Inspiring and Empowering Entrepreneurs


Starting a business is about more than just making money; many of the benefits of starting up are actually independent of whether or not the business is commercially successful. Entrepreneurs learn many new skills that can help enhance their employability. Starting a business can help a person build their confidence, offer a sense of achievement and raise self-esteem.

Business, whether for profit or not, can also drive positive change. So starting a business can allow an entrepreneur to make a difference in areas they care about the most - and to do so without having to fundraise and organise volunteers.

Ian Mason & Richard Branson

Above all, entrepreneurship is the most effective mechanism for enhancing both absolute and relative social mobility, which is critical to providing greater pathways to equality in society.

Of course starting a business is not easy. It's not something that is taught in schools and while the internet is overloaded with advice and guidance aimed at those wishing to start a business, it can be hard to cut through the noise and find the information that is most valuable. Entrepreneurship is all about how you react to what is happening around you - the only way you can truly learn is by doing it for yourself. So a lack of money and experience of starting a business is enough to prevent many people from having a go - it makes it a daunting prospect.

Virgin Start Up is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by Sir Richard Branson, that supports entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business. They work with entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, no matter their financial circumstances, whether they have experience in business or not, to develop their idea into a fundable proposition. They then offer a start-up loan of anything between £500 and £25,000 in order to turn the idea into reality and an experienced mentor to help guide the entrepreneur through their first year in business.


Ian was appointed Head of Strategic Development for Virgin Start Up shortly after its founding and has played a key role in the development of the organisation that now supports hundreds of entrepreneurs every year.

To find out more about the work of Virgin Start Up in supporting entrepreneurs to realise their dreams of starting a business, visit their website:

Developing the Leaders of the Future


Leadership is such a vital attribute to possess, yet seldom is sufficient emphasis placed on developing it. It's not widely developed during formal education, nor is it widely developed in the workplace; in fact, most of the time, a person is given a leadership role based on their ability to perform in their previous job, not on their ability to lead.

The current generation of young people find themselves feeling the impact of this platitude like no other generation before them. They are highly educated, they aspire to affect positive social and environmental change and they have been promised a brighter future than those that have come before them.

Yet, as they accelerate their development and aspire to reach leadership roles earlier in their career, their underdeveloped leadership skills become more obvious and detrimental to their medium-term prospects.

Ian thinks that there are 3 key things young people need to develop their ability to lead:

  • formal training in leadership;
  • personal and professional development opportunities outside of the workplace that allow them to put their training into practice;
  • a strong and interesting network.

Future Leaders Network is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by Ian, with the goal of discovering and developing the next generation of political, economic and social leaders. It is a network of talented, ambitious young people, from all walks of life and all parts of the World, that represent their country at Global Summits, participate in expert panels and articulate research findings and policy proposals to policy makers around the globe. The community incubates policy positions through intensive research, debate, engagement and collaboration.

Membership of Future Leaders Network offers participants the opportunity to enhance their personal and professional development and grow the network necessary to realise their significant potential.

The community is member-led and offers like-minded individuals the opportunity to come together to make a substantive contribution and affect real change across a broad range of academic disciplines, political and social issues and interests.


Providing Financial Education For Young People


Over 9 million households in the UK have no savings and only 30% of adults are actively participating in a pension. A lack of savings and planning for the future leaves us more vulnerable to shocks, whether they be economic, like the last financial crisis, or personal, such as poor health, or needing to replace a broken car.

Thus we have come to rely on debt to help us weather such shocks - and in many cases, simply to survive financially. The consequences of this are significant. At this moment, 231 people a day are declared insolvent or bankrupt and 48 properties are repossessed every day. In the last year, 2330 consumer County Court Judgements were issued each day.

People in the UK owed £1.436 trillion at the end of May 2015, meaning that the average person pays £1060 in annual interest payments - 4.12% of average earnings.

So its clear then, that poor financial planning can have a huge impact on an individual, impact that can extend way beyond financial circumstances and into personal health too. It also has a huge impact the UK's economic competitiveness.

Its also true that better awareness and understanding of financial products and money management in general can have a huge positive impact on an individual's circumstances.

Finance Your Future is a series of educational resources, introduced into secondary schools across the UK, as a conduit through which financial literacy can be taught by teaching staff as part of a school's day-to-day activity, in the simplest, most effective manner possible.

The series consists of five work-booklets, covering topics ranging from buying/renting your first home and how to budget for it, right through to how to budget for life at University. Each booklet contains exposure to different businesses, their activities and information about possible careers in their industry; all booklets also contain information on anything from house prices to average wages. Finally, all work-booklets encourage students to think about their future and, most importantly, how to pay for it.

Ian founded Finance Your Future back in 2010 and has overseen the development of the organisation that now supports hundreds of young people every year.

To find out more about the work of Finance Your Future in helping young people develop the financial skills to thrive, visit their website.