Jamaica 2018 | ECONOMY | COLUMN

TBY talks to Lisandra Rickards, CEO, Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, on the sector.

Lisandra Rickards

What have been some of the milestones of the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship since you joined?

We have done so much. At first, we would select a small group of entrepreneurs to go from Kingston to Montego Bay once a week to receive in-person training about business strategy, growth, and finance. Two years later, we scaled that model by putting our training program online. We went from training about 60 people per year to 600. We started with a donation of USD400,000 from the Arthur Guinness Foundation to create a loan fund for entrepreneurs, of which we have now funded 15. Around the same time, the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) launched its venture capital program to create more activity in the equity and venture space.

What made you decide to launch the center specifically in Jamaica?

The Branson and Virgin brands are synonymous with entrepreneurship. The center was founded through a collaboration between Virgin Holidays and the Virgin Foundation. The former does a great deal of excellent work in the Caribbean. It wanted to give back, and chose Jamaica because it is one of the larger English-speaking countries and has a great entrepreneurial environment. The idea was that once there was a thriving hub here, it could be expanded to other Caribbean islands as well.