Author Image for Sophie Hall


Freelance writer


There are several contradicting idioms on what it is to start small; “small things amuse small minds”, “good things come in small packages.” When it comes to your business though, Richard Branson wrote for about celebrating the latter. 

Virgin was started by a ‘bunch of young hippies’

Like a tiny seed that grows a grandiose oak tree, Virgin started in very much the same way. Albeit the seed had flares and slightly longer hair. Richard Branson reassures any young starter to the business world that even an institution like Virgin had to start somewhere, and you shouldn’t be afraid to have an office in a basement, as long as you’re working, that’s the whole point.

“When my friends and I started up our first business, Student magazine, we were a bunch of young hippies barely managing to scratch a living, yet we knew we had an idea for a product that people would want: A publication geared towards young people like us. I lived in a friend’s basement, and our office was based in a church crypt that a vicar let us use. We eventually turned our camaraderie and enthusiasm into a global business.” 

If you can't find work, work for yourself.

When it comes to unemployment, we've all seen the stats. As unemployment rates continue to soar upwards,  many young people wind up thinking everything is hopeless. However, as Branson suggests, these people could be wasting their time applying for endless coffee shop jobs when they could be doing something that actually means something to them. 


I was in Johannesburg recently, and as I heard pitches from many of our aspiring entrepreneurs, I was reminded of the many different ways that a small business can innovate. You don't need a big budget: all you need is some ambition and a good idea.

Choosing the right niche for your business

It is all very well wanting to start up your own business, but it takes a little more brain juice to decide on what this business will be. The Virgin Founder suggests not to over-think the matter, and be inspired by both those around you, and yourself. 

"If you can repurpose an existing product, or if you spot a gap in the market where brands are not offering the improvements to their products that customers would like, there is no reason why you shouldn't step in."

Have a story behind your product

Consider this: you decide to start a catfood business, despite being allergic to cats. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. When creating your business, there's no need to be afraid of getting personal. Richard Branson has met many people who have taken something from their heart, and put it out there for everyone. 

"An example is the story of Mmabatho Portia Morudi, who developed her interest in bees when her 87-year-old grandfather took her along on a beekeeping course. Now she is determined to help protect the bees while also building a successful business."

Do you think small businesses have a competitive advantage? Let us know.

Get personalised content recommendations based on your Facebook Likes

Connect with Facebook

You are logged in with Facebook

facebook profile image

log out