Andrea Wilson is a Branson Centre entrepreneur from the British Virgin Islands, who over the last year has channelled her passion for craft into one of the BVI’s most thriving online stores.

Today we’re sharing the story behind her business success, her lessons learnt with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship BVI, and what she’s looking forward to in 2017.

Tell us about your business, Absolutely Unique VI

Absolutely Unique VI is an online store that brings together beautifully crafted products, including hammocks, shoes, swimwear and bags. At the core, we are promoting ‘Made In The BVI’ – quality products that are produced locally. We customize our pieces for every shopper, making every product unique. The store, started with a simple idea – producing quality products with the Virgin Islands brand that are fun, sexy, comfortable and attention-grabbing. Since our online launch, that concept has expanded and Absolutely Unique now works with artisans and suppliers in the Caribbean, Africa and South America.

Virgin Unite. BCoE

Virgin Unite. BCoE

What year did you start with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and how has it helped the business?

I started working with the centre in 2016. Being in the program has helped me to be more efficient and conscious of things that I previously took for granted. Firstly, it has opened my eyes to how crucial it is to the health of my business to track its performance by effectively managing the accounting. Now I’m recording and analysing transaction patterns, putting together cash flow statements, accounts payable, accounts received, budgets and expense reports, etc.

You realise that you actually need the assistance of people who've been through this process in order to get your business to the next level.

Secondly, I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished more than 90 per cent of the things I listed in my business pitch. I must admit that without my mentor, Simone Choy, constantly keeping me on my toes, it would not have been possible. She created a non-judgmental environment where I was able to explore my ideas and implement strategies that greatly benefited my company. She is very encouraging and she recognises my successes and challenges me to be a better leader. 

Virgin Unite. BCoE

Virgin Unite. BCoE

Do you believe your business helps in any kind of story telling? If yes, how so?

Most definitely. My sister and I have been in the multimedia field for over two decades: me a graphic artist, marketing representative, documentary producer and photographer, and Amanda as a journalist across Europe and Africa. In 2008, after years in the UK, Amanda finally decided to take a trip home to our homeland Guyana for a short vacation. Her search for genuine handmade leather sandals (which are very popular back home) led her to designer Pamela Fox. She immediately called to ask if I can do a fashion show in the Virgin Islands.

I was excited, it was something new. Promoted under the brand “Chic Fashion Revolution” the show turned out to be one of the most spectacular fashion events the Virgin Islands ever saw. Storytelling is the backbone to these shows – using our mix of multimedia skills is what leads to their ongoing success. 

Virgin Unite. BCoE

Virgin Unite. BCoE

What is the most important thing that running a business has taught you?

Following your dream and getting your business to the point that you can consider it successful doesn't happen overnight. Everyday certainly isn't a "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" kind of day. Sometimes balancing your personal life and your business it's so stressful, you want to pull your hair out. But nothing worth having is ever gotten easily and a lot of times it actually doesn't pay off. But I've learnt to never give up.

Most entrepreneurs jump into business with little or no experience or training in how to actually run a successful business. We get up one day and decide that it was time to stop letting someone else control our destiny. At this point we just "leap" and hope that the net appears. Sometimes it actually does, but then you're faced with the daunting tasks of having to be a leader, dealing with the finances, the marketing, the inventory, etc., and that's when it hits you. You realise that you actually need the assistance of people who've been through this process in order to get your business to the next level. Branson Centre offered the connections, tools and resources I needed to get this done.

To learn more about the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship - British Virgin Islands visit their website today