Wonderful to be in South Africa to help launch the new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. The Branson Centre has been supporting entrepreneurs in the country for many years, and has now been reimagined as a social enterprise supplier-development hub. Quite simply, we aim to become the heart of entrepreneurship for Southern Africa.
We held the event at Mont Rochelle, Virgin Limited Edition’s stunning vineyard on the Cape, and were joined by some of our wonderful trustees, partners and of course, entrepreneurs we are supporting. We also welcomed the team from Virgin Active South Africa, who are playing a crucial role in partnering with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, and the Virgin Atlantic team ensured it was a real Virgin family affair too.
Any successful organisation is all about its people and needs remarkable leaders. Wesley Noble, the Executive Director of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, is a good example. He explained how the focus of the Branson Centre is entrepreneurialism and social responsibility, including helping corporates solve their supply-chain and strategic difficulties by linking them with entrepreneurs.
We will play a more meaningful role in entrepreneurs’ lives than your average accelerator, supporting companies to not just survive, but thrive, and make business a real force for good in society, for the environment and the economy.
The South African economy is dependent on entrepreneurial activity for creating future economic growth and jobs. But the economic contribution to South Africa’s entrepreneurial sector is below the developing country norm. I believe that increasing entrepreneurship in this country is the golden highway to economic democracy.
It was great to hear more about some of the businesses we are already supporting. Lolo Ndlovu’s sneaker-cleaning services are a huge hit inside our Virgin Active Claremont health club. I Love Coffee, a coffee-shop franchise that employs people who are hearing-impaired, are already operating inside WeWork offices across South Africa.
We also learned about not-for-profit Clean C, who are organising beach clean-ups where ocean waste from South Africa’s coastlines is collected, cleaned, sorted and processed for sale on a marketplace that upcycles waste into consumer goods. In 2020, the Branson Centre will also drive Clean C’s premier event, Mile Sixteen, a 25.75 kilometres beach run – the longest in the world. Now there’s a challenge.
Congratulations to all of the team working so hard to make this project a success, and good luck to all of the businesses making their mark with our support.