Richard Branson is an English Business Mastermind, Philanthropist and Founder of the famous Virgin Group. He is a serial entrepreneur that has turned all the low points of his life into lessons that have helped him rise to perfection and master the art of business. Ever since he was a small boy, Branson always had the entrepreneurial drive in him. He always had a good eye for spotting opportunities and turning them into profitable businesses which he still does to this day.
How it all began:
As a kid, Branson was diagnosed with Dyslexia. He soon found himself struggling and decided to drop out of school. At sixteen he started a magazine called ‘Student’. In an interview, Branson revealed, “Well I started Student with £100 that my mother gave us after she found a necklace on the road near Shamley Green. After three months of no one claiming it from the police station they told her she could have it. She knew we had no money so she came up to London, sold it for £100 and gave it to us.”
This marked Branson’s first step into the business. Branson monetized the magazine by selling ads to local companies and mailing records to students who purchased the magazine.
Within a year of launching the magazine, Branson discovered his drive for entrepreneurship and launched Virgin Records, a recording label and studio. Within a few years, some of the industry’s biggest names such as Sex Pistols and Rolling Stones signed under the label making the brand a hit. At the young age of 23, Branson was officially named a billionaire.
However, Branson did not stop at Virgin Records; instead, he continued to build his empire bit by bit. He launched the Voyager Group in 1980. Shortly after that, he founded a travel company in 1984 and started the world-renowned airline Virgin Atlantic.
His idea to launch the airline came to him when Branson had planned a trip to the Virgin Islands to meet his girlfriend in his late twenties. However, the final flight to the island was cancelled due to some reasons. He was keen on making the trip, so he thought about chartering a plane to get there, but the trip was too expensive. Branson started exploring options in his head and came up with a solution. He found a board nearby and wrote the following on it: ‘Virgin Airlines $29’.
Other stranded passengers who wanted to go to the island bought tickets from him, and he used the collected sum of money to charter a plane to the Virgin Islands. Branson named the aircraft that took him to the island ‘Virgin Airlines’, which inspired him to start his airline ‘Virgin Atlantic’.In 1993, Richard Branson founded Virgin Radio, and soon after, in 1996, he launched V2, his second record company.
Branson then decided to set foot in the aerospace industry with Virgin Galactic’s launch, a spaceflight company in 2004. At the launch, Branson announced that his new company would license the Spaceship One technology funded by Paul Allen, Microsoft’s Co-Founder, and designed by Burt Rutan, the well-renowned American Aeronautical Engineer.
Virgin Galactic aims to take people into space for as low as $200,000. The level of trust in Branson’s group can be seen in 2014 when more than five hundred people had already bought the tickets for the trip.
Today, more than four hundred companies operate under the Virgin Group’s banner, the group owned by Richard Branson. Present across the globe in almost all continents, Branson’s companies are spread across various sectors such as aerospace, Music, retail, publishing, hospitality and fitness.
Branson says, “Our main aim has always been to make a difference in whatever market we are breaking into, we appreciate what the customer wants and always deliver an extremely high standard of product and service. We launched Student magazine because we didn’t like how things were done and it was aimed at giving young people a voice on key issues such as the Vietnam War. We have used that attitude to grow the Virgin business into the Music industry, Aviation, Trains, Telecoms and now Healthcare. Virgin has always stood for: quality, value for money, innovation, competitive challenge and fun.”
Branson treats his business empire like a family rather than a hierarchy. They are empowered to run their affairs with shared ideas, values, interests and goals. The company’s motto is to give birth to new Virgin companies and encourage them to progress as they gradually become full-fledged Virgin family members. The charismatic entrepreneur is always looking for an exciting business to fund. On the company’s website Virgin.com, there is even a section to submit new and exciting business ventures that Branson might consider pursuing.
In an interview with EU Start-ups, Branson said, “I’ve always been passionate about supporting entrepreneurs; they are the lifeblood of innovation and challengers of perceptions. I’m proud of the work we do at Virgin companies around the world to help make sure the entrepreneur community continues to thrive.”