2019 was such an exciting year and I can’t quite believe it’s over. There were many family highlights but none come close to welcoming our wonderful daughter Lola into the world!
Freddie and I watched in awe as the bond between our five-year-old's Etta and Artie blossomed with their new little sister. As twins they often live in their own little bubble, but they welcomed Lola into their world and took on the roles of big sister and brother with gusto! They shared another big milestone in 2019 when they started ‘big school’ in September. There wasn't a tear in sight - just a keen curiousity to keep learning and exploring the wonders of the world. I just love the amazement that a five-year-old brain brings to everything!
For two months during my maternity leave with Lola, Freddie and I took shared parental leave. Like many men, Freddie hadn’t felt comfortable taking shared parental leave when Etta and Artie were born. Thankfully, the culture is slowly shifting and more families are taking advantage of the opportunity. Those two months were unbelievably special and we'll always cherish the quality time we spent together as the five of us got to know our new little addition, Lola. One of my hopes for 2020 is that the culture around shared parental leave continues to evolve so more families can better share the highs and lows of a new baby.
Work was also really rewarding in 2019 as Virgin brought innovation and passion to every sector we operate in – all thanks to the 80,000 incredible people in the Virgin Family.
This time last year, I had just interviewed Michelle Obama - marking the beginning of a whirlwind adventure for my own role at Virgin. From welcoming Virgin Voyages to London; watching Virgin Galactic unveil their spacesuits and reach space for the second time; recording a live podcast show with George the Poet and BBC Sounds; hosting panels with purpose-driven business women; launching our Reimagining Education Together report at Big Change; celebrating with Virgin people from all around the world at the 2019 Stars Awards and travelling the country to meet some wonderful people from Virgin Trains, Virgin Money, Virgin Money Giving and Virgin Active. Phew - and half of that was during maternity leave!
I can’t wait to see what this year brings - with plenty of big moments and milestones in store. Virgin turns 50 in 2020, so we’ll be celebrating all year round with Virgin companies from all over the world. We’ll also be celebrating Dad’s 70th onboard a Virgin Voyages Birthday Bash adventure in July. On that note, we’re all eagerly awaiting Virgin Voyages inaugural sailing season in April 2020.
2019 marked 15 years since we founded Virgin Unite as a way of tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges. It’s been amazing to reflect on the progress this incredible network has made on everything from ocean protection, drug policy reform, LGTB+ rights, clean energy access, pushing to end the death penalty and giving ex-offenders a second chance. As Co-Chair of thee foundation, I’m so excited to see the positive impact the network has created continue in 2020 and beyond.
I’m also hopeful that more noise will be made about the value that women entrepreneurs bring to economy. I think we can expect to see this topic really evolve this year, with commitments such as Virgin StartUp’s 50/50 gender pledge to invest in an equal number of women and men founders by the end of 2020.
Back to birthdays, there’ll be plenty more cake to go around as the Eve Branson Foundation celebrate their 15th birthday and Virgin Limited Edition turns 20! In our own little family, Etta and Artie will turn six and Lola will enter the (hopefully-not-so) terrible two’s.
Freddie and I are incredibly grateful to have three healthy and happy children alongside the love and the support of our extended family.
I hope you all had a wonderful end to 2019 and are looking forward to an exciting year ahead.
Here’s to 2020 and all the adventures it will bring!