The iconic Sir Richard Branson exemplifies the right way to respond to curveballs. Some of his failed ventures include Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Brides, Virgin Vie and Virgin Clothing.
Dropping out of school in 1967 at the age of 16, Branson made his first foray into the business world through launching an interschool publication called Student Magazine, which was to be the voice of a generation. While the magazine did not result in financial success, the lessons it taught Branson turned out to be the stemming point for the business empire he would eventually create. Virgin Records was his next venture, after which he turned to airlines, launching Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
During the company’s initial test flight with their only plane, a flock of birds flew into the engine, causing damage to the plane. With no functioning plane, it was impossible to get certified, and without certification, it was impossible to get repair money. Instead of abandoning this venture, Branson pulled money from his other ventures for repairs and eventually got certification. Virgin Airlines grew into a successful venture.
Branson remained ever-ambitious and set to expand into yet another market: soda. He thought it would be fun to outsell a brand as well-known as Coca Cola and created Virgin Cola to compete. Despite his lofty ambition, Virgin Cola didn’t sell, and the company folded in a few years. The product was too similar to already existing soft drinks and lacked the brand loyalty. This taught Branson a fundamental lesson on the importance of product differentiation, which highlights the extent of self-awareness possessed by Branson. He continues to break the rules but knows when to exit the game. He has never been hesitant to try but is hyperaware of the range of his entrepreneurial prowess.