ENTREPRENEURS are being sought to advise those taking their first steps in business.

Virgin Start Up is seeking experienced and enthusiastic business owners who are keen to give something back.

The support organisation’s local base is THIS Workspace, in the Daily Echo building in Bournemouth.

Virgin Start Up provides loans of up to £25,000 to the founders of fledgling businesses, as well as matching them with mentors who give them up to 16 hours of free advice in a year.

Giles Cooper, a former tennis player and coach with interests in property and retail, is among the mentors in Bournemouth.

He said he was looking for interesting “artisan” local businesses.

“We need to target the local community. The main base for the south west is here in Bournemouth,” he said.

“I want to focus on SMEs and give small artisans the chance against the commercial players.”

He said Bournemouth’s big student population and changing demographics made it good territory for new businesses.

“There’s a big opportunity for these start-ups. We’ve also got the people that come down here for the holiday. There’s a lot more going on and we’ve become a lot more cosmopolitan in this town. If they can start locally, they can scale their business from there,” he said.

“I’ve been in the town for 22 years and the last 18 involved with small business.

“I feel I can help people through the minefield.”

He said he had benefited from being a mentor. “The mentors are giving something back to the community. It keeps us fresh and in touch with what’s happening on a day-to-day basis. If you set up 10-15 years ago, it’s completely different to the stuff that’s happening now. We’re working in a very disruptive business world at the moment,” he said.

“The new businesses have to have a new edge. They have disrupt, they can’t be like it was 10 years ago. The whole system is changing.

“It doesn’t just keep the mentee on their toes, it keeps the mentor on their toes.”

Fellow mentor James Morby has been in business for 25 years, mainly in fashion.

He has been mentoring the business W8GYM, which produces a portable “gym in a box”, backed by former X-Factor finalist Fleur East.

He said he had “thrown the handbook out of the window a little bit” in his own business career, he said. “Mentoring for me is about giving them help and them learning, maybe, from mistakes I’ve made,” he said.

“One of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life is giving back and seeing that success.

“I look at W8GYM and they will be successful. Helping them along that process is why we do it.

“I’ve got to meet some amazing, wonderful businesses and give people advice in certain areas.”

Virgin Start Up’s third local mentor is software entrepreneur Andrew Walker, whose business Clicktools was part-sold to Survey Monkey before being taken over by the global firm Callidus.

Anyone who can mentor for at least 16 hours a year should email alex.chisnall@virginstartup.org