and sat at the front, something in the air changed but everyone remained professional. As people went quiet Richard would make jokes and have everyone engaged and listening. He was as down-to-earth as most people imagine him to be, he never failed to make his guests smile and the way he spoke made everyone feel at ease. There were 4 pitches that took place and they were all great ideas. I felt extremely fortunate to witness this as I now know I have the confidence to take part in an event like this myself if I am ever given the opportunity.
Once the judging of the best pitch had taken place, the winners were announced and photographs were taken. There was a wide selection of guests including Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Smoothies and producer of new BBC3 programme 'Be Your Own Boss', Nihal Arthanayake, Radio 1 DJ, and Jamal Edwards, winner of last year’s Virgin Pioneers competition. Approaching the end of my placement year, I am now more confident and actually spoke to each of the individuals I mentioned and many other people too.
I feel that since being on placement I have developed into an aspiring entrepreneur and that this event was the 'icing on the cake'. The day was an extremely beneficial and inspiring experience, and one that will never be forgotten. I cannot thank Mike enough as we were both able to talk to some invaluable contacts at this prestigious networking event and it was no doubt a once in a life-time opportunity.