Virgin Media Business calls on Tyra Banks, Spanx inventor and social media sensation to find the UK’s best businesses

5th May 2016

  • Virgin Media Business ‘VOOM 2016’ is the opportunity for small and medium businesses to pitch their ideas to Sir Richard Branson
  • Judging panel to choose the winners at the live finale will include Tyra Banks, Sara Blakely, Marcus Butler and Virgin Media Business Managing Director Peter Kelly
  • £1million prize fund, mentoring and marketing support up for grabs

Virgin Media Business has announced a stellar line-up of international business heavyweights in its search to find winners of the UK and Ireland’s biggest and most valuable pitch competition – ‘VOOM 2016’.

Tyra Banks, Sara Blakely, Marcus Butler and Peter Kelly from Virgin Media Business will join Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin founder, on the judging panel at the live finale on 28 June 2016, where the winners of the £1 million prize fund will be crowned.

Each judge will draw on their personal expertise in business which includes building an underwear empire, creating a social media cult following, and launching a production company, fashion and beauty brand.  

Judging panel for live finale

After a successful modelling career, Tyra Banks launched a number of different business ventures including America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), the first and longest running fashion competition-based reality television series. ANTM currently airs in 186 countries and has 26 international versions. Most recently, Tyra created a one-of-a-kind cosmetics experience – TYRA Beauty – with a radically fierce, fresh and unique approach to the beauty industry. Her passion is the TZONE Foundation, a non-profit organisation that invests in young women to help them realise their ambitions and approach life’s challenges with fierce determination.

Sara Blakely founded SPANX, Inc. in 2000 with $5,000 of her savings. A frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, she created undergarments that revolutionised an industry and changed the way women around the world get dressed. Sara’s inspiration to continue inventing was driven by her passion to make things better and more comfortable for women. She was selected as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the world and has featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine. In 2013, Sara signed the Giving Pledge to donate half her wealth to support her larger mission of empowering women.

Marcus Butler brings a wealth of experience in social media and online marketing to the panel. His YouTube channel has over four million subscribers and he is among one of Britain’s top social influencers. He has released a number one bestselling ‘guide to life’ book, and started his own food box service which delivers healthy snacks to the masses.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said: “We’ve got a powerful line-up of business talent who will bring an exciting energy and diverse range of experience to the judging panel. Each of these judges know first-hand the grit, dedication and determination it takes to start and build their own business. Virgin Media Business ‘VOOM 2016’ is a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs to gain exposure in front of the world’s best business minds and propel their business onto a global stage.”

‘VOOM 2016’

The competition - run by the ultrafast business broadband company - hunts for the UK and Ireland’s most exciting and innovative businesses. A winner will be chosen from each of the two categories – ‘Start-up’ and ‘Grow’.

Peter Kelly, Managing Director, Virgin Media Business, who also sat on the judging panel last year said: “I’m really excited by the quality of judges we have secured for the live finale, it shows we have established ‘VOOM 2016’ as an extremely valuable competition that is attracting incredible pitches and judges alike. We’re on the lookout for businesses with big ambitions and the entrepreneurs behind them whose vision and passion shine through in their pitch. With a judging panel of this calibre, and the quality of pitches that are coming through, 28 June is set to be an event like no other.”

VOOM 2016 entrants will have a platform to highlight their success, boost their businesses and shout about the contribution they make to the economy. Businesses can enter online at until 10 May 2016. Public voting is open until 23 May 2016.


Notes to editor

The two winners will receive:

  • A cash prize of £50,000 to help grow their business
  • Mentoring from Virgin StartUp and from our VOOM Professionals recruited via LinkedIn
  • A £250,000 marketing campaign, with advertising on JCDecaux’s Waterloo Motion (the biggest indoor screen in Europe)
  • A Virgin Media Business  broadband package, with speeds of up to 300Mbps
  • Financial advice from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

In addition, two runners-up from each category will each receive a cash prize of £20,000, a Virgin Media Business broadband package, mentoring, financial advice, and brand support.

This year, the entry and online voting platform is powered by Crowdfunder and entrants also have the opportunity to raise funds for their business by crowdfunding their VOOM entry. The top crowdfunding business will be named Champion Crowdfunder 2016 – and will win £50,000 cash and other great prizes including a bespoke media campaign from JCDecaux.