Supporting refugee entrepreneurs

Richard Branson sat down with a lady laughing with a table of stock in front of them for Virgin Megastore in Dubai
Image from Virgin Megastores
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 16 December 2019

Delighted to drop by Virgin Megastores in Dubai for the opening of the Made 51 pop up shop showcasing beautiful products made by refugee artisans and entrepreneurs. 

Made51 is a project backed by UNHCR, which helps refugees brings their products to a global market and I’m really proud that Virgin Megastores is stocking them. 

It will help refugee entrepreneurs fulfill their potential, find economic opportunity and rebuild their lives. For Made 51, UNHCR ensure that the local producers abide by fair workplace practices, as defined by UNHCR Protection principles and by Fair Trade standards. All artisans are paid a local living wage.

Richard Branson at Virgin Megastores holding a pillow from Made51
Image from Virgin Megastore

I am so grateful to the brilliant Virgin Megastore team for supporting Made 51. At Virgin, we have spent the last 50 years launching hundreds of businesses in countless industries. We have celebrated great successes, as well as quite a few failures. So, it’s fair to say we have a soft spot for entrepreneurs, especially for those facing great odds.

Richard Branson with the Virgin Megastore team in Dubai
Image from Virgin Megastore

When it comes to refugees, we know just how much talent and entrepreneurial energy they bring wherever their journey takes them. Sadly, many are never given a chance, and as the global refugee crisis worsens every year, we are reminded that we all have to do so much more to help those who have been driven from their homes and their countries back on their feet. 

Giving refugees the opportunity to harness their talents and do what they love always seemed like the most natural way of ensuring they can succeed and prosper. And where refugees succeed, society will, too. History is full of positive examples. No question - refugees have shaped the world in countless positive ways. 

Richard Branson at the M=Virgin Megastore Made 51 pop-up shop to support refugees
Image from Virgin Megastore

I’ve long used my voice to encourage greater openness to refugees, to call for a better climate for their integration. Our first involvement with refugees was with Virgin Atlantic flying in medical supplies and food to Jordon after the first Gulf War and personally meeting refugees and hearing about the issues they face. Earlier this year I joined The Elders in Ethiopia to support the work the UN are doing at refugee site near Gambela, and I also helped to promote a concert for hundreds of thousands of refugees on Venezuela's border with Colombia. 

Much responsibility rests with governments, but there is so much that business can do – whether it’s through employment or the integration of refugee enterprises into business supply chains. That’s what Made51 is all about. It’s about connecting these amazing artisans with the global market, about showing that they are ready to deliver. 

Richard Branson in white shirt holding a microphone and smiling
Image from Virgin Megastore

But each product also does something else: it tells a story about resilience, about perseverance and about beating the odds. I read some of these stories aloud to the crowd in Virgin Megastores and it really brought home why this project is so important.

The Made 51 products take that story into people’s homes, into people’s minds. I couldn’t think of a better way of shifting attitudes and fighting prejudice and misperceptions. From Jordan to Burkina Faso, from Colombia to Ethiopia – refugees deserve to be heard, and they deserve to be empowered. 

I hope you will all be inspired by the Made 51 story, and I sure hope many of you will either stock or buy these beautiful products. I loved the blue pillows so much I think I may put an order in for Necker!

At Virgin, we are proud to be a partner of UNHCR, and we hope others will follow in our footsteps. 

Head over to the Made 51 website to learn more.