“As the Virgin Unite Insider for Virgin Balloon Flights, the opportunities to use ‘business as a force for good’ are endless. When the chance of going to South Africa with Sir Richard Branson and his connection trip guests came my way courtesy of Virgin Unite, of course, I grabbed it by the (Buffalo) horns and got packing!

A jam packed schedule allowed me to meet some of the most inspiring, motivated and dedicated people I’ve met in my lifetime; The Branson Centre Entrepreneurs, Jean Oelwang (The CEO of Virgin Unite), Dr Taddy Blecher (a pioneer of the free education movement in South Africa) and of course Sir Richard himself alongside his business mogul guests.

After a long flight with the superb Virgin Atlantic, a hotel check in and a stimulating meet and greet, I accompanied Jean, the connection trip guests and the Virgin Unite team to Newtown arriving at the Sophiatown Restaurant where we were delighted by African cuisine and guest speaker Dr Taddy Blecher. Post lunch we marvelled at Inner City Craft Initiatives and met ‘Prince’ an up and coming South African jeweller who designed & created the most interesting pieces of ‘junk’ jewellery. Who can resist a bracelet made out of a fork?!

From here we crossed townships to Constitution Hill, by far one of Johannesburg’s most moving sights. Originally a fort during the Boer War it later became an infamous prison housing many of South Africa’s most well-known resistance leaders and is now home to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. After a quick change we headed off to the Orient Restaurant and chatted over exquisite Chinese food before listening to more inspiring guest speakers.

Early the next morning guests enjoyed breakfast with Sir Richard before we travelled to Mzansi Designers Studio to meet Lesego Malatsi (a previous Branson Centre entrepreneur) and saw his fashion house in full swing. We were later treated to seeing his first boutique shop in Maponya Mall too. We also experienced another previous Branson Centre entrepreneurs thriving business in Diepkloof, Soweto. A recycling plant started by Tshepo Nawane.

Inspired once more by the sheer determination and drive to create employment for local communities and to start businesses from scratch, we chatted to both Lesego and Tshepo en route to the grand opening of the Virgin Active Gym in Maponya. Greeted with steel drums, stilt walkers and Sir Richard, this feast of colour and sound gave the gym opening the atmosphere it most definitely deserved.

Departing the swanky new gym we lunched at Velo and chatted with Marious Minnie, the CEO of Southpoint and a partner and investor of the Branson Centre (BC) before crossing over to the BC to offer mentoring to the current entrepreneurs.

The pièce de résistance of the day was of course the Screw Business As Usual booklaunch at ‘Randlords’ where Richard spoke about his book alongside African children’s choirs and pure cultured entertainment. You can see my video montage of the #SBAU book launch here on our YouTube page.

After supper and wine back at the hotel with Richard and guests, it was off to bed before an early start to wave off the guests, Richard and Jean to Ulusaba for the next step of their trip. You can see Richards's Blog about their game drive here. I spent my last day in South Africa with some of the Virgin Media Pioneers sightseeing and taking in some of South Africa’s most beautiful animals.

THANK YOU to Virgin Unite, Sir Richard, Jean and the rest of the team for the most amazing experience of my life. A trip I will treasure in my heart forever.”

Kirsty x