Having received help from a business mentor during his struggle to get Virgin Atlantic off the ground, Richard Branson knows all about the importance of having someone to look up to.
“It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker [founder of Laker Airways, below]. Now, I love mentoring young entrepreneurs. As American author and businessman Zig Ziglar said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” Find a mentor,” wrote the Virgin Group founder in The Sun.
“Believe in your own talent. We launched Virgin StartUp last month in London’s Shoreditch, surrounded by creative young entrepreneurs determined to make their business a success. But there is great talent all across the country. The current financial climate is perfect to break free of the job market and set up your own business. You never know, you could be creating the jobs of the future.”
While mentorship and funding for young entrepreneurs might both be available through Virgin Startup, there’s a third hurdle which Branson believes start-ups need to clear – the idea of risk. “Don’t be afraid of risk. Most people immediately have negative thoughts when they hear that word. When somebody is talking to me about risk, I hear “opportunity”. Starting a business is undoubtedly a risk, but it can be the most rewarding thing you ever do. One of the main things holding people back from starting a business, or from doing anything they want to in life, is self-belief. You have to think: “Screw it, just do it,” and simply get on with starting your company. Nobody will do it for you – so take a risk, flesh out that business proposal that’s been in the back of your head for ages and go for it,” explains Branson.
“You don’t need money, but it helps. There is a lot more assistance nowadays than in the past. When I started my Virgin adventure over 40 years ago, it was with a handful of coins out of a phone box at school. But what really kick-started it all was a £300 loan from my mum, which I used to get the whole venture off the ground. Now, Virgin is offering today’s entrepreneurs a similar opportunity. Working with The Start-Up Loans Company, we’re providing loans of up to £10,000 to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-30 across the UK. We also offer mentoring, business advice and the opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs.”