Several times a year, Virgin Unite organises Leadership Gatherings on Necker Island. The trips are a great way of bringing together like-minded people who share our belief that when entrepreneurial ideas are coupled with the right people, we can change the world.
At our next gathering at the end of May, we’re bringing together business leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to discuss the topic, “Disrupting for Good” – how disruptive thinking and entrepreneurial approaches can create opportunities for a better world.
For the first time, we ran a competition to offer two entrepreneurs the chance to join this group. During this all-expenses-paid trip, the competition winners will present their ideas and pick the brains of some of the brightest and most talented people in the world. And of course enjoy the Island sunshine!
We were looking for entrepreneurs with an existing business that is making a positive impact to people and planet, as well as making a profit. We had some incredible applicants tackling a range of issues; from eco-tourism to battling unemployment and it was a really tough call. Nonetheless, we are excited to announce our two winners: Zakheni Ngubo and Nathaniel Peat.
“Where there is passion and purpose, prosperity always follows. Doing good is good business and you have to stand and live for something much bigger than yourself.”
Zakheni grew up in Umlazi, a Durban Township in South Africa. He completed his high school education without a maths teacher and this experience led him to his create Syafunda. Syafunda is an organisation that provides fun and interactive maths and English lessons through mobile technology.
In just over a year and with the support of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa, Syafunda has become a key player in the education and technology sector, developing and distributing maths and science digital content for students in grades seven through 12 in South Africa. They have also created a free wireless network that allows students to download and access educational content directly on their mobile device without internet.
On Necker, Zakheni hopes to get the opportunity to take time to reflect and learn about himself away from his usual busy schedule. In the future, Zakheni hopes to expand Syafunda and has already been testing the viability of their business model in Botswana, Nigeria and Swaziland. Their goal is to ensure that every child in Africa has access to digital content that will educate, empower and inspire them to reach their full potential.
“Aspire to inspire before you expire, the only limitation we have in this life is the one in our own mind”
Nathaniel grew up in North London in a Jamaican family and has always been passionate about helping young people who struggled at school. He co-founded GeNNex, a business selling portable solar chargers and home power systems to people in the developing world, whilst empowering women and young people to learn how to build, maintain and sell the products for themselves.
GeNNex also works in the UK with disengaged and underprivileged young people through its school program in which students (aged 13-14) design and build renewable energy products that are shipped to partner schools in Africa whose students still use dangerous kerosene lanterns. Nathanial and his team aim to empower communities by making them more financially independent through awareness of renewable energy and its benefits.
Nathaniel found out about the Necker competition through Virgin Start Up, who awarded GeNNex a 10k loan last July, to help them really get the business of the ground. Virgin Start Up thought GeNNex were a great example of a socially conscious business and we agreed!
On this trip, Nathaniel hopes to learn from some of the world’s most successful businesspeople on how they managed to scale their business, foster new ideas and learn how to handle the challenges that come with working internationally. GeNNex hope to expand to a further two countries and see growth both financially and also in terms of positively impacting lives by providing power to those who have none.
Look out for our next blog telling you all about our finalists who were narrowly pipped to the post!