‘Aim for stars’: Richard Branson's journey from record store to space trip

Written By: Deeksha Teri WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jul 11, 2021, 06:25 PM(IST)

Richard Branson. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Richard Branson was once told by his teacher that he could either end up in jail or become a millionaire. The entrepreneur chose to be the latter and is now preparing for his first flight to the space

Richard Branson’s mother always taught him to reach for the stars, and with that in mind, literally, the quirky entrepreneur is set to travel to space. While we hope his journey to the space is smooth, his life journey has been full of ups and downs.

Born in 1950 in South East London, Branson is a 70-year-old entrepreneur who is famous for his range of business ideas and infamous for several controversies.

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First million

Branson started his career by interviewing several famous personalities, especially from the music industry, for his magazine named Student. Soon, he opened a record store which faced trouble as he was questioned for selling of records that had declared export stock. However, while the matter was settled out of court, his family had to re-mortgage the house to help pay the settlement.

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In 1972, he used the money from his record store to set up a record label, Virgin Records. This was his first shot to success. His record label signed on British musician Mike Oldfield who sold millions of copies of his famous album "Tubular Bells", making Branson's label a hit.

Road to private islands

The then-20-year-old music mogul earned his first million dollars and a few years later bought his own Caribbean island.

A few years later, as Branson decided to charter a private flight to Puerto Rico, after his flight was delayed, he helped other stranded passengers by offering them a ride in exchange for a small fees. This, many believe, birthed the idea of stepping into the airlines business.

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Son of a stewardess, Branson set up Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Cargo in 1984. A flight that offered cheap tickets but high-class service, the airlines quickly became popular.

As they say, every high brings a low. Virgin Atlantic, too, hit a low point when it was entangled in a controversy of price fixing along with British Airways.

Branson, however, quickly saved his venture from crumbling amid the controversy by silently tipping off authorities, as per local media reports back then. As his airlines took off, thus began his appearances in the parties.

Living his life

The entertainment master hosted several high-end parties for celebrities and political leaders on Necker Island. He then began 'living his life' by trying out several adventure sports, that he loves. After gaining publicity for his records in speedboats, balloons and even an amphibious car, Branson hit the news for a near-death escape in 1998 after he and his co-pilot were forced to ditch their balloon in the Pacific Ocean as low pressure forced the craft down.

For his services in entrepreneurship, Branson was knighted in 2000 and just when people thought he had peaked, Branson announced that he will be flying to the space in July 2021. His flight has come a few days before Jeff Bezos, the ex-Amazon CEO, is set to embark on a similar trip with his brother.

Off to space

The founder of the Virgin Group will fly aboard the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, an executive jet. His spaceship will fly to an altitude of 55 miles before the pilots will cut the engines, letting the spaceship drift for a few minutes. This will let the passengers feel weightless and will give them a chance to observe the Earth’s curvature through the windows.

Also read | Third Indian-origin woman, Sirisha Bandla, set to fly to space

Branson will be accompanied by Dave Mackay, chief pilot, Michael Masucci, pilot, Sirisha Bandla, vice-president of government affairs and research operations, Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer, and Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor.

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With the hopes of adding a new feather in his cap of achievements, he has gained wishes from fellow entrepreneurs and space enthusiasts, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Whether his journey to space will be as smooth as his road to buying private islands is yet to be seen. But indeed it has been an exciting journey so far for the maverick showman-entrepreneur. 

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