“I have long believed that entrepreneurship is the key to solving some of the world’s biggest problems. Here in the British Virgin Islands, we have a huge opportunity to empower people to use their entrepreneurial skills to contribute to the rebuild of a stronger, smarter, greener, and better BVI.” – Richard Branson

In September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the British Virgin Islands, causing devastation to all that lay in their path. People’s homes were ripped from beneath them, livelihoods lost and all sense of normality destroyed.

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However, at just one year on, we are looking at a very different picture. In fact, just days after the worst of the hurricanes had hit, the spirit of the BVI people shone stronger than ever.

Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Unite BVI recognised a strong need to mobilise the small business community, to stimulate and diversify the BVI economy and mitigate the risk of poverty (tourism and financial services being the only real pillars of the economy).

Financially empowering entrepreneurs with small business loans directly supports the recovery of the economy by creating jobs and giving businesses the opportunity to generate revenue at a time of economic instability.

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In June, the KickStart BVI Small Business Loan Programme awarded six micro loans to existing entrepreneurs in the BVI – the equivalent of $55k zero interest loans. Each KickStart BVI loan recipient was matched with a mentor to help them on their journey, and was welcomed into the community of entrepreneurs built through the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean programme and previous loan recipients.

The Kickstart programme is working to inspire and empower social entrepreneurship in the BVI, focusing on businesses that operate as ‘forces for good’ in their communities; and these six loans are aimed at helping existing entrepreneurrs get back on their feet.

Funding was also provided to a re-training programme – a vocational training programme in the construction and maritime sectors – which will be up and running this month.

Targeting 900 participants, the training programme will provide opportunities for members of the BVI community who are unemployed and underemployed – and  who were adversely affected by the 2017 Hurricanes – and match with exponentially growing sectors likely to hire new employees to support recovery. The programme aims to provide at least 70 apprenticeships and employed positions upon completion.

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Entrepreneurship is an invaluable tool in the long-term recovery of the BVI. It will revive communities, drive tourism and create a thriving landscape for future generations and this is We are now one year on from Hurricane Irma, and while there is still much more to be done, we have much to celebrate too – not least the unfaltering resilience and determination of the BVI community throughout.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work and the long term goal of building a stronger, smarter, greener, better BVI.