The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean recently hosted the Made of More Entrepreneur Challenge (MOMEC), with eight finalists pitching to judges for the US$130,000 prize pot. Mark McIntosh, a Private Equity and Angel Investor, was among the judges.

He has been involved with the Branson Centre since its inception over five years ago when he helped Virgin Unite and Virgin Holidays get it started. We caught up with him to find out what his experience of the final was like and what he looks for in a winner... 

The Made of More Entrepreneur Challenge (MoMEC), hosted by Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean and The Arthur Guinness Project, is the highlight of my year. As a Private Equity and Angel Investor, I enjoy seeing entrepreneurs on a pitching stage, doing their best to summarise their work in a way that excites the judges and audience while simultaneously giving a real sense of their operations and likelihood of success.

Integrity ensures that you do the right thing for your business, for your staff, for the environment

It is similarly difficult as a judge to make what could be a life changing assessment from a highly condensed presentation. To help me get through this, I stick to the three things that I believe are the most important for any entrepreneur. I look for integrity, intelligence and passion. These are so critical that even with the best business ideas, if you are missing any one, your success will be limited. I measure the pitches using this framework and assign a score that I call your IIP index.

Integrity ensures that you do the right thing for your business, for your staff, for the environment and society in which you operate. Intelligence makes sure you do that in a profitable and sustainable way, and passion keeps you going, especially when you face the biggest obstacles. 

The most common obstacle, even among entrepreneurs who possess a high IIP index, is funding. Access to cash is the key factor at each inflection point in a growing business. In the Caribbean, where there is very little equity funding and very high hurdles to loan funding, the need for solutions is acute.    

The most common obstacle, even among entrepreneurs who possess a high IIP index, is funding. Access to cash is the key factor at each inflection point in a growing business. In the Caribbean, where there is very little equity funding and very high hurdles to loan funding, the need for solutions is acute.    

In my second year as a judge in MoMEC, I had another phenomenal opportunity to solve this issue for some entrepreneurs. The pitches showed the tremendous improvement in business operations and management that came with the help of the Branson Centre’s training courses, mentorship programmes, access to networks, and business opportunities.

Each pitch reflected focused coaching that helped the entrepreneurs to better structure, execute, and explain their business models and challenged them to use their businesses as a force for good. While it is never easy to pick winners in a competition like this, there were some clear standouts.  

One entrepreneur has successfully cultivated an agriculture business that expands markets for farmers, and another cleaned up with his plans for a dental supplies business and judges were treated to a superb lamb dish by a young chef who is focusing on increased efficiency to double the size of his catering business. The judges were most inspired by a business that carves its success from recycled wood.

We were energised by a waste to electricity plant that, at its core, profits from protecting the environment, and we were entertained by a performance poet who #securedhisbag by using his way with words to convince us that a Jamaican bag designer and manufacturer could be a world beater! What a show!  

Each year, the challenge has helped me to complete a circle with our entrepreneurs. On day one with the Centre, many say they have the best business and would be so much bigger if they only had funding. The Branson Centre takes them on, shows them that there is, in fact, room for improvement in their understanding, structuring, and execution of their business.

 

After weeks of work, they will have now packaged a business that is truly ready for funding. Thanks to Made of More, I am able to reward that success.   

As with every inflection point in a business, however, the MoMEC funding is a start and not an end. The winners must understand that once you get the funding, you don’t slow down.  Now it’s time to #screwitjustdoit. The stakes are immediately higher and you must now use the funding as fuel to kick intelligence, integrity and passion into high gear. And, to quote another inspiring entrepreneur, DJ Khaled, that’s a #majorkey.

Follow Mark and his work across Twitter and Instagram. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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