As the festive season arrives, one thing in particular always sends me hurtling down memory lane: Christmas trees.
When I was 11, my entrepreneurial streak had already taken root. I had already tried and failed to breed budgerigars (they multiplied quicker than we could sell them, and eventually many got eaten by rats before my mum released the rest). Undeterred, I decided to start my second business with my best friend Nik Powell alongside me. This time we were onto a winner – everyone wants a Christmas tree in December, right?
We created a rudimentary business plan on the back of an envelope. The plan was to buy lots of small trees, utilise the space we had in my parents’ garden and the surrounding area, and then sell them for a decent profit when the festive season arrived. Nik and I headed off to boarding school having planted our trees, confident we would make a fortune upon our return.
Our logic was fine, but we hadn’t thought through the downside. While our budgerigars bred faster than we could sell them, we hadn’t counted on another animal known for its fast reproduction: rabbits. We arrived home to discover there were no big Christmas trees waiting for us – the rabbits had ate them all.
Lesson learned. Thankfully, we had a few more ideas up our sleeve, and went on to launch Student Magazine, and then Virgin Records together. Once you have one idea, even if it fails you will learn from it. Then you can be sure there will be more – better - ideas where that came from.
That brings to mind a valuable tip from John Steinbeck: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” Just don’t let them near your Christmas tree!