Richard Branson to Young Entrepreneurs: 'Just Do It'

Richard Branson talks about starting an empire in his early 20s and learning to take calculated risks.

Through the decades, entrepreneur Richard Branson has not lost that certain wunderkind vibe about him and the way he runs his brand. This aura makes him especially inspiring to entrepreneurs who are looking to start young.

“Most young people with good ideas … will find that 99 percent of people will give them every reason why their idea’s been done before or why it’s not a good idea or why they’re going to fall flat on their face,” Branson recently told Inc.’s president and editor in chief Eric Schurenberg during an exclusive sit-down interview. “In the end, you have to say, ‘Screw it. Just do it.’”

At the age of 15, Branson dropped out of high school to start his first business, a magazine for young activists titled Student. 

Four years later, in 1970, Branson began selling records by mail. In 1971, he opened his first record store. In 1972, he opened a recording studio. In 1973, he started his own record label. The Virgin business empire had begun, and Branson had not yet turned 24.

Today, the Virgin Group is a well-regarded global conglomerate of about 350 companies, branching into the entertainment, travel, and mobile industries. 

Not all of Branson’s big ideas have been successful. Virgin Airlines and Virgin Mobile are now flagship brands for Branson, but remember Virgin Cola? With big risks come big, public failures. Branson has a follow-up secret to success: determination even when failure seems inevitable.

“If you have enough determination.... It’s more likely that you will succeed because of what you learned from the occasions when you didn’t succeed," Branson said. “The most important thing is to not be put off by failure.”