Virgin Startup mentoring

Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation that helps entrepreneurs in England with the funding, resources and advice they’ll need to make their business idea a reality.

One of the unique elements to getting a loan through Virgin StartUp is that new entrepreneurs are matched with an experienced business mentor to help them achieve their goals and realise their potential.

I am happy to announce that, this year,  I have been matched with two female business owners from very different businesses, and that they have kindly allowed me to share a little about themselves and their new ventures here on the M1 blog.

Donna Popplewell – Bakerwell

Bakerwell Logo
What they do in a sentence: Ecology surveys and advice for development projects

Bakerwell specialise in protected species surveys, protected species mitigation, bat surveys, great crested newt surveys and phase 1 habitat surveys, and are based out of Kent and Sussex.

I love how Donna is so enthusiastic about learning more about all aspects of business and picking up new skills. Find out more about Donna and her business partner, Fiona’s, unique business here.

Debbie Harding – DoodleCraft Design

Image result for doodle craft design

What they do in a sentence: Cross stitch kits, Blackwork kits, Stitched Games Boards (Chess, Backgammon, Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Cribbage).

DoodleCraft Design call themselves ‘the home of Stitched Games Boards’.

Debbie is extremely interesting and inspiring, because when a medical condition meant that she couldn’t work anymore, her answer wasn’t to give up, but rather take on a whole new type of work. Check out their gameboard designs and kits here.


Virgin Startup Logo

Being a mentor is always a privilege, and I’m excited to watch these two businesses and their owners grow and develop over the coming months!

If you’d like to find a mentor for your new business (not to mention a loan), take a look at the information on the Virgin StartUp mentoring page.



Helping Avon Tyrrell with site improvements

It’s time for the annual team event that results in us getting very dirty and sweaty (and being treated with plenty of tea, biscuits and cooked meals): the Avon Tyrrell weekend! We have been returning to Avon Tyrrell for an onsite working weekend for the past eight years – each year we get a new challenge, have lots of fun, and help to improve the center’s facilities in the name of charity.

This year we were put to work erecting new fencing and creating a path to the new archery area, which also needed a new shelter. Although the brief sounded simple enough, the team can attest to plenty of back-breaking work – especially the fencing. I had no idea that digging holes in clay and mixing concrete was quite so tough!

Avon Tyrrell is a fabulous outdoor activity centre based in the New Forest:  They are also part of UK Youth:, a national charity providing opportunities to  young people. Mercury1 have been supporting both UK Youth and Avon Tyrrell since 2010, and we know how worthwhile their work is: it’s a pleasure to be able to help them with whatever we can.

Team escapes room in record-breaking time

Mercury1 Escapes

Remote working can be lonely, so at M1 we like to get together regularly for a catch-up and some team-building fun. This meet we decided to visit the new escape room ‘A hidden past’, at Exciting Escapes in Southampton (  The opportunity to run identical rooms concurrently made a head-to-head contest inevitable, and the group eagerly split into two teams ready to battle it out and exit their room before the other.

My team’s glee at finishing in 39 minutes, and seemingly first, quickly dissipated when we realised that we had been squarely beaten… and that Phil’s team was hiding around the corner having secretly watched ours scrambling around for clues! Although we would have loved to have won, we were happy to discover that their escape was made in a record-breaking 31 minutes – average room time was 50 minutes, according to Dave (the owner)!

I maintain that a full English breakfast slowed us down, and that a rematch would be much closer, but, for safety, perhaps next time we won’t put puzzle specialists Dom, Phil and Gem in the same team!

Gemma Minihan joins Mercury1 from JP Morgan

Gemma Minihan

We are delighted to share that Dr Gemma Minihan has joined the Mercury1 team as a Business Analyst and Project Manager. She comes fresh from a strong client service and process background at JP Morgan and we know she will be able to add a lot of value to our clients with her quick thinking and excellent analytical skills.

Gem studied Medieval history at St Andrews and later achieved a PhD whilst working with the National Trust. Her thesis is something to do with the life of Sir Thomas Couen* who was the first owner of Ightham Mote in Kent (—our-earliest-known-owners)..

In her spare time she rock climbs, hikes, and mountain bikes across beautiful Dorset – and may or may not be writing a book.

Gem is extremely intelligent and logical, with a good grasp of process improvements and managing a service team. Natalie and Phil have known Gem for many years so can attest to the fact that she is really straightforward, super honest, and really cares about the quality of her work.

We are sure that she will be an asset to any project that she is involved with and we hope that our clients will have the pleasure of her thoughtful insights soon.

*We have not accidently misspelt Sir Thomas Couen’s name: there is a difference between the spelling used by Sir Thomas in his will of 1372, and the spelling popularised in the Nineteenth Century (prior to discovery of the will). Although the National Trust prefer to use his popular name, Gem won’t budge on using his ‘real’ name. Copies of the thesis can be obtained through the British library