Holly Branson is still getting over the shock of her family home on Necker Island going up in flames, and the knowledge that the much-loved house won’t be ready in time to play host to her Caribbean wedding at the end of the year.
“It isn’t going to be ready. It’s going to take a good couple of years, at least 18 months, to repair,” she reveals with admirable equanimity.
“But we’re still getting married on the island. The date will stay the same.” She sighs with a smile: “We’ve got a beach.”
Back in London, it’s business as usual for Holly and brother Sam. The silver-spoon siblings are launching their first business enterprise independent of Virgin – and just like their media-savvy father, they’re happy to cause a ripple in the name of publicity. So their first cab off
the rank... Pussy. Yes, you read right, and it’s coming to a fridge near you.
Pussy, an energy drink parked squarely in the Redbull consumer market but boasting natural products, is the brainchild of Holly’s good friend and businessman Jonnie Shearer. It’s seven years in the making. So how, if delicacy allows, did he come up with Pussy?
“I just thought it was a great name – all the way through from Pussy Galore in the Bond film to Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served?” he explains.
“When you have 200 different products on a shelf, you need something to get instant reaction. I was at a bar and I just suddenly thought of it. It creates a lot of excitement and fun. It gets people talking.”
Indeed. So is Jonnie happy to be forever tagged the Pussy man? “That’d be great.”
With their impeccable business connections, the Bransons must get offered all sorts of dubious ventures for their golden touch, so what persuaded to come on board with Pussy?
“I’ve worked with Jonnie and watched him grow as a business man. When it was ready, we decided to get involved. We don’t do many investments outside Virgin, but this is such a great product, not just for a hangover. You’d actually drink this.
“I was there from the very beginning. I even had a dinner party with a fish bowl full of drink, and everyone with straws put on tasting duty.”
Of course, Holly and Sam are quick to point out they wouldn’t be putting their cash in even a friend’s pockets for something they didn’t believe in, particularly as they are both sensitive to people’s conceptions they operate over a huge security blanket of their father’s aegis.
“Of course there are amazing benefits to the name,” reflects Sam. “You’re taken seriously and you always get an ear.
“The negative side is once you’re through the door, you still need all the qualities and attributes you need to sell your idea. People may think it’s easier for us to do something, so therefore they may not take us as seriously within any industry.
“But the name and the brand doesn’t get in the way of our day to day lives, it’s just part of us. “
“You just have to be yourself, really,” adds Holly. “But, with Pussy, we get to give our opinions on things and get involved. It’s nice watching a company grow from the beginning. Virgin still do start-ups, but it’s so big now, it’s nice to get back to what Dad first did.”
Definitely a pair of chips off the entrepreneurial block.
Holly and Sam Branson (right) with Pussy founder Jonnie Shearer. Pussy is available from independent retailers, cash and carry and wholesalers across the UK.