Entrepreneurship is at the core of Virgin. That’s why the Virgin Group supports entrepreneurs both globally and with specific initiatives in many of the communities where it operates. These entrepreneurs in turn drive economic growth, create jobs and help communities thrive.
Driving Global Innovation
Virgin Unite aspires to support one million entrepreneurs by 2020 to change business for good. To reach this goal, it has launched a series of opportunities to guide entrepreneurs through their journey by inspiring, connecting, training, mentoring and investing in them. At the heart of this is a mentorship and learning platform, enabling its partners around the globe to develop vibrant communities of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors.Virgin Unite and Google for Entrepreneurs have teamed up to produce a series of Google Hangouts, featuring the world’s leading entrepreneurs to share their inspirational stories—from Richard Branson and Elon Musk, to “lean start-up and design” experts, Eric Ries and Tim Brown.
Virgin Disruptors and Virgin.com use the Virgin platform to have “enlightened debates” on the future of innovation and what it means to entrepreneurs globally. Virgin.com also runs a specific content channel devoted to entrepreneurs.
Supporting Thriving Communities
Richard Branson and Virgin Unite founded the first Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg in 2005. In 2011, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Unite opened a second Centre in the Caribbean. The Centres provide intense training and support to budding entrepreneurs who in turn create jobs and stimulate the local economy, like Claire Reid. Claire started her company Reel Gardening to offer an affordable, convenient way to give those on a low income access to nutritious food. With support from the Centre, she’s grown her yearly revenues from 1.47 million to over 4 million Rand.
The Branson Centres are using the Virgin Unite mentorship and learning platform to expand their reach. 2014 saw the launch of programs in Liberia and Zimbabwe, and in 2015 the Caribbean center will reach beyond Jamaica to three other islands.
In December 2014, Richard Branson announced a new partnership between Virgin Unite and MaRS in Canada—an innovation hub that provides an ideal environment for entrepreneurs to connect with what they need to succeed. The hub will specifically focus on impact ventures—high-potential, profitable businesses that are tackling social and environmental challenges while driving economic growth. The partners are also market-building: being true to the Virgin brand and positively disruptive, the goal is to help the Canadian impact investing ecosystem evolve and unlock its full potential.
Virgin StartUp launched in 2013 as a not-for-profit helping UK entrepreneurs aged 18 and above with small business funding, resources and advice. The organization offers businesses less than a year old start-up loans, training, masterclasses, long and short-term mentoring and crucial peer-to-peer networking opportunities. So far, Virgin Startup has disbursed £3 million of loans to 360 entrepreneurs. This has helped new entrepreneurs such as Lily Rice launch her fashion sportswear brand Lexie Sport, which has since featured in Vogue and 18 year-old David Humpston to set-up his video production company, ViewPoint Videos, which now has contracts with extreme sports venues throughout England.
You can read more about how Virgin supports entrepreneurship here.