Having just had the pleasure in early September of experiencing Virgin Atlantic's services from Los Angeles to London and back, I was curious to know how the founder of Virgin Airways went from being a music record producer to the owner of an airline and a knighthood. Here's the Virgin Airways story from the horse's mouth, Sir Richard Branson:
"I had spent all our cash on signing up bands in Jamaica. But I had heard that if you were looking for a house on an island, you would get a grand tour, free of charge. I phoned an estate agent in the British Virgin Islands. I said I owned a record company and wanted to buy an island to build a studio on it.
'Please come as our guests. We have lots of lovely islands for sale. We'll show you around.'
Joan and I flew to the British Virgin Islands. We were treated like royalty. A big car met us at the airport and took us to a villa. It was like being in paradise. The next day a helicopter was waiting to take us on a tour. We skimmed over green palm trees and a blue sea. We landed on one lovely island after the other. We toured fantastic private estates and had a great time. We spun our free holiday out as long as we could, but at last we were running out of islands for sale.
We asked the agent if he had something that we hadn't seen.
'Yes, there's one, a real little jewel,' he said.
'It's miles from anywhere and it's quite unspoiled. Its name is Necker.' He said an English lord owned it, a man who had never been there.
An island that was miles from anywhere sounded good on two counts. The first was it was a nice long flight with plenty of scenery for us to enjoy. The second was we really did like the sound of it. Unspoiled meant that it had not been built on. Perhaps it would be cheap.
At fist island hopping was a game. We didn't mean to buy an island. I didn't think I could afford one. But now I was excited. I wanted to own our own place in paradise. I had another goal.
We flew over a blue sea and could see pale sand at the bottom. We landed on a white sandy beach. There was a green hill in the middle and we climbed it. The view from the top was worth the effort. We could see in every direction. The island was inside a coral reef. The white beach ran almost all the way around. The agent told us that turtles laid their eggs on the beach. The sea was so clear we could see a giant ray swimming along. In the middle of the island were two small lakes. There was a lush tropical forest. A flock of black parrots flew overhead. There were no big villas. It was a real desert island. Standing there, gazing out to sea, I was king of all I saw. I fell in love with Necker on the spot.
The agent warned us that there was no fresh water on the island. If we bought it, we would have to make it from the sea.
'Good,' I thought. 'They can't be asking a lot for a desert island with no water and no house.'
I asked him the price.
'Three million pounds,' he said.
It was far beyond my reach. 'I can offer 150,000 pounds,' I replied.
I was offering less than five per cent of the asking price! I was serious but the agent wasn't amused. 'The price is three million pounds,' he repeated.
'Final offer. I can go to 200,000 pounds,' I said.
We walked back down that hill and got into the helicopter. We flew back to the villa. Our bags were waiting outside. We had been thrown out. We spent the night in a bed and breakfast in the village and left the next day.
We spent the rest of our holiday on another island. Our plan was to travel on to Puerto Rico - but when we got to the airport, the flight was cancelled. No one was doing anything. So I did - someone had to. I chartered a plane for $ 2,000. I divided that by the number of people. It came to $ 39 a head. I borrowed a black board and wrote on it: VIRGIN AIRWAYS. $ 39 SINGLE FLIGHT TO PUERTO RICO.
The idea for Virgin Airways was born, right in the middle of a holiday, although the actual airline only properly took off when I was sent a business idea." ( 2006, pp.16-20).
~ Excerpted from "Screw it, Let's Do it - Lessons in Life" by Richard Branson.