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Surfing brothers in line for £50,000 from Richard Branson fund

Northern Ireland company Skunkworks Surfboard has been shortlisted by Virgin in Richard Branson's 'Pitch to Rich' campaign, which could see the company secure £50,000 in grant funding.

The company, owned by well-known surfing brothers Ricky and Chris Martin, strives to make the most robust, high performance surf and paddle boards in the world.

The brothers embarked on a campaign weeks ago to secure their business with enough votes to get through the first stage of the highly competitive competition. The final of the competition would ultimately bring them face to face with billionaire Richard Branson to pitch for £50,000.

After copious campaign techniques such as radio interviews and door knocking, the brothers got the news that they were through to the next stage by coming first out of 897 businesses in the voting round.

Speaking about the increased chance of getting to pitch to Richard Branson, Ricky said: "This is an amazing piece of news for us because the support we got from our friends on social media was amazing. But we also literally went door knocking to small businesses around the north coast who know and understand what a difference £50,000 could make to a business.

"Once we spoke to people and told them what we were doing they were full of support for us which motivated us to keep going. This brings us one step closer to pitching to the man who could ultimately change how we do things."

Ricky, 35, and his brother Chris, 31, want to pitch to Richard Branson because they have come up with a ground breaking solution which will eliminate the wear and tear of foamies by designing and manufacturing the ‘next generation’ surfboards from their workshop in Coleraine.

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The concept was developed because Ricky, who owns Alive Surf School in Portrush, believes surfboards could be made in a way which doesn't require the time, money and maintenance after every season as foam boards notoriously get damaged.

The two brothers have received support from Invest NI and have been to California on a fact finding trip to speak to industry experts but the brothers are keen to take the company to the next level here in Northern Ireland.

The brothers, who have so far secured £100,000 worth of grants, have set up their own factory, created jobs and has an order book of 200 boards despite the boards not yet being sold in the marketplace.

Chris added: “We want to become the world’s largest surfboard manufacturers here in Northern Ireland. Winning ‘Pitch To Rich’ will allow us to develop our business so we become a major employer, a centre for innovation and create a platform which will reinvigorate the economy."