48 hours in New York City

Holly Branson and Halla Tomasdottir in New York with Virgin employees
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 15 November 2023

I’m still buzzing after a whirlwind half term trip to New York City where I caught up with Virgin people from around the world, and I got to spend some quality time with Etta and Artie. Day one started early - brainstorming with our incredible people from Australia, the Middle East, the US, and the UK, working in areas as diverse as tourism, telecoms, banking, aviation, and beyond. It was so inspiring to share ideas on how we could all collaborate and work together to supercharge our purpose of Changing Business for Good for the benefit of generations to come. My favourite topic over breakfast! 

Holly Branson with Halla Tomasdottir and her twins in New York with Virgin
Tomas Jenkins

We were hosted by the spectacular Virgin Hotels New York City – which is such a symbolic representation of the brand’s evolution. Early on in Virgin’s history, a giant Virgin Megastore lit up Times Square with our logo, and now we have a 40-story hotel lighting up Broadway! The awe continues when you step inside, thanks to the wonderful people who work there, and the sleek and vibrant interiors. It really is beautiful. 

Throughout the gathering, we discussed everything from driving cultural relevance to creating ‘brand spark’, collective campaigns, megatrends and AI, Gen Z and future generations, sustainability, and ways to preserve experiential and human experiences. Underpinning all of this was our purpose of Changing Business for Good. I opened the gathering with Charlotte Goodman, Virgin’s Director of Impact, to discuss the vision that underpins our purpose and how to really embed it into everything you do. We spoke about using purpose to drive innovation and tangible ways to bring it to life, like developing our Purpose Decision-Making Filter and changing our Articles of Association. As always, with Charlotte, there was a lot of laughter and cheeky jokes – no reason that exploring and discussing purposeful business can’t also be fun!   

Holly Branson and Charlotte Goodman in NYC with Virgin
Tomas Jenkins

Next up, I was thrilled to share a Q&A with Halla Tómasdóttir, who is the very embodiment of purposeful leadership. As CEO of The B Team, a former presidential candidate for Iceland, a TED speaker, and co-founder of a feminine investment firm called Auður Capital – Halla is showing the world there is a better way to do business. As I told her in New York, I would quite like Halla to be my Jiminy Cricket - sitting on my shoulder and acting as my purpose navigator! She is so committed to the cause of Changing Business for Good, and through The B Team (a group of leaders we brought together through Virgin Unite who work together to make business a force for good) she brings it to life every day. We spoke about what it takes to be a purposeful leader, and a new resource from The B Team called The New Leadership Playbook. The playbook helps businesses catalyse a new leadership model that places humanity at its heart. As the playbook puts it:

Nothing about the inherent nature of business dictates that irreversible environmental damage, poor labour standards and conformity in leadership are prerequisites to profit.

Hear, hear. 

Holly Branson and Halla Tomasdottir in NYC with Virgin
Tomas Jenkins

To end the Q&A, Halla shared her belief that you should always remain curious and ask questions, instead of just bringing answers. She challenged us to ask ourselves: Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to do at a time like this? 

Will you choose to change the who in order to change the how, and come out of this having built the world we want? Or, will we choose to stay on the side-lines and continue to support the crisis of conformity that has gotten us to this pretty terrible place?

Such a powerful thought that everybody should reflect on from time to time. 

Thank you so much for having us Virgin Hotels, thank you for getting us there Virgin Atlantic, and thank you to everyone at the gathering for your passion, your wisdom and your drive to continue Changing Business for Good both now and for future generations.