Dreams do come true : Being Virgin

Born in the 50s when everything around  was changing, and the culture was reformed seeding what today is all about.

Manifesto magazine

Born at this time not only have been a blessing for innovative people who got the will and the power to make an everlasting mark in the world,but also was a curse for those who couldn’t endure the change around them.

One of the most important people in the first group was RICHARD BRANSON, best known for his Virgin brand, a banner that encompasses a variety of businesses including VIRGIN MUSIC, MEGASTORES, and AIRLINES….etc.

Branson’s worth is estimated at over £4 billion (equivalent to US$7.2 billion) according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2006, the story this young British guy who suffers from dyslexia and dropped out of school when he was 15 and turned out to be one of the most successful, creative and richest people on earth is really worth knowing .

At the age of 15 he started two ventures that failed eventually one to plant Christmas trees and the other was   raising budgerigars,never being a quitter he moved to London when he was 16 where he began his first successful business, Student magazine, which made him realize that his target group was the students or more generally the youngsters, figuring out their needs he traveled across the English Channel and purchased crates of “cut-out” records from a record discounter. He sold the records out of the booth of his car to retail outlets in London. He continued selling cut-outs through a record mail order business in 1970. Trading under the name “Virgin” he sold records for considerably less than the so-called “High Street” outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith. The name’Virgin’ was a selling point because records were sold in a new condition (unlike in other shops where records were being handled when listened to in record booths).

He started the series of changes that led to a large scale discounting on recorded music,then Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London and, shortly after, launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell. Branson had earned enough money from his record store to buy a country estate, in which he installed a recording studio. He leased out studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield.

In 1971 Branson was arrested and charged for selling records in Virgin stores that had been declared as export stock. He settled out-of-court with UK Customs and Excise with an agreement to repay the unpaid tax and fines. Branson’s mother Joyce re-mortgaged the family home to help pay the settlement.

Virgin Records’ first release was Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, which was a best-seller and British LP chart topper. The album was released by Virgin after no other company dared to release the unconventional record. The company signed controversial bands such as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign. It also won praise for exposing the public to obscure avant-garde music such as the krautrock bands Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the music world. In the early 1980’s, Virgin purchased the heaven nightclub.

Always being innovative he formed the virgin Atlantic airways in 1984 but then he had to sell the Virgin label to EMI in 1992, a more conservative company which previously had rescinded a contract with the Sex Pistols. Branson is said to have wept when the sale was completed since the record business had been the genesis of the Virgin Empire, in order to keep his airline company afloat, later he formed V2 Records to re-enter the music business.

In 1997Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskiest business exploits by entering into the railway business, but as usual he succeeded and then launched Virgin Mobile in 1999, Virgin Blue in Australia in 2000 .

Since then the virgin empire including airlines, railways, mobile networks as well as virgin mega stores and recently the Virgin Health Bank on the first if  February 2007, offering parents-to-be the opportunity of storing their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in private and public stem cell banks after their baby’s birth, is proving that being creative and a self believer is the ultimate way for building a fortune.

This article was published  under my name in Manifesto magazine as a part of the Dreams do come true series during 2007.


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