Light the Fire With Your First Ventures

Richard Branson

Lesson time 17:00 min

At fifteen, Richard started his first successful venture—a student magazine—at boarding school, where traditional British schooling was at odds with his interest in the world. Learn how he analyzed his passions and used them to guide his decisions.

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Topics include: Richard explores how his inspiration for his entrepreneurship came from his mother, and his first failures trying to follow in her footsteps. He then dives into his first successful venture started at boarding school at age 15, where his troubles with the stiff, traditional British schooling and deep interest in the world around him collided into a magazine venture. Learn how to analyze your passions and use that to guide your decisions


- I found your telephone number in a phone booth in a Chinese restaurant on Piccadilly Circus, and I was wondering if you could help me. I'd like to find an agency that will help me with the adoption of a child. - I'm having a great deal of trouble with my grant. My mother's a widow, and she can't cope. RICHARD BRANSON: I started my first venture because I wanted to help students who couldn't get help anywhere else. [MUSIC PLAYING] So my mom always, you know, always believed that we should be doing things. We should never be watching television. The only time I was allowed to watch television was later on in life, on the Moon landing. But otherwise, we weren't allowed to watch television. And I'm very grateful to her for it. So my mom was always trying to make a little bit of extra money on the side. So she built a shed in the back of the garden, and inside that shed, she made very pretty-looking tissue boxes and table mats and trays. [MUSIC PLAYING] And then she would head up to London and go and bang on doors of retailers, like Harrods, and try to get them to take her product on a sale or return basis. I never really thought of her as an entrepreneur, but of course, she was an entrepreneur. And it was lovely product, but it wasn't-- she wasn't enormously successful. I suspect she put a little bit more food on the table than if she hadn't done it. But, you know, she'd juggled being an entrepreneur with bringing up three young children, looking after a husband, looking after a cottage. You know, I think I learned from her determination. I learned from the fact that she would just get on a train, go to London, and walk the streets of London trying to sell her goods. You know, she managed to sort of keep a happy atmosphere in the shed and in the household at all times. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I thought I would help my mom. And I'd heard that Christmas trees sold for a pound a foot, and that you could buy 1,000 Christmas trees, 2 or 3 inches high, for about 5 pounds. And so I thought, well, if I plant the Christmas trees and I wait two or three years, they will all grow, and our 5 pounds will turn into 1,000 pounds. So on the Easter holidays, I planted the seedlings. I went off to boarding school for the term and I dreamed of what would grow. Anyway, the rabbits got in and ate all the trees. And so I remember walking up to the field when I'd come home from school one day and just seeing a wasteland where every single Christmas tree had been eaten. At that moment, I realized a well thought out scheme can go south when you're not closely tending to your investment. And I think, throughout my life, if something's gone wrong and there's nothing we can do about it, accept it gracefully. Wake up the next day. Put it behind you. Pick yourself up and start again. [MUSIC PLAYING] I don't think there's much point in you starting a business unless you're passionate about it. And so...

About the Instructor

Sometimes, making it big is all about following the fun. Ask Richard Branson. The founder of the Virgin Group built a business empire by solving the problems that fascinated him, disrupting every industry he touched, and pursuing dreams that seemed impossible. The adventure took him from humble beginnings to the stars. Learn how you, too, can find ideas so good they’re scary, lean into your fear, and achieve liftoff.

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Richard Branson

Entrepreneur Richard Branson teaches you how to turn your wildest dreams into successful businesses—and have fun doing it.

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