Ricky had trouble paying attention in school. He was dyslexic and struggled academically, but his mother suggested he focus on what he could do rather than on what he couldn’t. She was always encouraging him to dream big and not let anything get in his way. She herself was a shining example of someone who had learned to overcome obstacles. At one point in her life, she wanted to fly airplanes in the armed services, but only men were accepted at the time. Instead of giving up, she put on a big leather bomber jacket, tucked her long blond hair inside a cap and spoke in a deep voice. She fooled a few people and took several flying lessons.
When Ricky was nine, he launched his first business: He planted 200 seeds to grow Christmas trees. He knew it would take approximately 18 months for the trees to grow and learned to be patient. When he discovered that rabbits had eaten all of his seeds, he captured them and sold them to a local store to recoup his investment, even making a small profit. Ricky learned that sometimes things happen outside of your control and you have to make adjustments.
At age 16, Ricky decided to leave school. Academics had never gotten any easier for him, and he had other ideas he wanted to pursue. One was for a magazine written by students for students. While still living at home, he worked from a basement apartment to organize the publication. He sent out over 200 letters to see if any companies would advertise. It took a while, but eventually he was able to collect $10,000 to produce 50,000 copies of a magazine called Student.
It was difficult to make enough money from just the magazine, so Ricky decided to sell discount records to its readers. He worked out a way to get records at wholesale prices, and then ran ads in his own magazine. It worked. Within a year, Ricky was making such good money selling the records that he started to dream of opening his own record shop. He didn’t have the money to rent a store, so he made a deal with a local shoe store to use half of their space to sell records. The shoe company liked the arrangement because it brought students in by the dozens, and some ended up buying new shoes. This business model worked so well that Ricky opened more stores.
At the age of 21, Ricky opened his own recording studio as a place for local bands to practice and make demos of their music. He often overhead his customers complaining about how hard it was to get a record label to produce them. One customer named Mike was extremely frustrated because eight record labels had turned him down. Ricky thought his music was great, and suggested that Mike let Ricky’s record company produce him. Mike had nothing to lose, so he let a 21-year-old kid with some record shops and a small recording studio represent him. Mike’s first single was called Tubular Bells, and Ricky helped make it the theme song to the movie The Exorcist.
Ricky was working so hard that he needed a vacation and decided to fly to Puerto Rico with his girlfriend. During the trip, one of his flights was cancelled. Everyone was standing around wondering what to do, so Ricky took action. He found out the cost to charter a private plane, divided the cost by the number of seats and held up a chalkboard sign offering a one-way flight to Puerto Rico for $37. He scribbled the made-up name of a company on the chalkboard to make it sound more legitimate…Virgin Airways. No one knew that, 15 years later, Ricky would own a real airline.
Today, Ricky is best known as Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist and adventure seeker. He named his first mail-order record business Virgin Records because he was new to the business world. One business led to another, and after signing Mike Oldfield to Virgin Records, he went on to sign many other famous groups including the Rolling Stones, Culture Club and Janet Jackson. Over the last 40 years, Richard has grown the Virgin brand into over 400 companies in 30 countries from Virgin Mobile to Virgin Galactic, a company that flies paying customers to outer space!
Years ago, I met Richard Branson and heard his advice on how to live life to its fullest. He said, “Don’t waste a minute of your life and keep challenging yourself every day." Branson sets seemingly unachievable dreams and then challenges himself to rise above them. He pursues his dreams with passion and a desire to have fun. If you’d like to make this year your best year, start dreaming bigger and don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you will do.
Until next week…
Live Your Dreams,