Richard Branson was born on 18 July 1950, in Surrey (England). He was a struggler in school and finally dropped-out at age 16. It was this decision that would eventually result in the creation of his brain-child, Virgin Records.
His entrepreneurial ventures began in the music industry & steadily expanded into a number of other sectors and turned Branson into a billionaire. The Virgin Group of companies holds in excess of 200 companies, including space-tourism company- Virgin Galactic. Richard Branson is also well-known for his sporting achievements and adventurous spirit including crossing the seas in a hot-air balloon.
The Early Years
Richard Charles Nicholas Branson’s father- Edward James Branson was a barrister and Eve Branson, his mother was a flight attendant. Richard struggled with dyslexia and had difficulty with academics. He was a failure at school and he attended Scaitcliffe School, only till the age of 13. From there, he transferred to Stowe School, which was a boarding school located in Stowe, Buckinghamshire, England.
He didn’t fare any better here and eventually at the age of 16, he dropped out of that school as well. Soon after, he started Student, a youth culture magazine. Launched in 1966, this publication was run by students, for the students- In its very 1st edition, it sold advertising worth $8,000. The first-run of 50,000 copies was then distributed at no cost as Branson had covered all the costs via advertising alone.
Making Money with Music
By 1969, Richard started residing in a commune in London and was surrounded by the British drug & music scene. It was at this point of time that the germ of an idea of starting a main-order record company took birth. This company which he named Virgin has started to fund his existing magazine efforts. Though the company’s performance was modest, the profits were more than enough for him to spread his wings and very soon, he added a record store in Oxford Street in London. This venture was a success and in 1972, the high school drop-out built a recording studio in Oxfordshire in England.
In 1973, with help from Branson’s team, Mike Oldfield recorded “Tubular Bells” on the Virgin Records label. This song became an instant hit and continued to top the UK-charts for 247 weeks. Riding on the success of this launch, Branson went on to signing Sex Pistols, Culture Club, Rolling Stones & Genesis; very soon, Virgin Music became one of the world’s top 6 record companies.
In Expansion Mode
But Branson was unstoppable. He stepped a rung higher on the entrepreneurial ladder and in 1980 included Voyager Group the travel company and Virgin Atlantic, the airline in 1984. In its wake were launched an impressive series of megastores. But somewhere along the way, his fortunes started flailing and in 1992, Branson sold Virgin for an amount of $1B, to THORN EMI.
The Survivor-The Fighter-The Winner
Richard was devastated by the loss but was a survivor at heart. He forged ahead, rose through the ashes and founded Virgin Radio in 1993. In 1993 he started V2, another record company. Today, Branson’s business includes a luxury game preserve, a game company, the Virgin Galactic (the space-tourism company) & a mobile phone company. Currently, Virgin Galactic is developing a sub-orbital spaceplane and they test launched SpaceShipTwo in April 2013.
In 1999, Branson was knighted for his contribution to entrepreneurship, and he also held No 261 position Forbes’- “World Billionaires”. At that point of time he had a personal worth of $2.5B, which included 2 private islands. Richard Branson is a living example of how a person who is unconventionally “smart”, determined and self-driven can reach the pinnacle of success.
About the Author
Ben Fewtrell is a sought-after Business Coach, Keynote Speaker and trainer who has featured in Virgin’s Inflight Magazine and Entertainment Portal, SKY Business and “Secrets of Top Business Builders Exposed”. He is also the host of the popular Business Brain Food Podcast where he interviews leading experts on anything and everything business.