We started up the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 2012 to support budding entrepreneurs in the Caribbean. Five years on, the Branson Centre has seen well over one hundred entrepreneurs come through its doors and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic both work closely with Jamaica and the Caribbean, so it is important that we play our part in the local communities and businesses. That’s why Virgin Holidays is the lead donor to the centre for the next five years. The Branson Centre is built on a “hybrid approach”, meaning that we connect entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs around the world. We help them learn and develop their ideas and processes, with access to a variety of training programmes, so that they can get their businesses off the ground more quickly and with stronger foundations. Building a robust network is an invaluable stepping stone when starting up a business. This is why I believe that an entrepreneur is only as strong as his or her network.
(1) Entrepreneurs thrive when connected to like-minded people…Entrepreneurs need like-minded people around them to learn and gain inspiration from. These people are allies and offer support and advice when things don’t go right, which happens frequently when starting out. At the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, we use various training methods to connect entrepreneurs in the Caribbean with each other and with others around the world so they are getting a broad spectrum of advice. For instance, some brilliant creative thinkers come through our doors with a great idea, but they have no experience with finance. We help plug the gaps in their knowledge.
(2) … But it’s important to connect with non-like-minded peopleThose with a similar outlook or journey can help you thrive, but spending time with others where there is no obvious crossover can help you learn. Look outside of your sector and industry to see what lessons you can uncover. Learn what processes other industries have in place that work well and let creative ideas spark.
(3) Technology is useful – but combined with a human touch, it’s exponentially betterTechnology is invaluable for learning and building skills as a start-up company. Yet nothing beats a human connection and the advice of someone who’s been there before to help a budding entrepreneur. We use one-to-one coaching and mentorship programmes at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship so that everyone who comes through our doors has access to real people and receives truly impactful training.
(4) A strong network keeps you going when you’re starting outWhen you start up a company, your first years are long, tiring and stressful. It takes a lot of mental strength to keep going. It also takes the support of those around you to stop the hard times getting the better of you. By surrounding yourself with others who are on the same journey, there will be someone who has been there before to give you practical advice and personal support. Continue on the next page for the remaining Richard Branson tips, including why you’re never too far along to learn more.
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