THE consortium responsible for delivering the Start-Up Loans scheme in the region has reflected on a successful first year of backing young entrepreneurs. VirginMoney, Virgin Unite , The Northern Rock Foundation and Project North East joined forces in November last year to offer people aged 18 to 30 the opportunity to access low-cost funding to start businesses, together with mentoring and marketing support. A total of 125 businesses are operating across the region thanks to the Start-Up Loans scheme, with funding available from the Department for Business , Innovation and Skills. The entrepreneurs have also grasped the opportunity to be mentored by volunteers from Virgin Money and other businesses. Loans amounting to nearly [pounds]700,000 have been awarded, with an average loan of [pounds]5,858, over an average three-year term. A number of the start-up business owners have also had the chance to meet Sir Richard Branson , the founder of the Virgin brand. InMay, he invited five of the North-East's brightest startup companies to an event at his family home in Oxfordshire , where they met and shared their business ideas with him over lunch.
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