I could easily say that my experience belies the few short years I’ve been on this planet. For sure I have done much, seen much and visited lots of places the world over. I have met Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and more.
From as far back as I can remember, meeting the business tycoon, Sir Richard Branson has always scored high on my list of people to see. Forgot the fact that he’s a very successful business and that he is such a wonderful philanthropist.
What has always etched firmly in my mind’s eye is his “screw it, let’s do it” approach to entrepreneurship. He doesn’t seem to get bogged down by the corporate isms and chisms and unnecessary ‘do you know who I am’ attititude of the regular Joe. He is a fun-loving, risk-taker – a true entrepreneur with a big heart. Only such a person could dare to take humans on a flight to suborbital space in the Virgin Galatic.
And he isn’t just about himself. Richard’s strong belief in business for social good philosophy has seen him establishing the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – South Africa, Jamaica, British Virgin Island and now there are talks to expand into the OECS. This thrust has given him another occasion to visit Jamaica, the land of wood and water. This time it was to re-launch the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean. The Centre has relocated from its Western locale of Montego Bay, St. James, to the hub of business activity in Kingston. This move will allow for greater accessibility to its entrepreneurs and partners.
I will get into more depth about my opportunity to meet, interview and interact with Richard at a later date where he will be featured on an upcoming episode of The Entrepreneurial You podcast. This will be epic and will be right on time for Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Ok, so let me get to the point. What I really want to share is the ONE thing I learnt from Sir Richard Branson when I met him on the eve of my birthday, Well, let me correct that, the ONE thing I was REMINDED of – ‘never ever try to blend in like everyone else; you are not a carbon copy, you were made to stand out and stand out you should.
Now why do I say this? I was part of a small contingent of media personnel to cover the re-launch of the Centre’s move to Kingston. I will be carrying my interview with Richard as part of the special edition podcast I mentioned earlier. As Richard entered the press room, his first comment was, “I love your hair”, referring to my unusal multi-coloured tress. What follows at the end of the interview was even more amazing. The media was asked to capture the moment and when Sir Richard Branson makes a request, there is no hesitation.
With our backs against each other, he took my long, braided hair and placed over his head, giving the illusion of him being dread-locked. It was such a light-hearted moment so typical of the spontaneous and fun-loving entrepreneur.
Like a true marketer, I had on hand, readily available a red t-shirt from my Patwa Apparel collection to give as gift.
Now back to me and my hair. To say that I’m a rebel when it comes on to hair, is an understatement. I’m a renegade. I’ve always said, I’m not my hair so I can do whatever I want with it without feeling bogged down by the trappings of whether it is appropriate or not. I cut it, I braid it, I colour it, I do just about anything with it and that makes me comfortable and undeniably me. I’ve always stood out because of it. Most people love it and wished they could be as daring. I do get the occassional stares at times, suggesting that my hair is inappropriate for my role as an entrepreneur whose liasions are with a wide cross-section of society. But by whose standard is that anyway?
I recall a similar circumstance on my first visit to Colombia. There I was at Colombia’s premier fashion event, Colombiamoda when President Juan Manuel Santos called me out for a pic with him. I called my friend Zoe Samuels Heather Laine to join in the fun.
We must be careful to exercise our right to self-expression as long as we do not infringe on the right of others.
Now how does this relate to being an entrepreneur? On so many levels. As a given, anyone who is crazy enough to entertain the idea of being an entrepreneur – to walk from their ‘secure’ job will be seen as abnormal by regular standard. The point I’m making is that if you are in business, you may as well go ahead and do what is necessary to stand out. If you are afraid of criticism, too bad, you’re already being criticized for the fact that you’re a risk taker, so just go ahead and go all out.
Be bold; dare to be different; stand out!
I’l love to hear from you. Please comment below with your favourite attribute of Richard Branson.