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Pioneer of the Week: Richard Branson from Virgin

Community Manager

Pioneer of the Week: Richard Branson from Virgin

In happier times before the catastrophic devastation wreaked by hurricane Irma, for which Virgin have launched the British Virgin Islands Community Support Appeal, we caught up with pioneering entrepreneur Richard Branson.


Introduce you and your business in one sentence.

Pioneer of the Week - Richard Branson (25 September 2017).pngRichard BransonIt’s called Virgin, and started off as Virgin Records back in the seventies. You’ve probably seen a few of our businesses around.


Tell us two interesting facts about you.

  • When I started Virgin I lived on a houseboat in London called Duende, which means ‘a quality of passion and inspiration’.
  • I recently gave up one of my favourite foods, beef, because I'm concerned how meat consumption today contributes to global warming and environmental degradation.


How did you start your business?

Out of a phonebox. No, not the TARDIS; The Doctor’s quite protective of it. A traditional red one, outside my school, where I set up a magazine called Student. And that’s why I’ve now got a phonebox installed on Necker Island.


What made you start your business?

I had to! I dropped out of school at 16 because, unfortunately, my dyslexia was treated as a handicap. Teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in. I’m in good company though: Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were all dyslexic too and we now campaign with Made by Dyslexia to celebrate the positive difference dyslexics can make in the world.


What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

Having great people to lead. Whatever your style, whatever your method, you need to believe in yourself, your ideas and your staff. Nobody can be successful alone.


What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

There have been many, but one that comes to mind is Virgin Cola. We took on the might of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, with tiny budgets and a lot of creativity. Eventually, Coke used their financial power to stop us in our tracks, but we had a lot of fun and learnt a lot along the way.


Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

I was travelling to meet my future wife, when my flight was cancelled. It left a few hundred of us stranded at a small island airport. So, I went to the back of the airport and chartered plane, then divided the cost of the plane by the number of seats. I wrote Virgin Air on a board, charged the stranded passengers $39 to rebook their seats, and that got me into the flying business!


Where do you work from?

Everywhere. Have a notebook on you and you’ll never miss a moment to make a difference. Building a loved brand doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, effort, patience and an obsession with details, details and more details.


What do you wish you knew when you first started in business?

No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice, so as a leader you should always be listening. Be visible, note down what you hear and you’ll be surprised how much you learn.


What are your three top tips for your industry?

  1. Whatever industry you are in, know your brand, know what it stands for and stick with it. Details make a difference.
  2. You don’t need to wear a tie to be taken seriously in business.
  3. Oh, and finally my favourite saying: ‘Screw it, let’s do it!’


What would you like to ask the Voom Pioneers community?

What drives you to be your own boss?

Thought Leader

The drive to be my own boss brings lots of challenges and finding solutions. It is rewarding because we work together with our staff, our customers and our competitors. We always value their feedback so we can find ways to improve. Our staff love their jobs as if it were their own business and the respect they give to our customers and the service they offer helps make a positive difference in our community. It takes a lot of hard work to find this balance and being your own boss, you have to find innovative ways to make your work place a happier place! This harmony can only be achieved by working together  and helping people.

Community Manager

Brilliant points @Jotty

For those new to the VOOM Pioneers community, can you tell us a little about your business? What keeps you driving forward?

Thought Leader

Thank you @EmmaDingle@stone2paper@Anoop90 for your Kudos. It is appreciated very much!


Well Connected

I enjoy creating a business out of my idea. The freedom that comes with being able to do what you love to do and make some money whilst you are at it gives me the drive

Thought Leader

My drive is success, but to me this isn't just about money but lifestyle and family.  My business is still in its infancy however with my passion for my profession and motivation to provide a great service I believe I'm going in the right direction. 

Thought Leader

Great to hear about your passion and drive! Wish you all the luck! If you need any help, please don't hesitate to ask !



Thought Leader

We all have skills and talents, some things are learned from knowledge (books, people, etc), some learned via experimental play/research, but craft and innovation are best shared. I can't take these with me when I 'go' and that's why I was driven to develop a skills sharing program for giftware, education and entertainment





Thought Leader

It was a great experience to enter Voom 2018. I felt over the moon when my idea was shortlisted on one of the partner awards, Virgin Impact Award. Many congratulations to Jo of Organic Bloom and well deserved. So happy for them.

I will share my experience soon. So watch this space 


Thought Leader

Hi Virgin Pioneers


Any ideas where I can share my Virgin Voom 2018 experience? 

Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Hi @Isa-Wes

Thank you. I will post as soon as it is completed.


Thank you so much.



Thought Leader

Looking forward to it @Jotty  Smiley Happy



Community Manager

Hi @Jotty


The team are working through all of the Semi-Final and Final videos and photos at this moment, there's a lot! As soon as they're all good to go we'll be in touch with everyone.


Well done to you getting so far, have you shared details of your brilliant VOOM 2018 entry with the community here? 

Thought Leader

Hi Emma

Thank you for your kind words. I am in the process of writing and will share as soon as possible. It was amazing experience and I highly recommend for Virgin Pioneers and community.

I will share it here Emma.



