Get to know Branson Centre Caribbean’s new CEO

The Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship
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The author Gizelle Riley smiles at camera
by Gizelle Riley
4 February 2020

The Branson Centre Caribbean started the year with a new leader at the helm, Lauri-Ann Ainsworth. 

Lauri-Ann has spent a significant portion of her professional life developing the Caribbean’s entrepreneurial landscape and now she has her sights set on creating dynamic Caribbean entrepreneurs. We had a chat with Lauri-Ann to get to know the woman behind the role and learn more about the vision she has for Branson Centre.

How does the Branson Centre help to create dynamic Caribbean entrepreneurs?

The Branson Centre stands as the Caribbean’s leading business accelerator for scale-up entrepreneurs. We’re guided by our mission to create dynamic Caribbean economies, but in order to do that, we have to take a targeted approach. Entrepreneurs are visionaries, but going to the next level requires a shift in perspective - to scale a business you need to have a growth mindset. It means thinking bigger while still being able to navigate through all that comes along with it. Our programme offers training to structure their business for growth, which includes helping them overcome hurdles and avoid mistakes through our mentorship programme and preparing them to capitalise on investment opportunities.

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Can you share some success stories?

I don’t know where to start! Some recent wins from last year’s cohort include entrepreneur Melanie Levy expanding operations by opening a new location of Candy Craze, and one of our other entrepreneurs more than doubled their gross sales after completing our programme. Our Blue Economy programme, a specialised component in our accelerator programme which supports the growth of blue entrepreneurs, recently graduated four future business leaders. We’re proud that we can make an impact on the environment in this way. We recently welcomed our largest scaleup cohort yet - a total of 16 entrepreneurs who will get our support toward scaling their business. 

 I feel like every experience has prepared me for this role. It has given me a platform to support entrepreneurs in a much bigger way while sharing my personal values - wellness is one of them. Growing up, entrepreneurship was always presented as a path to freedom and while that’s true, it can also be a prison if you don’t take care of yourself spiritually, physically, and mentally. We live in a society that glorifies pushing and pressure – that’s a recipe for burnout.

I’ve always been an advocate for self-care. I’ve had my fair share of burning the candles at both ends, until enough was enough. It’s important to me that my team is happy and healthy. I try to empower them to take regular breaks and not carry work home. Making self-care a priority leads to better performance. You can’t be effective at your job or be your best self if you’re frazzled.

What’s on the agenda for this year?

We will continue to optimise our programme by taking a more customised approach to how we serve our entrepreneurs. We want to provide support where they need it most. This means that while we’ll be preparing them to scale by becoming investment-ready, our team will offer one-on-one support to enhance other areas like operations, marketing, and human resources, to name a few. 

It’s important for me to create a space for growth and collaboration. One way we’re going to do this is by creating space for conversation where entrepreneurs can share their triumphs, challenges, and perspectives for what they want to see done in the ecosystem. We hit the ground running on this and recently hosted a fireside conversation with entrepreneurs - not just the ones in our programme.

We aim to create greater diversity and growth opportunities, which is why the team and I are working toward increasing the number of women who join our programme. Women are multi-talented and multi-skilled powerhouses, but in our transition from startup to scale up, we observed that not many transitioned to the growth-phase of business. We want to know why and see if we can offer solutions.

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The Branson Centre helps Caribbean entrepreneurs scale their businesses. Its accelerator programme now has a specialised component for Blue Economy Entrepreneurs. Take the business assessment quiz and learn more.