As the CEO of the Virgin conglomerate, Richard Branson is one of the world’s wealthiest people. Did he do it all by himself?
Richard Branson did not come from money and is self-made. His mother was a flight attendant and his father was a barrister. While his family was not poor, they also were not millionaires. Branson started his entrepreneurial career when he was 16-years-old. He failed at first but it wasn’t long before he made his first million through Virgin Records.
You can read more below about Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit, how he started Virgin, and how it became worth billions.
Richard Branson Was an Entrepreneurial Youth
While Richard Branson grew up with two successful parents, their wealth didn’t match the levels needed for their son to be considered coming from money. His father was a lawyer, but that’s a salary that doesn’t make billionaires.
Growing up, Branson was a kid with a lot of ideas who was innovative. It was when he was only 15-years-old that he started his very first business.
It was a magazine called Student.
As this CNBC article says, Richard Branson started the magazine because he felt that all the youth magazines were really boring. They didn’t provide any material that was slightly close to revolutionary thinking.
So Branson launched his own in 1966. He ran the business out of his co-founder’s parent’s basement.
They didn’t have any money to put towards the business though. They were teenagers with no jobs.
However, luck had it that Branson’s mother found a necklace on the ground, which she sold after police were unable to find the owner.
She gave Richard the £100 from selling the necklace as seed money for his magazine. Today that £100 would be equal to just under $2000 USD.
They managed to sell $8000 worth of ad space and then had 50,000 copies printed which they gave out for free. The experience helped Branson to gain the skills he needed for his next business venture.
It was also around this time that Branson decided to drop out of school. When he left, his headmaster, Will Whitehorn, famously said “Branson, you’re either going to become a millionaire or go to jail.”
You can watch Richard Branson speaking about his entrepreneurial audaciousness in the below video.
Richard Branson Founds Virgin
Richard Branson’s venture with Student was short-lived as he was unable to make any money off it and it seemed doomed to fail. Then he got a great idea.
He realized that there was no company out there that was selling records for discounted prices through the mail. It was his gold ticket idea.
As Entrepreneur highlights, Branson used his magazine, Student, to run ads for his new company where people could purchase records and have them mailed. It proved to be making him more money than the magazine.
He soon had to rent out a space to run his new business out of. He brought on his employees from Student to work for his record selling business.
For a name, they decided on Virgin because everyone that worked there was a complete virgin when it came to business. It was the birth of Virgin Records.
Virgin Records Evolution
While the Virgin record store started out in 1970, Richard Branson’s knack for entrepreneurship took it to new levels. First, Virgin opened up their first retail store on Oxford Street in London.
With the success of the mail-order company and now the retail store, Branson took the next steps towards what he imagined the company would become. He purchased a recording studio in Oxfordshire named The Manor and founded the Virgin Records label in 1973.
He managed to pick up artist Mike Oldfield and released his album, and the first for Virgin Records, Tubular Bells. It was Mike Oldfield’s sales that helped keep the label afloat in the early years.
Through Virgin Records artists like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and even Phil Collins were eventually signed. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the label ruled the music industry.
The success in the 1970s led to the record brand expanding internationally. Then the 1980s saw Richard Branson expanding into a variety of different industries.
Soon Virgin was in the gaming industry with Virgin Games, transportation with Virgin Atlantic, and vacationing with Virgin Holidays.
Richard Branson made his first million in 1973 when he was only 23 and by 41-years-old he was a billionaire. He did it all through his own ingenuity.