Virgin gives back with Caribbean entrepreneurs' centre

Virgin gives back with Caribbean entrepreneurs' centre

Virgin Holidays is celebrating the opening of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Jamaica. Robin Searle reports

If you ask the man in the street to name an entrepreneur, the chances are that Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson will be one of the most popular responses.

And not content with launching and running his own companies, Branson is also supporting the entrepreneurs of the future in some of the key destinations Virgin Holidays visits.

September 2011 sees Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, open the second Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, situated in Jamaica’s Montego Bay. The first opened in South Africa in 2006.

Both aim to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with support for their businesses and a platform to create jobs in the regions in which they operate.

The Jamaican centre aims to offer the service across the Caribbean region, and the first intake of 14 entrepreneurs attended the opening today having been selected from hundreds of applicants.

The centre is supported by Caribbean entrepreneurs and the region’s business community, with many companies offering time, resources and financial support to help its work.

Amanda Wills, managing director of Virgin Holidays, said: “Our $3.5 million, 10-year commitment to this centre reflects how seriously we take our responsibility to protect the people and places our customers enjoy in this region.

“I’ve always been struck by the energy of the Caribbean, and this fantastic centre will harness that energy and make a tangible contribution to its future as a sustainable tourism destination.”

In the coming years, the Branson Centre intends to work with partners to expand across the Caribbean, while Virgin Unite is targeting further expansion of the concept around the world.

Branson Centre recruits


Andrew Ross, founder of Seascape CaribbeanAndrew Ross, founder of Seascape Caribbean, is dedicated to restoring the coral reefs of the Caribbean coastline. His venture focuses on cultivating live-coral snorkelling gardens and low-impact breakwaters to support coastal protection and the regeneration of clean sand beaches. 
Leanne Talbot, Island CycleLeanne Talbot of Island Cycle aims to transform recycling throughout the Caribbean. Recycled materials will be sold to overseas manufacturers who will use it to make new products. She will also sell advertising on recycling bins, and create recycled ‘plastic rooms’ for hire, such as floating bars.
Karel McIntosh, founder, Outlish.comKarel McIntosh is founder of Outlish.com, a weekly online lifestyle magazine for 20 to 40-year-old Trinidadians and Tobagonians, showcasing positive role models that inspire young people to achieve. Karel aims to create a voice for young people living in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

'Build the future you want'


Virgin Holidays managing director Amanda Wills explains how the new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship reflects the operator’s commitment to sustainability.

Virgin Holidays managing director Amanda Wills We take our role in helping to preserve and shape the future of the Caribbean as a sustainable tourist destination very seriously.

As a Virgin brand, we think carefully about what we could do better, bolder, bigger and there are two reasons we’ve been able to achieve the success we have in the region.

We’ve always challenged ourselves and the people we work with there to do things differently, and the huge number of product innovations we’ve introduced are a result of that.

Secondly, we believe that with continuous investment and support in developing that product and nurturing new talent, everything that makes the Caribbean such a stunning place to visit can be protected and evolved. 

The essence of entrepreneurship is innovation, and whether that means starting what becomes one of the best-known brands in the world, or getting a cake-making business off the ground to create employment opportunities, the motivation is the same.

It’s about taking control, and building the future you want. Our £2.5 million investment in the Branson Centre over the next 10 years will help to make that possibility a reality.

Our first 14 entrepreneurs share the same impetus to make a difference that drives us, and the centre will strive to fan that spark.

We passionately believe that every business has the potential to be a force for good for future generations and with this centre, we, with our partners Virgin Unite, are leading others in showing how our industry can contribute positively to the communities and countries in which we operate.
 
Along with the automatic donation to the Travel Foundation from every booking and the funding provided for projects across the world – including a Marine Protection Area initiative in Jamaica – our Caribbean scholarship programme and other activities we undertake at home and abroad, it demonstrates our commitment to the cause of sustainability in travel as well as our support of the Caribbean’s primary industry – tourism. We’re incredibly proud to be involved.


This article appeared in a special responsible travel edition of Travel Weekly magazine, in association with Virgin Holidays

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