What does the Branson Centre do?
We’re funded by Virgin Unite, which is a non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. Our primary focus is on training, and we offer a foundation course that is free of charge to qualifying entrepreneurs.
In addition to the foundation courses, we offer advanced courses, workshops and a mentorship programme.
How do you select your participating entrepreneurs?
We have qualifying criteria that help select entrepreneurs. We don’t look at the nature of the business at all, but the drive of the entrepreneur, that the business has been in operation at least six months, and turnover doesn’t exceed R800 000 per annum.
This cut off is because the course is aimed at early stage entrepreneurs who need assistance but can’t afford it.
What are the topics addressed with the foundational course?
The course is six weeks long, one and a half days a week, and is modular – covering strategy, marketing, finance, HR, operations, everything you could think of.
Entrepreneurs then have three months to implement their business models, and provided they show growth in their business are then eligible to apply to the advanced course. Only those who complete the advanced course are eligible for our mentorship programme.
So there’s no funding offered through the Branson Centre?
No, none at all, and we feel strongly about that as no equity helps us keep our objectivity. What we do find, however, is that by the time a business has come through the programme they’re much more eligible for financing from a bank, or they’re in the right mind-set where they realise they don’t need grants or loans, but can self-finance or appeal to an investor.