Leeds entrepreneur’s flight of a lifetime to Detroit with Sir Richard Branson

A Leeds entrepreneur, who launched his business thanks to funding from Virgin StartUp, has developed his business growth strategy in the sky with Sir Richard Branson.

Sam Morgan, 38, who lives in Leeds, received a £15k Virgin StartUp loan to launch his business in March. His company, Paria, produces urban influenced cycling apparel using up and coming artists and designers.

In a short amount of time, the company has already had great success including securing distribution with an independent Northern Cycling Business, sponsoring a Transcontinental Racer and linking with local businesses to stage a Tour de Yorkshire show in Leeds.

The session took place during Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight from London to Detroit and the next step will be for Sam to secure additional funding to help Paria develop further.

During the flight, Sam surprised the branding guru Branson with a Paria cycling jersey, which Branson changed into.

Sam said: “Seeing the King of PR in action was great, so getting him in my gear and having 1-2-1 mentoring was superb. He even promised to pass the jersey on for Bono to try!”

During the eight hour flight, Sam kicked off a crowd funding campaign to grow his business, so the team from Crowdfunder.co.uk were on hand to film the whole event with help from Sir Richard.

Upon arrival in Detroit, Sam met with Rob Love, chairman of Crowdfunder, to further refine his plan to secure second stage funding and support his business’ next stage of development. Now back in the UK, Crowdfunder and Virgin StartUp are working with Sam put this plan into action.

Sam said: “This was an incredible opportunity to learn from the very best in business. I launched Paria in an otherwise homogenised marketplace.

“I truly believe Paria offers an alternative to the standard cycling apparel currently offered by other retailers. I had so many questions to ask Sir Richard and Rob, and am really keen to expand into the US market so the meetings have given me insight and direction on how to develop my business on a global scale.”

Mr Love said: “I’m personally very excited about Sam’s business as I started my first company in Leeds too – so I’m a little biased! Both Richard and I would have used Crowdfunding if it had been available when we started our businesses.

“It’s a fast way to raise finance and to gain validation and support from the crowd. It’s a pleasure to be able to help lots of businesses like Sam’s everyday via Crowdfunder.”

Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “Sam is a brilliant example of a start-up making real headway in his industry. Thanks to Virgin StartUp, Sam was able to get his business off the ground and I was delighted to meet with him to discuss his plans for expansion.

“Detroit is a city ripe with start-ups and this was a fantastic opportunity for Sam to gain business advice and build understanding of the US market. It was a great trip!”

Sir Richard Branson mentors Leeds cycling apparel entrepreneur Sam Morgan during Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight from London to Detroit.
Sir Richard Branson and Leeds cycling apparel entrepreneur Sam Morgan

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