By Gemma Manning
In May this year, I’ve been invited to visit Richard Branson’s ‘entrepreneur’s paradise’—the beautiful Necker Island in the Caribbean. To say I’m honoured, thrilled and incredibly excited is an understatement! When I travel to Necker, I will pitch my third business venture, Light Years, for the first time. But I’ll get to that…
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came about thanks to my successes with Manning & Co. I launched M&C 8 years ago, when my first daughter, Charlotte, was 12 months old. Finding the Corporate sector unforgiving for a return-to-work mum, I decided to take things into my own hands– and M&C was born.
8 years later, Charlotte is now 9 and my second daughter, Amelie is 6. I have grown M&C organically to become a full-service strategic marketing consultancy. In 2013, I also launched my second venture, Gemstar– a business that was born when it dawned on me that South-East Asia poses huge—and largely untapped—market potential for Australian companies.
Being a serial entrepreneur, I’m no stranger to challenging the status quo! Defying the norm, overcoming set-backs, staying focused and being determined to make it happen…this is all part of the entrepreneurial journey that one must go through to unearth amazing opportunities– they don’t just fall in your lap!
Travelling to meet Richard Branson is something that I am both thrilled and nervous about. As a serial entrepreneur, billionaire, philanthropist and founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Air and Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson has long been my hero. I very much admire his perseverance, resilience and strength in the face of adversity; and the unwavering and passionate belief that one person can make a difference in the world.
That’s why when I travel to Necker, I will pitch Light Years: a transformational project for disadvantaged young women. In Australia, there are significant gaps in education and opportunities for disadvantaged girls and women. Disadvantaged girls and women—particularly those living in rural or regional areas—are far less likely to finish high school, gain qualifications and enter the workforce.
And this issue isn’t just confined to Australia. A recent OECD report highlights that young disadvantaged women across the globe, sometimes referred to as NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training—is on the rise, and the gap between young men and young women widening.
Clearly, there’s pressing need for someone to make a transformational difference in the lives of these women, all while building a social and economic impact globally.
My dream is help spearhead such a movement! My vision is to catapult young women from disadvantaged backgrounds into the workforce, helping them gain the skills and qualifications they need to achieve autonomy, independence and stability in their lives. I want Charlotte and Amelie to grow up in the kind of world where girls and women everywhere can make their dreams come true.
When I travel to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, I will have the amazing opportunity to pitch my transformative vision. Necker has long been a creative incubator for entrepreneurs across the globe, with stand-out entrepreneurs invited to pitch their ideas to Sir Branson each year.
To be a part of this opportunity has to be one of my career and entrepreneurial highlights to date, with M&C as the strategic springboard. I’m deeply humbled by this amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds!