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A self titled rebel billionaire and the founder of one of the biggest conglomerates in the world, Sir Richard Branson is the owner of 400 companies in 30 countries.
Known for his alternative way of thinking, Richard Branson always challenged himself to go a step further believing that he can not only compete with large enterprises but could also do their job better. All the Virgin businesses operating today are known to work with controversial and subversive artists as well as successful ones. Almost all of the businesses started by Richard Branson challenged the established behemoths in different industries and beat them at their own game. The life story of one of the richest people in the world today is filled with highs and lows and lots of lessons to learn.
Born in Surrey England, Sir Richard Branson started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 16. In 1968, he launched his first business, a magazine by the name Student which was run only by students. While starting a magazine in itself is a great accomplishment, Sir Richard Branson was also dyslexic, who could not read, write or spell well and was often beaten for poor behavior. The publication sold $8,000 worth of advertising in its first edition and the first run of 50,000 copies was disseminated for free. However, Branson covered the cost of publication through advertising later.
Post the success of the Student, at the age of 17, living in a London commune, Branson along with Nik Powell had the idea to start a mail order record company to help fund his magazine efforts. Considering themselves to be a ‘virgin’ to the business, both the young entrepreneurs decided to name the new company Virgin Records. Starting from a London commune, Virgin Group today has an annual revenue of over £19.5 billion. The success of Virgin Records allowed Branson to build a recording studio in 1972 in Oxfordshire, England.
The first ever record produced by Virgin Records was also an instant smash and Mike Oldfield’s single “Tubular Bells” stayed on the UK charts for 247 weeks. In the following years, Branson signed other aspiring musical groups to the label, including the Sex Pistols, The Culture Club, The Rolling Stones and Genesis. Virgin Records grew to become Virgin Music and one of the top six record companies in the world.
But, this was just the tip of the iceberg. By 1984, he decided to expand further and included the Voyager Group travel company to his cap. He added the Virgin Atlantic airline and a series of Virgin Megastores in 1984. But Branson’s iceberg was also hit by the Titanic. In a span of a decade, by 1992, Virgin was suddenly struggling to stay financially afloat.
Despite that, Richard Branson did not lose hope. He launched Virgin Radio in 1993 followed by a second record company V2 in 1996. In 1997, he launched the Virgin Trains which became the most criticised operator on the railways within a year. 1998 saw the birth of the Virgin Mobile. The Virgin Galactic an airline that will operate in space was then launched in 2004. The Virgin Active UK gym chain took shape in 2005. In 2015, the Virgin Voyages was announced which was supposed to be a new cruise line. Virgin cruise ships are set to debut in 2020 and are designed to hold 2,800 guests and a crew of 1,150 people.
Slowly but surely, the Virgin group was a part of 35 countries around the world, with nearly 70,000 employees. The company handles affairs in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe, South Africa and beyond.
Richard Branson has set new goals for himself every step of the way challenging norms, breaking records and inspiring people to go the extra mile. Knighted for his services to entrepreneurship in 1999, he resides on his private island, the Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, contributing to humanitarian services whenever possible and addressing important issues in the world with the same enthusiasm and vigor.