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Branson Centre launches Entrepreneurship Challenge

Published:Tuesday | August 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

US$130,000 in collateral-free, low interest financing is being made available to budding entrepreneurs by the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC) and the Arthur Guinness Project, through their ‘Made of More’ Entrepreneurs’ Challenge.

Through this annual exciting business pitch competition, some of Jamaica's potential entrepreneurs will present their best pitches for funding that will enable them to grow their companies, and, in turn, the economy.

The challenge started in early August with a first round of assessment. Branson Centre official entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to submit their application for loan amounts up to a maximum of US$40,000 in increments of US$5,000. Of the available funding, US$10,000 has been earmarked for the Sir Arthur Social Entrepreneurship Grant, so special consideration will also be given to those who can demonstrate how their business will make a social impact.

Fourteen applicants have made it to the semi-finals, where they will present their live boardroom pitch to a specially selected panel on September 1 at Red Stripe. Of the 14, eight will be selected for the finals.

The finals will be held on September 25 at the ATL Showroom & the Branson Centre's accelerator space in Montego Bay. In front of a specially invited audience, the finalists will give their best pitch to a judging panel of eight consisting of Branson Centre board members, Red Stripe executives and private investors.


Pitch to rich


The Branson Centre's Access to Finance programme was started in November 2013 when its founder, Sir Richard Branson, made a personal loan of US$10,000 available to each of the centre's three entrepreneurs who participated in a 'Pitch to Rich' competition.

Entrepreneurs who took the loan have had a 100 per cent repayment rate, and all principal and interest go into the revolving loan fund to benefit other Branson Centre official entrepreneurs. The Arthur Guinness Project, whose support helped to launch the Branson Centre in 2011, is donating US$418,000 (£260,000) to the pot. A third of the funds will be dispersed annually over a three-year period and all repayments of principal and interest will be dispersed again as loans to future entrepreneurs.

"Guinness is proud to partner with the Branson Centre to provide new opportunities for our entrepreneurs," added LeVaughn Flynn, senior communications manager at Red Stripe. "Each one of the participants embody the visionary thinking of our founding father, Sir Arthur, and his spirit lives on by Guinness supporting our local entrepreneurs to show how they are 'Made of More'."