Today Virgin announces the launch of Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit company, which will offer financial support, mentoring and business advice to thousands of young entrepreneurs across the UK.

Working with The Start-Up Loans Company (SULC) as a delivery partner, Virgin StartUp will provide loans to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-30 across the UK.

At its East London launch in BoxPark, Shoreditch, Sir Richard Branson was joined by James Caan, Chairman of SULC, Sir Tom Shebbeare, Chairman of Virgin StartUp, Kevin Horne, Chairman of the Cavendish Consortium and Richard Reed, Co-Founder of Innocent Drinks and a key supporter of the scheme.

Virgin will invest in a central team to manage the new company. It will draw on resources from Virgin to help promote the scheme. The new initiative is collaboration between Virgin, the Cavendish Consortium (made up of six of the largest enterprise agencies across England) and the National Enterprise Network.

In addition, Virgin StartUp has the support of Virgin's UK companies including: Virgin Trains, Virgin Money, Virgin Media, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Active, Virgin Care and its not-for-profit foundation Virgin Unite. These companies will provide access to staff mentors, marketing and media support, business advice, as well as space to host networking and promotional events.

Mei Shui, formerly Head of Enterprise at The Prince's Trust, then Executive Director at The Start Up Loans Company, heads the Virgin StartUp team and will administer, manage and market the Virgin StartUp company to bring in additional loans to the programme. Sir Tom Shebbeare, former Chief Executive of The Prince's Trust and now Chairman of Virgin Money Giving and Spring Films will chair the new Company providing strategic guidance on the range and scope of the assistance to young entrepreneurs. Virgin StartUp also plans to develop a widespread mentoring programme and a series of regional events to promote new businesses and showcase established entrepreneurial expertise.

Virgin StartUp follows the successful pilot programme in the North East involving Virgin Money. This initiative, launched in October 2012, is a consortium between Virgin Money, Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation and Project North East to deliver start-up loans. In the last 11 month it has backed more than 100 businesses and lent £600,000 in funding.

To find out more about Virgin StartUp and to apply, young entrepreneurs should visit