Applications for the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean closed earlier last month and, after attracting over 5,000 visits to the Centre’s website, 20 hopefuls have now been invited to attend a special assessment day with Virgin Holidays and Virgin Unite today, to demonstrate if they have what it takes to be the ‘Caribbean Richard Branson’.
The Centre, a collaboration between Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group and Virgin Holidays, the UK’s number one long haul holiday company, will open this September in Montego Bay, and will support local entrepreneurs to create and grow small businesses, ultimately generating jobs for the region.
July’s assessment day will be attended by Amanda Wills, Virgin Holidays’ Managing Director and Virgin Unite’s CEO, Jean Oelwang, as well as the Branson Centre - Caribbean team itself. Candidates will be required to take part in a series of interviews, pitches and group exercises before being notified later in the month as to whether they have been successful.
The Branson Centre’s mission is a comprehensive one. Rather than attempting to teach ‘entrepreneurship’, it will seek to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with practical business skills, mentors to share their experiences and access to financing opportunities to enable growth. In doing so, it will support the sustainable development of small businesses and jobs in the Caribbean. Jamaican entrepreneur Patrick Casserly will lead the centre as Interim Chairman.
Virgin Holidays, which sends hundreds of thousands of customers to the Caribbean each year, is the lead business sponsor of the Centre and has committed almost $3.5 million over the next decade to support the initiative. Managing Director, Amanda Wills, comments: “We’re delighted with the number of applications we’ve received and I can’t wait to meet our aspiring entrepreneurs next month.”
“However, although applications have closed, the door remains open to businesses and mentors to get involved. We would love to hear from experienced entrepreneurs who believe they can contribute to this fantastic initiative - whether by donating time, expertise or seed funding - and urge anyone who wants to know more to get in touch so they can help nurture the new business ideas that will form the future of tourism in the Caribbean.”
The Branson Centre’s Chief Development Director, Lisa Lake said: “It’s a really exciting time for the Branson Centre - Caribbean. We are eager to support high-potential entrepreneurs that can make a huge difference not only to their immediate families and communities, but also to the Caribbean’s economic growth in the long term. Entrepreneurs need a variety of support mechanisms and we are looking for others to join us in this initiative to bring about real impact.”
Virgin Unite CEO, Jean Oelwang, comments: “We are really looking forward to working with some great entrepreneurs in the Caribbean. We’ve got a fabulous team at the Branson Centre who will ensure that these budding businesses turn out to be great success stories. We would love to join forces with partners and business leaders who share in this exciting vision to help create thousands of new jobs in the Caribbean.”