Posted: 12:00 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Eric Schurenberg
In an exclusive Inc. video interview, Richard Branson relives the launch of the little company that became the Virgin Group
00:12 Eric Schurenberg: Every great business empire starts somewhere, Richard. Yours started as a magazine, a student magazine, and then evolved into a mail order record company. Talk us through the Book of Genesis of the Virgin Group, and what lessons that holds for entrepreneurs today?
00:26 Richard Branson: Well, like, I think, a lot of entrepreneurs, I was never thinking that I was gonna become a businessman or be at all interested in being a businessman or being an entrepreneur. I was a young man. The Vietnamese War was raging. It seemed a war that should never have started in the first place, and a lot of us felt very strongly that it needed to be stopped. And as a young man, I thought maybe young people should have a voice. They didn't have a voice. And then so set about planning to launch a national magazine for young people which could give them a voice. And I didn't have any money. So, I worked out of the school telephone box ringing up Coca Cola, and Pepsi, and National Westminster Bank, and Lloyds Bank and playing them off against each other and this young man whose voice had only just broken was doing his best to sell advertising.
01:35 Branson: But somehow, I think my enthusiasm managed to get about 6,000 dollars worth of advertising sold on over the phone, which was enough money to cover the printing of 50,000 magazines. And so, I told my headmaster that I was off, but thank you very much. And then I went off to launch the magazine. And the magazine, it was a pretty good magazine, and young people did read it, and it actually grew to a circulation of about 100,000 copies an issue. And it was a campaigning magazine. My wish was to be editor, not publisher, not having to hassle and sell advertising, and worry about distribution. But if you want to be editor and you want your magazine to survive, you gotta get out there and sell the advertising and worry about the distribution. So, in a sense, I became an entrepreneur by a mistake, just in order to make the magazine survive. And it was a fascinating learning process. I mean from the age of 15 through to 18, I was sort of in the jungle learning the art of survival and having a blast at the same time.