Gayle and her husband have been loyal Virgin Atlantic fans since the late 90s when he was traveling frequently to Europe for work, so it was an easy choice for her to decide to fly with us when she started traveling to Africa in 2006.
Despite frequent long haul trips for a few years, Gayle says she was still surprised to earn Flying Club Gold status last year, and even more surprised when she received an invitation to a dinner for Flying Club Gold members at Soho House in Hollywood, hosted by Chris Rossi, Senior Vice President of Virgin Atlantic North America.
Aside from the promise of a delightful evening of cocktails and conversation with Mr. Rossi and fellow Flying Club members, Gayle was hoping to connect with someone at Virgin Unite, Richard Branson’s nonprofit foundation that she’d admired for some time.
As a professor of social entrepreneurship at UCLA, where she consults to nonprofits and helps run a program in Southern Africa training government health managers in leadership and management to help eliminate pediatric HIV, Gayle was a fan of Sir Richard’s Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg and the work they’ve been doing to help entrepreneurs become innovative business leaders.“From what I’ve read about Virgin Unite’s work with nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, and the work they’re doing in Africa, I knew I wanted to learn more,” Gayle said.
Not only did the event allow her to learn more about Virgin Unite, but we put Gayle in touch with Tracey Webster, Chief Entrepreneurship Officer of the Branson Centre. What started as a casual conversation quickly surfaced a common passion and interest in collaboration.
Describing how it all came together, Gayle says, “I didn’t know about the Branson Centre before, but soon learned about the great things they are doing in South Africa. It turns out Tracey was looking for an ‘international expert’ to teach a class on social entrepreneurship.”
It just so happens that Gayle was just the ‘international expert’ that she was looking for, and less than two months later, Gayle found herself once again boarding a Virgin Atlantic flight to Johannesburg, to join Tracey and 25 South African social entrepreneurs, co-teaching a class on Fundamentals for Achieving Sustainability.
The entrepreneurs were there to learn how to take their social enterprises to the next level, whether to raise funds to educate more youth, or better measure the impact they are having on employment. The class seems to have made a difference, at least for one social entrepreneur, who is now writing a business plan to “mobilize resources to feed and clothe Africa’s poorest children.”
We’ve always known that our Flying Club members are an amazing group of people, many of whom are leaders in their fields and shaking things up wherever their travels take them. However, this alliance, born of the shared passions of Gayle and Sir Richard to change the world, was more than any of us could have expected and confirms our long-held belief that our Flying Club members are incredibly innovative people who are changing the world one flight at a time.
“It was truly inspiring to meet these incredible people who are doing so much good with such limited resources,” said Gayle. “To be able to help them fulfill their vision and to learn from them, even for a day, was an incredible gift.”