We sent Cemal Ezel, founder of coffee startup Change Please, to hang out with Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island.

We were thrilled that Cemal, who received a Start Up Loan through us, was picked by Virgin Unite to attend its Disrupting for Good Leadership Gathering on Necker Island. This summit was an incredible opportunity for businesses that do social good to meet other businesses, change-makers, and influencers in order to discuss how to make the world a better place. Here’s what the experience taught Cemal.  

Lesson one: don’t give up

This is probably the most common piece of advice I heard from the amazing people on my Necker Island trip, and it’s also the most common advice any entrepreneur is ever given. “Don’t give up” can be applied to developing your idea, furthering your mission, winning contracts, and persisting with staff members you see hope in. But what does not giving up actually mean?

I have realized there is so much more to not giving up then just tenacity and standing up again when you fall over, and listening to Anthony Ray Hinton speak on Necker Island reinforced for me the true meaning of not giving up. Mr Hinton went through the harrowing experience of  being wrongfully imprisoned for 30 years (that's three years longer than Nelson Mandela), and was on death row until he was released in 2015 after new scientific data was uncovered which acquitted him.

Mr Hinton spoke about how he got through 30 years in prison knowing he was innocent. What was most insightful was that he displayed huge amounts of forgiveness for those that wronged him and those that did not have faith in him. He also had faith in justice, and believed that if he fought hard enough he would be acquitted. Despite everything he went through, Mr Hinton kept his humour and described how that helped him to stay positive.

The key thing his talk showed me about never giving up was that, alongside the usual attributes of resilience, steel and tenacity, you need to be able to forgive and let go. It’s crucial to have belief in yourself and your vision and humour to stay positive. What I would add to this from personal experience is to constantly to learn and refine from the failure and strive towards the values and mission you set out for yourself when you first started.

Lesson two: you can achieve anything you want

Even when I was young I’ve always been told that “You can achieve anything you want”, which helped give me my sense of self-belief. However, it was not until setting up The Old Spike Roastery and Change Please that I actually realized what it truly meant. The word “want” is crucial and can mean anything from a hope or aspiration to something you need and fight for. I want to have an apple and I want to breathe evoke to separate meanings, and what I have learnt is that if you set about achieving what you want as much as your need to take a breath then for sure you can achieve anything you (really) want. As an entrepreneur, you have to ask yourself: what sacrifices are you willing to make to get what you really want?

Lesson three: be proud of your achievements

I was lucky enough to get some advice from Richard Branson, and the most powerful thing he told me was “We are very proud of you”. It made me realize firstly the importance of stopping and taking stock of what you have achieved, but also the importance of support and strength. Having supportive and caring people around you when you’re setting up a business is vital – they’ll remind you to take pride in what your business is achieving, and help you look at the bigger picture.


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