Branson Centre diversifies programming with focus on oceans

Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship — Caribbean has launched a specialised component of its programme to help entrepreneurs who are building sustainable businesses that promote ocean health in the region.

Recently, the centre welcomed 14 new businesses to its six-month accelerator programme, including four entrepreneurs working in the blue economy.

The blue economy is defined as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, job creation and ocean ecosystem health.

“We have taken our proven methods in entrepreneurship development to support inspiring innovators to scale their businesses, so that they can impact the ocean in a meaningful way,” says Lauri-Ann Ainsworth of the Branson Centre.

The decision to hone in on blue economy entrepreneurs came shortly after catastrophic hurricanes slammed the Caribbean in 2017 and put climate change at the top of the regional agenda. The centre's founder, Richard Branson was directly impacted by the storms, as his Necker Island home was struck by both hurricanes Irma and Maria in a span of two weeks.

The Caribbean has 80 per cent more sea than land; and up to 27 per cent of the global ocean economy comes from the Caribbean Sea. But in recent years the region has seen marked environmental changes as a result of climate change, with disappearing shorelines, more powerful hurricanes, and longer dry seasons. This trend is expected to negatively affect the economy and population of the region over time.

That's why Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship — Caribbean, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, and Ocean Unite have partnered with GETCH Foundation to grow a cadre of entrepreneurs, ready to work to fuel a sustainable blue economy in the Caribbean and mitigate the effects of climate change, pollution, and overfishing on oceans.

In its recruiting, Branson Centre targeted ventures focused on addressing ocean-related problems in sectors such as manufacturing, nutrition and agriculture, digital transformation and tourism.

Businesses from across the Caribbean submitted applications and, after careful vetting, the following blue economy candidates were selected to be part of the second and final round of this year's cohort: Yardie Divers, Cove Restaurant, Native Spirit Scuba, and JA Bioplastics.

“At the end of the six months, we would like to see our blue economy entrepreneurs having a more structured business so they can access resources and development opportunities to scale faster, while maximising their positive social and environmental impacts,” says Asia Williams, Branson Centre's blue economy specialist.

“Global employment of ocean-based activities is set to grow from 31 million jobs to over 40 million by 2030, and we hope they can use what they learn to provide these opportunities to others as they grow,” Williams further stated.

The 10 other businesses joining the cohort include: All Tech Biz Solutions, Particular Presence Technologies, Knightfox Apps, Torc Auto World, Back to School, Liquid Light Digital, If Walls Could Talk, 1080 Events, Chocolate Dreams, and Ion Communications.

The Branson Centre's accelerator programme serves small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) ready to scale their business operations, increase revenue, and enter new markets. Its programme involves rigorous training and workshops, support through advisory boards, and connection to an investment pipeline involving some of Jamaica's major sources of venture capital.

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