James Perch and Mathieu Debuchy

Five new businesses that have received a start-up loan through Project North East, have been shortlisted to win the opportunity to become Newcastle United's 'sponsor for the day' in their home Premiership fixture against Liverpool next month.

The shortlist of five was announced when Sir Richard Branson recently visited Virgin Money's Gosforth office to meet with around 50 young entrepreneurs who have successfully obtained a start-up loan to launch their business.

The lucky entrepreneurs who run the five short-listed companies met on the famous St. James' Park pitch today to celebrate their nominations and were joined by United stars James Perch and Mathieu Debuchy.

 

They are:

// 'Choclateas' - run by Jodi and Stella Kean - make natural and organic chocolate teas, with flavoured extracts such as chilli, vanilla and much more.

// 'Montagu DIY & Hardware' - run by Andrew Emmerson - a new DIY and Hardware store in Montagu, Newcastle, focusing on selling items for general repairs in the home.

// 'Bloom Studio' - run by Martin Davies - produces bespoke, high quality and engaging animated films for any medium or platform.

// 'R-House' - run by Stewart Platt - a music promotion company specialising in the marketing and promotion of events.

// 'AIM Dance Group' - run by Jessica Henron and Galina Hewitt - a dance company that caters for all sorts of styles and individual abilities, for all ages.

 

Start-up loans are delivered in the North-East and Cumbria through Project North East - supported by a consortium including Virgin Money, Virgin Unite and The Northern Rock Foundation.

As part of this exciting scheme for young entrepreneurs aged 18-30, Virgin Money has made available some of its sponsorship facilities for Newcastle United's Premier League home game against Liverpool, scheduled for Saturday 27th April.

The winner will see its brand advertised around the ground on the LED perimeter boards as well as in the matchday programme.

To win that opportunity, the shortlisted entrepreneurs are pitching their businesses to the public online at www.virginmoney.com/bigkickoff.

The public can then vote and the business with most votes on the deadline of Sunday, 31st March will become sponsor for the day at St. James' Park.

When Sir Richard Branson met with the young entrepreneurs in Gosforth recently, he had some encouraging words about start-up loans and for those trying to make their way in the world with their own company.

He said: "This is often about handing over fairly small sums of money to help develop the new 'Virgins' of the future. I met a lot of entrepreneurs in the North-East and there was a wonderful variety - companies offering everything from clothing to candles and tea - all trying to make a positive difference to people's lives."

Richard Clark, director of workspace at Project North East added: "Project North East is delighted to be helping young people to launch their business with a start-up loan.

"The five shortlisted companies really stood out and this is a fantastic opportunity for them to have their brand advertised for free to a massive audience. I am sure they all deserve the opportunity and I wish them luck, but there can be only one winner."

Sir Tom Shebbeare, chairman of Virgin Money Giving and of the consortium, said: "This is a wonderful opportunity for these aspiring young entrepreneurs to advertise their brand.

"They have already demonstrated that they have a great business idea and with the help of a Start-Up Loan, they are now turning that great idea into an exciting business of the future.

"Sir Richard Branson is synonymous with entrepreneurship and we are delighted to be able to support this great initiative here in the North-East and Cumbria."