Thought Leader

Hi @EmmaDingle@Isa-Wes

My experience as promised!


Voom 2018 Experience Virgin Unite Impact Award

Recently I entered the Voom 2018 competition. It was a great experience because after entering I was shortlisted for Virgin Impact Award Which was one of the partner Awards of Virgin unite
I am a founder of Deeping St James Pharmacy with my husband. It is a family pharmacy business in Peterborough. I am also co-founder of Priestwood Pharmacy.
This passion to help women helped me develop the idea Jottys Workshop which I support as an individual. I wanted to train women who wanted the right resources and tools to become confident.
Short two hour workshops helped them focus on learning at home in their own time. I also have a follow up system using WhatsApp,Skype, Facebook inbox and email. . They are self-paced; I wanted the learning to be informal and fun. I received positive feedback and it made a serious impact in my community. I joined Allia Future Business Centre Peterborough which is also a not for profit centre offering free business support , office space, networking opportunities and once a month free co-working space. I can hire meeting rooms at a reasonable rate and do the workshops according to the feedback received from our regular meet ups. I thought I share my experience so it encourages people to have faith and self belief in their idea. I had to cross many barriers but once they were broken I felt the passion and drive to keep going. Voom 2018 was one that challenged me to learn and pivot my idea. I made it to the shortlist of Virgin Unite impact awards ( one of the partner award). I have now applied for Government funding.

The women I am supporting need mentorship which is what we are providing and one to one support.

I took a leap of faith to enter Voom 2018. I had personally experienced that it was hard to find workshops that did short 2 hour sessions for business skills and employability skills. So I set up my own pilot project not for profit idea to help women who needed support to return to employment or self-employment. I collaborate with professional CV writers who help with CV’s. and cover letters. I invite the top Educators to do presentations at Jottys workshop. They are also professional mentors who have had experience of running businesses of their own. I also hired freelancer Jayne Whytock to do content writing for me and share posts for me on Social media. Mark Mountford did my video which I put on my website and Voom 2018 . My professional business mentors supported me with voting, pledging and encouraged me to have that self-belief. I also received support from my local community, family and friends. I used Virgin Pioneers platform to ask forum and got Joe Davis’s tips on Memory Joggers. I used LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter Instagram and social media to spread the word by going to networking events and Facebook adverts.

The small groups value their learning as they are benefiting from the programme and have given written testimonials that the workshop helps them gain confidence and the bespoke plans help them achieve their goals and objectives.
We are different because we tailor to an individual.. Also they get one to one support. We have built a team of volunteers who also want to give something back to the community. Hopefully with hard work I will get there with passion and purpose.I am still on that learning curve. I don't fear the unknown. I have that faith and self belief in my idea.

I have mentored 20 women who are working either part time, or full time .They have taken voluntary roles at local charity shops, Voluntary roles at local schools. Two have gone into Caring. One became a pharmacy dispenser and she cares for her young son. She is now managing full time work. I am training them with Customer Service skills and social media skills. Our future workshops will cover confidence and learning about blog posting on Social media.

Some are now in paid employment with local schools. They have completed their Teachers Assistant qualification and working full time. They needed help with interview skills, CVs and Employability. These women feel much happier. I am training five currently on different skills online. 
I had to pitch my idea in front of a panel of Judges. They kept it very informal and in that process I felt that I was not nervous. I gave out all the information on why and how it made that serious impact. I explained that I am still developing my not for profit enterprise. I like to support our local artists and have copy rights to publish and sell designs. I did raise money through Crowd Funding and my 50th birthday. Holly Branson gave us a mention through her blogs and social media that we were shortlisted
It was an amazing experience. I highly recommend VOOM. It is a great platform for those innovative ideas which solve problems. In this category the judges were looking for social impact and social value with sustainability and the pillars (people, planet, profits) My top tip is to make sure you do a business model even though not for profit or charity it has to make money which then the profits goes back into the company to pay for wages, expenses and costs. You have to have the core values of people, planet, and profits. Also passion, purpose, positive impact and making a difference in people’s lives.
Overall I have learnt so much in the process and will develop the idea to a social enterprise model. I appreciate my team of volunteers because we are in this journey together. Thank you to Holly Branson, Jill Brady , Cemal Ezel of Change Please and Edouard Muuls for their feedback so I can improve and Roisin and Kate for their warm welcome and looking after us all until the Event day. Thanks to Sir Richard Branson for the true inspiration, his blogs and books. Thanks to the team at the Virgin Group.


I sneaked up on stage afterwards to meet him because I challenged my hubby that if I can meet him then I will make it to my end goal. I also got to meet Mo Farah so that made my day special! Sorry no selfie as I understood they had to to presentations back stage.😄

Jyoti Rajdev
Jottys workshop

Thought Leader

My sincere Congratulations to Organic Blooms for winning the Award!

Community Manager


That's absolutely brilliant, so pleased that it's been such a positive experience for you. Congratulations on getting to the shortlist for Virgin Unite's Voom Impact Award.

Can't wait to hear more about how your business evolves in the coming months!

Thought Leader

I am still excited so hoping that motivation with visualisation that I can sustain this for the future!