A SUNDERLAND mum who pitched her business idea to Richard Branson has been hired as an ambassador by the Virgin boss.
Maria Albertsen, 33, founded Jack and Jill’s Wooden Toys when she was made redundant in 2010, after parents admired the toy dolls she had made for her sons, Kai, four, and three-year-old Jacob.
She then sold that company and launched RagHeroes, producing a range of rag dolls for boys which also supports the Forces’ Children Trust.
After being asked to pitch her idea to Richard Branson, she was awarded £750 to help produce her first order of dolls.
She has been so successful that production is expanding to take orders from businesses and schools, and her dolls are being trialed as a teaching aid in nurseries across the region.
Now the former Red House School pupil has been asked by the billionaire Virgin supremo to be one of 12 regional ambassadors for Virgin Media Pioneers (VMP).
Maria, who moved from Carley Hill to Whitley Bay, said: “I didn’t expect to be asked to do this, so it’s amazing and just shows what you can do.
“I think going from being redundant to doing this now is such a massive achievement and I’m just really happy to have this role.
“I used to work as a counsellor and mentor so this is a bit like going back to that.
“One of my roles as North East ambassador for VMP is to develop and host bespoke events in the North East, giving entrepreneurs at all levels a chance to meet, be inspired, share experiences and even collaborate.
“It is all about championing the wealth of talent that the North East has to offer.”
Richard Branson added: “There is a huge amount we can do to unlock entrepreneurial potential, and Virgin Media Pioneers is empowering young entrepreneurs to fulfil their dreams of owning and managing successful businesses.
“With the right support and expert advice, young entrepreneurs can find their way.”