Sir Richard Branson was born in 1950, and much like many other successful entrepreneurs, knew that he wanted to run his own business from being very young. Currently, he is the founder and owner of Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. He left school at the age of 15, and at just 16 years old, he started a magazine called Student, which was his first venture in the world of business. He used a church building to run this business, and interviewed several famous figures including Mick Jagger. The magazine, as the title suggests, was catered towards students. Branson used the magazine to feature different music, sports and personalities. However, this wasn’t to be the business which gained him his international success.

Richard Branson – Virgin

When Branson was 20 years old, he set up a mail-order business which sold records. He used his popular Student magazine to advertise, and was able to sell the records cheaper than high street stores such as W. H. Smith. As a result, he soon gained plenty of business from young people who were interested in purchasing the latest records of the day. Not long afterwards, in 1972, he set up record stores under the name of Virgin Records. Some friends suggested the business name ‘Virgin’ since he was new to business at the time. His stores were later renamed Virgin Megastores, and he started a record label which was then called Virgin Records. Branson’s record label signed many artists and bands who would go on to achieve huge success, including the Sex Pistols, UB40 and the Rolling Stones. During the 1980s, his business grew in popularity and he was able to expand, which led him to open some other businesses under the Virgin name. One of these was the Virgin Atlantic airline, which today is one of the most popular transatlantic airlines in the world.

However, keeping several businesses in the air was proving to be difficult, and in order to keep the Virgin Atlantic airline operating, Branson needed to sell Virgin Records. He managed to sell it to EMI (Electric and Musical Industries) for £500 million in 1992. This marked a sad time for Branson, as Virgin Records was the start of his many businesses. Four years later, he founded V2 Records, but sold 95% of its shares, owning just 5% of the business himself.

In 1999, Sir Richard Branson added another business to his empire – Virgin Mobile. This would become one of the most popular networks in the UK for mobile phones, competing with large networks such as O2, EE and Vodafone. Since Virgin Atlantic Airways was doing so well, he ventured further into the transport industry and set up Virgin Trains, which now serves thousands of customers per year up and down the UK. Branson has also expanded some of his businesses outside of the UK, setting up Virgin Australia Airlines in 2000, Virgin Nigeria and Virgin America in 2007.

Not all of Branson's business ideas have been successful, however.

In 1994, he attempted to compete with soft drinks companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In order to do this, he paired up with Cott, a Canadian drinks company, and created Virgin Cola. At the time, Branson was hoping to further widen the Virgin name and sell drinks at cinemas and on-board the Virgin planes and trains. In the UK, however, Virgin Cola was not very successful at all, but the drinks are still sold in other countries, such as France, Italy, Japan, China and Switzerland.

After meeting with Al Gore, Sir Richard Branson was inspired to start setting up the next branch of the Virgin businesses – Virgin Fuels. While Branson at first was not convinced of global warming and its implications, Al Gore helped to convince him that there was more we could be doing to prevent it. Branson founded the Virgin Green Fund in 2007 in order to invest in businesses which were helping the environment with safer and more effective fuels. The previous year, he promised to donate $3 billion from the profits of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains to help charities who were working towards making the world a more environmentally-friendly place. The Virgin Green Fund was shut down in 2014, but during the seven years it was operating, it was able to raise almost $200 million, and invested in established businesses such as Gevo in Colorado, USA, and Odersun in Frankfurt, Germany.

Sir Richard Branson married Joan Templeman in 1989, and the couple live together on Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands. Necker Island was purchased by Branson in 1978 and can hold a mere 28 people. Together, the couple have two children – a daughter named Holly and a son called Sam.

Possibly one of Branson’s most unique ideas is Virgin Galactic, an upcoming company which aims to provide commercial trips into space for paying customers. Initially, Branson hoped that the first trip would take place at the end of 2009, however, this did not become a reality.

Sir Richard Branson is also known for his disapproval of formal attire and ties in the work place. While at home and during business, he is known to dress rather informally, encouraging his staff to do the same. He believes that suits and ties are worn by people in business simply because this is what they’re used to, rather than because it actually helps them to perform better at work.

In 2000, Prince Charles knighted Richard Branson for his services to entrepreneurship thus far in his lifetime, and he became Sir Richard Branson. He also won various awards around the same time, including the Tony Jannus Award for his airline businesses. Loughborough University awarded him an honorary doctorate in Technology in 1993, and in 2014, The Sunday Times listed him as the most admired entrepreneur of the last 50 years.