Richard Branson on Seeking Out Opportunity
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Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Q: I will be graduating from high school within the next four months. During the remaining time I will work on one of my ideas and create a business model.
Originally I had planned to move to Austin, Texas, but after talking with successful entrepreneurs, I’ve started to lean toward living at my parents’ home and going to a local college to save money.
What would be better, in your opinion? Should I stay with my parents while I’m working on launching my business, or should I get out of the house and experience a different world? -- Konnor Kelley
Moving away from home is one of the most exciting and difficult milestones in a young person’s life. It can be hard to leave the people you love, but at some point, you do have to get out there and learn to be independent. For an entrepreneur who is full of ideas like you are, choosing the right moment can involve some tradeoffs.
I started going to boarding school when I was young, but I have always been close to my parents and sisters. When I left school at age 16 to set up my first business, I moved into my friend Johnny Gems’ basement, below the hustle and bustle of London’s Edgware Road. It was dark, rather damp, extremely dirty -- and we had a blast. Running our own business, Student Magazine, while relishing our first taste of independence was absolutely thrilling.
That said, Mum did keep an eye on us. She occasionally brought over baskets of food (we were always hungry) and made sure that we washed at least once a week. Fending for myself at an early age taught me a lot, but I never lost sight of how much my parents supported me, or of how important that support was.
These days my mum and I are close as ever, even though we live in different countries. Recently when she was doing a book signing in Washington (for “Mum’s the Word: The High-Flying Adventures of Eve Branson”), I paid her a surprise visit. She didn’t know that I was in town, so when I appeared at the front of the line, I gave her a real fright. It has been six decades -- she should be used to my surprises by now!
If you are going to be ready to launch your business quite soon, living with your parents would provide some advantages. It is sensible for you to think of ways to save money, since cash flow problems kill most new businesses. You wouldn’t need to pay rent, which might allow you to hire some much-needed help, starting you on the way to building your team. Your parents may also prove to be a good sounding board for your business plans. To this day I still rely on the Mum Test, where before you approach potential investors, you check to see if your own mum understands and likes your idea.
Even so, you do need to consider the benefits of moving away. Living in a hub like Austin, where you would be able to mingle with fellow entrepreneurs and other creative people, might inspire you in ways that you can’t anticipate. It is no coincidence that communities of entrepreneurs in places like Austin, San Francisco, Berlin and London draw young people like yourself. When a lot of energetic, imaginative minds are gathered in one spot, great ideas emerge. And the nightlife is fun too!
One important thing to remember is that becoming an entrepreneur is a process. The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs’ attempts to launch their first businesses fail. And their second businesses. And their third. Once you have been through that process a few times -- of dealing with disappointment, examining what went wrong and then relaunching your project by building on what you’ve learned -- it’s more likely that your company will take off. During those years, however, your hours may sometimes be long and you may not be much of a housemate, so you should keep your parents’ needs in mind as you consider your options.
Whether you move away or not, I’m sure you’ll find that your parents will always love you and support your decisions. Joan and I are very proud of our children, Holly and Sam, for standing on their own two feet, and happy that we have all remained so close.