All about Richard Branson’s Mum – and why a lady in her 90’s matters to us all.

If you are wondering whether there is a typo in the title here, and whether a coach who writes a lot about work meant rather to write an inspirational story about business legend Richard Branson, then nope – this article is all about his Mother, Eve.

In case you have been living under a rock, Richard Branson is a global business name and serial entrepreneur who has launched a string of companies and is most famous for his “Virgin” brand enterprises. (And yes, OK, there might be a couple of inspirational stories there. I particularly like the one about the school chum he tried to involve in his businesses who refused – a story for another time!)

One of the reasons that Richard Branson has been so successful is because of his mastery of the art of Public Relations and marketing. Whilst he seems to have eased up recently on stunts like wearing a wedding dress to a press launch, he still gives a lot of talks about business all over the world. He often mentions his mother as a great source of personal inspiration but, in a talk earlier this year, he expanded on this in a way which I thought was very interesting.

In this speech to entrepreneurs, he explained that his mother had been a bit of a serial entrepreneur herself – starting and running a few different businesses to try and bring in some extra money during the training years of his father’s career. Apparently none of these ventures were particularly successful, but he had learned a lot from watching her try.

Now that right there is an inspirational message. Very often we are held back from trying things because we fear failure, but if you thought your failures might lead your child to become a billionaire one day, might you feel a bit different?

It goes to show that there is always a long-term perspective, and that even ventures which are apparently failures might bear fruit we could never have imagined further down the line. My father is very fond of saying “nothing is wasted”, by which he means the lessons you take from any experience or activity always have a value, even if it is not obvious to you at the time. This is a very powerful demonstration of that point in action.

There is a second reason we can find Eve Branson inspiring. This lady was born in 1924 and has a son who has done quite well for himself. If you knew nothing more about her than these two things, you might reasonably think that she is at a stage of life where she could be expecting to take things easy.

Well maybe the apple (notoriously high octane Richard) doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

In 2005 (so when she was over 80), she established the Eve Branson Foundation. This excellent and worthwhile charity uses the base of one of Richard’s luxury hotels in Morrocco, (the Kasbah Tamadot) to provide economic opportunities to the local community of Berber peoples. They do this through providing skills and training for children and young people, as well as through jobs at the hotel. The berbers have very few modern economic opportunities, and this is especially true for the girls, who otherwise have no options outside the home.

This started when Eve showed one of the locals how to knit and it grew from there. There is a shop through which hand made goods are sold, and other projects such as a bread kitchen, a creche, school facilities for girls, a saffron farm and a salt mine.

Eve is not remote with all this, being very hands on. She was there, age 92, proudly cutting the ribbon on a new weaving centre in October 2016.

The Berbers live in the mountains where their isolated geography, lack of medium/large businesses and low educational attainment hamper their opportunities. A lady like Eve did not have to take much of an interest, but she did, crossing some religious and cultural divides to do so.

That reminder that we are all part of the world, and that willingness to continue to engage hard with it regardless of our own circumstances, is very inspiring to me.

Mind you. Eve Branson has lead a very interesting and varied life, so her continuing level of energy and engagement should perhaps be no surprise. She published her autobiography in 2013 – I recommend it.

Here are our take-aways:
1. Failure – not always a bad thing – you never know what it might lead to years down the line!
2. It’s never too late to maintain an interest in the world, in other people and to do something about it.

If you would like to check out the Eve Branson Foundation, and some of the excellent work it does, look here:

If you are interested in Eve’s auto-biography, you can get that here:

Till next time!