"It's a family business," Prince Andrew tells PEOPLE

By Simon Perry
April 26, 2017 11:58 AM
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Princess Eugenie And Princess Beatrice of York In London With Sarah Ferguson 17843
Credit: Matrixpictures.Co.Uk/Matrix/ZUMA

It was a family affair for Prince Andrew at the palace Tuesday night, with his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson joining in to support the “family business,” as the royal dad told PEOPLE.

Beatrice, 28, and Eugenie, 27, met business leaders, picked up tips and helped greet guests at Pitch@Palace, Prince Andrew’s annual event to encourage global entrepreneurs.

Princess Eugenie And Princess Beatrice of York In London With Sarah Ferguson 17843
Credit: Matrixpictures.Co.Uk/Matrix/ZUMA

“They’re involved, as is the duchess,” Prince Andrew, 57, told PEOPLE. “She has a number of different things she is helping with. It’s a family business – we’re getting on with it.”

Princess Eugenie And Princess Beatrice of York In London With Sarah Ferguson 17843
Credit: Matrixpictures.Co.Uk/Matrix/ZUMA

Guests entering the state rooms at St. James’s Palace were greeted by a display for Key to Freedom, a group supported by the Yorks that empowers vulnerable women through fashion entrepreneurship.

The duchess, 57, told PEOPLE how “proud of the duke” she is after watching his opening address.

For his part, Andrew was enjoying seeing the latest fruits of the idea take shape. “I’m not necessary for this part — everyone knows why they are here and they get on with the networking themselves,” he said.

“The comment I have had mostly tonight is about the massive movement that has been made by the pitching companies – from where they were at boot camp a month ago to where they are now. The work that we have been able to do during that training period has allowed them to improve considerably.

“I’ve seen pitching companies pace up and down in here looking really worried before. This time they were nervous, but they were confident in what they were doing and gave it their all.”

Mingling with some of the 300 guests before the winners were announced was Eugenie’s boyfriend Jack Brooksbank.

The pitching companies who caught the imagination of the audience to win the evening, were Desolenator, which uses solar-powered technology to transform sea water into drinking water; Trylife, which creates interactive films; and SafetyNet, which helps reduce unintentional netting of too-small catch in the fishing industry.

Andrew added, “The likelihood of finding an Uber or Apple is unlikely, but we should be able to help all of them get through. None of them should fail. The question is: Are the people in this room, through their contacts and connections, able to make the difference? And mentoring is very important – much more important than I ever thought.”