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Richard Branson Helps Caribbean Entrepreneurs

NEW YORK (September 15, 2011) – Caribbean business got a major fillip last week when the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Montego Bay, Jamaica was launched to harness the region’s entrepreneurial spirit and help create jobs.

The dynamic and creative British business mogul, Sir Richard Branson opened the Centre which is committed to capturing, inspiring and growing entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. The centre will welcome its first group of 14 young entrepreneurs selected from hundreds of applicants.

The Centre is the first facility of its kind in the Caribbean and will be operated by Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, and lead business sponsor Virgin Holidays, one of Britain’s leading long haul holiday companies.

“I’ve been so moved by the energy and drive from the entrepreneurs I have seen today. While the Centre will be a resource, the true spirit will come from the Caribbean people who are taking bold steps to improve their communities and regenerate the economy,” said Sir Richard, founder of the Virgin Group, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

He asserted the Centre is looking for more partners to help businesses grow, create job opportunities and inspire the next generation.

“The Caribbean is a special place, and one I am happy to call home. I’m thrilled we are all coming together to support the region,” Sir Richard stated.

The Caribbean Centre follows the opening of the Branson Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2005 and over the next few years the Centre plans to expand across the Caribbean.

The first intake of Branson Centre businesses cited accounting services, networking opportunities and marketing advice as the areas they needed the greatest support for. Through an ‘incubator’ program, the businesses (and potentially hundreds more over the lifetime of the Centre) will be offered mentorship and access financing opportunities to help drive growth. The skills training and practical coaching is expected to give the young entrepreneurs a platform for success.

“Our US $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,” said Amanda Wills, Virgin Holidays’ Managing Director.

CAPTION: The new Branson Centre in Jamaica.

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