Richard Branson

Richard Branson can only go in one direction – and that’s forward! As a 16 year old he established a national student publication and the following year he founded a peer assistance charity called the Student Advisory Centre at the school he attended. By the time he was 20, Branson opened his first “Virgin” branded concept – a mail order record retail shop. Since then, the Virgin brand has expanded to include air travel, banking, hotels and leisure, and even larger retail concepts with over 200 companies in more than 300 countries.

While some entrepreneurs enjoy finding success in obscure, niche markets, Richard Branson likes to go toe-to-toe with the boldest brands around. His Virgin Atlantic Airlines took on British Airways and has now become Britain’s second largest long haul international carrier. His Virgin Cola invaded the US twice – once in 1997 and after a dismal debut, again in 2004. Most of us were unfamiliar with that drink in the 90’s and we are still unfamiliar today, signaling the second wave was no more popular than the first. But Richard Branson is not one to bury his head in the sand when a product launch does not go as planned. Rather, he just sets his sights and focuses his energy on a new endeavor and moves forward. “Business opportunities are like busses, there’s always another one coming” he is fond of saying.

All the Branson product or service launches are targeted toward an under-served population or confusion/complacency in the marketplace. Virgin tries to capitalize on its brand recognition as well as the branded concepts of “Value for Money, Good Quality, Brilliant Customer Service, Innovative, Competitively Challenging and Fun”. Those same concepts could be used to describe Branson, himself.

Richard Branson dives into philanthropy with the same zeal he employs in business. The Virgin Healthcare Foundation oversees fundraising for global poverty, and education for causes such as AIDS. Virgin Unite is a web site dedicated to facilitating charitable giving of any sort, from any sort. Options include donations of time, cash, things, or effort. This coordinated assistance channel was the brainchild of Branson, Virgin staff, vendors, customers, and various social organizations around the world. But more than the typical donations of cash and goods, Branson and Virgin Unite seek to support 3rd world nations by making sound investments in local economies, thereby providing the local populace with a viable means of sustaining an improved quality of life. The same entrepreneurial spirit that inspires Virgin business interests also spurs their philanthropic endeavors.

Richard Branson has achieved a level of fame and fortune that only a handful of people on the planet have enjoyed. But what sets him apart from this fraternity of successful capitalists and philanthropists is his insatiable quest for adventure. Whether by sea or by air, Branson has made transatlantic crossings in record time, first in 1986 in his boat “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II”, and again one year later via a hot-air balloon clocked at 130 mph. But his greatest triumph to date is his 1991 pan-Pacific crossing from Japan to Arctic Canada in a balloon recording the fastest-ever speeds for that kind of craft (245 mph). Says Branson about his ballooning, “The balloons only have one life and the only way of finding out whether they work is to attempt to fly around the world.”

Making a difference is one of the core values at Virgin Enterprises. It is safe to say Richard Branson has accomplished that in his professional life, in his personal life, and in his charitable works.

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