Branson was educated at Scaitcliffe School (now Bishopsgate School) until the age of 13. He then attended Stowe School until he was 15. Branson has dyslexia, resulting in his not having been a good student. He was the captain of football and cricket teams, and by the age of 15 he had started two ventures that eventually failed: one growing Christmas trees and another raising budgerigars.
At 16, Branson quit school and moved to London, where he began his first successful business, Student magazine. When he was 17, he opened his first charity, the “Student Valley Centre”. Branson started his first record business after he travelled across the English Channel and purchased crates of “cut-out” records from a record discounter. He sold the records out of the boot of his car to retail outlets in London. He continued selling cut-outs through a record mail order business in 1970. Trading under the name “Virgin” he sold records for considerably less than the so-called “High Street” outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith.
Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London and, shortly after, launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell. Branson had earned enough money from his record store to buy a country estate, in which he installed a recording studio. He leased out studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield.
Branson formed Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, launched Virgin Mobile in 1999, Virgin Blue in Australia in 2000, and later failed in a 2000 bid to handle the National Lottery.
In 1997, Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskier business exploits by entering into the railway business. Virgin Trains won the franchises for the former Intercity West Coast and Cross-Country sectors of British Rail.
In 1993, Branson received the honorary degree of Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University.
He became Sir Richard Branson when he was knighted by the Queen in 1999 for “services to entrepreneurship”.
Richard Branson considers himself a libertarian and has supported the legalisation of cannabis.