By Edward Cardenas
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – After a whirlwind trip to Detroit, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson took to his blog to recount his visit, being pitched to and pitching at Comerica Park.
The founder of the Virgin Group of companies visited Detroit to kick off new, non-stop service by his Virgin Atlantic airlines between London Heathrow and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
In addition to promoting the new service, he visited start-ups around the city and held a Detroit version of his “Pitch to Rich” competition for local businesses to share their business ideas and receive tips from Branson and a panel of established entrepreneurs including Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert.
The businesses included:
- Floyd, which has a unique table leg product,
- Original Stix, which takes broken hockey sticks and turns them into phone cases,
- Handcrafted furniture from Ali Sandifer,
- And Merit, which creates fashionable products that help disadvantaged youth get to college.
“With innovative start-ups such as these coming out of Detroit, you can see why the city is attracting so much interest at the moment,” Branson wrote in his blog. “From phone cases made from broken hockey sticks to new solutions to home furniture, the pitchers did themselves proud and we were happy to offer them all help in taking their business to the next level.”
After the hearing pitches, it was his turn to try his hand at pitching. Branson attended the Detroit Tigers game Friday night to throw out the first pitch and learned about how competitive the city is in sport.
“It’s not only music and business which Detroit has a proud history of, they’re fiercely competitive when it comes to sports as well, boasting top tier baseball, basketball, ice hockey and football teams (anyone know how many other US cities can say that?) – there was no doubt I had a lot to live up to!,” he wrote.
Branson stated that he received tips from catcher Bryan Holaday and coach Brad Ausmus – and recalled his days of playing cricket – before taking the mound to “London Calling” by The Clash in a customized Tigers jersey – with the number 108 to signify the Virgin Atlantic flight number between Detroit and London.
“Thanks for having me Detroit,” Branson wrote. “I had a blast. I’m looking forward to seeing what great things come out of your wonderful city.”