THE Branson Centre Of Entrepreneurship aims to rocket the number of businesses it mentors from 60 to 400 annually.
The centre expects the expansion to have an "exponential impact" on job and revenue growth. It aims to accomplish this growth by accepting participants outside Jamaica -- from Barbados, Trinidad and St Lucia.
"We see the need and the capacity for entrepreneurship development in these islands." stated Melissa von Frankenberg, partnerships and communication manager, in an Observer interview on Friday. "In addition, we are able to leverage existing relationships with partners on the ground. This has been critical to our success in Jamaica, and we see it as important in the additional islands, as it will be a hybrid model."
The hybrid model entails accommodating additional recruits starting March via its online virtual platform, along with offering some level of mentoring and training within individual territories.
The centre, a hub for aspiring entrepreneurs, offers business insight, training, networking and investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. It's the latest expansion for the Branson Centre which began with a branch in South Africa followed by an additional one in Jamaica in 2011.
The Jamaica branch since opening two years ago has accommodated 85 entrepreneurs -- in batches of 20 -- for its 12-week training programme otherwise dubbed launchpad. Of that figure 55 graduated to its mentorship or take-off programme which resulted in jobs generated for every participant.
"Of this 55 we supported 57 jobs (entrepreneurs), and 54 new jobs were created with 182 per cent revenue growth from those companies," she said. The centre is currently accepting applicants for its next batch of 20 entrepreneurs. Von Frankenberg indicated that many applicants are in the fields of fashion, jewellery, natural products and food. But that trend is shifting towards technology. "In fact we are getting a lot more technology and innovative people developing apps in education," she explained.
The centre will seek applicants it believes can operate ethical businesses.
"We focus on the triple bottom line--people, profit and planet. So when we recruit we look for people with some social conscience. We like to look for social enterprises, businesses that like to give back," she stated.
The centre was opened in Montego Bay, Jamaica, by charismatic UK billionaire Richard Branson In September 2011. It views entrepreneur-ship as a vital method to develop societies.