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Dragons, drugs and Darling

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The event set out to celebrate the achievements of more than 70,000 young people who have set up business with help from The Prince’s Trust.

Take Victoria Corcoran (24) and Craig Hailes (27), for example. The pair were inspired to set up their own cleaning and gardening business, Rent A Bod, after watching an episode of Emmerdale. But fresh out of university and £40k in debt, they didn’t have the money to get started, so they got in touch with The Prince’s Trust.

“We received a £5k loan – enough for a van, equipment and 2,000 brochures – plus help with our business plan and advice on book keeping,” says Corcoran. “Two years on, we’re turning over £80k and we’re chock-a-block for the next six weeks.”

Or take Gina Moffatt, the entrepreneur behind flower firm Blooming Scent. The future looked bleak for Moffatt – who served six years in Holloway prison on a drugs charge – until The Prince’s Trust offered her a £4k loan, helped her lease an office in Tottenham Green and put her in touch with Dragons’ Den investor James Caan, who now acts as her mentor.

“James spent nearly four hours with me, helping me with my website and database,” says Moffatt. “With his help, I think I can hit the £1m-turnover mark in three years.”

With their arms linked, Moffatt and Caan took to the stage at yesterday’s event. “The Prince’s Trust has given me hope,” she told the audience, squealing with delight when she spotted Prince Charles at the front. “Now I can look my family in the eye instead of hanging my head in shame.”

Caan – who was so impressed with Moffatt that he employed her to create floral displays for his office – admitted that he had reservations about meeting her. “She had been inside for six years. I was more nervous than she was! But she was a real inspiration.”

Chancellor Alistair Darling and the Prince of Wales also had a chance to met some of the young entrepreneurs at yesterday’s event.

“What a coincidence that the first person I met was Duane Jackson, founder of KashFlow accounting software,” said Darling. “I told him the Treasury is just across the road, perhaps he can help us add up the numbers.”

Both Darling and Prince Charles were given samples of Claire Foster’s Superjuice: “I tried her high energy juice. I was rather hoping it would give me a certain je ne sais que zest for life,” quipped His Royal Highness.

He explained that every pound invested through The Trust’s Business Programme generates at least two pounds to the Exchequer. “I hope it was worth the Chancellor coming today so he knows at least where some of the money is coming from.”

For more information about The Prince’s Trust Business Programme, launched 25 years ago, click here.

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