Rags To Riches Series: Sir Richard Branson

Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was born on July 18, 1950, in Surrey, England. Richard struggled with dyslexia and had a hard time with educational institutions, eventually leaving at 16 without any academic qualifications.

Then, Branson began his first venture into entrepreneurship, starting a youth-culture magazine called Student. The publication, run by students – for students, sold $8,000 worth of advertising in its first edition, which was launched in 1966.

In 1969, Brason was living in London and surrounded by a vibrant music scene. During this time Branson started a mail-order record company called Virgin, initially to help fund his magazine efforts. However, he made enough to open a record shop in Oxford Street, London which led to him opening his own recording studio and record label in 1972.

Mike Oldfield was the first artist signed to the Virgin records label. The recording of ‘Tubular Bell’s was a massive success, staying on the UK charts for 247 weeks. Following this success Virgin Records then went on to sign artists like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, the Rolling Stones, and Genesis, eventually making Virgin Music one of the top six record companies in the world.

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Photo by Jarle Naustvik

Branson continued to flex his entrepreneurial muscles, starting several business ventures including Virgin Atlantic. It is perhaps the story of how this business started that highlights the personality, initiative and business acumen that Richard Branson is ingrained with, that has allowed him to become the only person to build eight billion-dollar companies in eight different industries.

Branson got stuck in Puerto Rico, trying to get a flight to the British Virgin Islands to visit his then girlfriend, as the airline cancelled last minute due to lack of passengers.

“I had a beautiful lady waiting for me in BVI and I hired a plane and borrowed a blackboard and as a joke I wrote Virgin Airlines on the top of the blackboard, $39 one way to BVI. I went out round all the passengers who had been bumped and I filled up my first plane.” – Richard Branson”

After this, Branson decided that he was fed up with the way large airlines didn’t care about their passengers and wanted to do something about it. He called Boeing to enquire about any 747’s for sale, and the rest is history.

Richard Branson is one of the best examples of a self-made billionaire. He has achieved success across many sectors and is know estimated to be worth £3.6 billion. What makes a person reach these heights? The entrepreneur himself has his own idea…

“Had I pursued my education long enough to learn all the conventional dos and don’ts of starting a business I often wonder how different my life and career might have been.” – From Richard Branson’s book – Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School.

Not bad from a man that left school at 16 with no qualifications!

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