Richard Branson reveals his 3 best pieces of advice for young people who want to start a side business

Sir Richard Branson in front of Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft
Virgin Galactic

As a wildly successful serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson is uniquely qualified to give advice to young people who aspire to start a business or side hustle. Branson himself dropped out of school at 16 to launch Student magazine, his first venture, in 1968.

On Tuesday, the billionaire shared his three best pieces of advice for young and aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Start small

"Start small but think big," says Branson, in a post on his blog. "Many of Virgin's businesses have started off as side projects which have grown into big companies. Always be thinking about what could come next, how you could expand, how you could take your idea global. It will take time but if you're focused it's more likely to happen."

2. Say yes to opportunities

"Always look for opportunities," says Branson. "Don't be afraid to get out there and meet like-minded people. Always say yes to opportunities and learn what you need to do to make the most of them as you go along – I've constantly asked for help throughout my life."

3. Follow your passions

"Do what you love – I can't stress this one enough," writes Branson. "You'll spend a lot of your life working but if you're doing something that interests you and you're passionate about then you'll keep going even when it gets hard (and it will get tough). Think about your talents, what subjects and causes interest you the most, what problems you'd like to solve."

My three tips for young entrepreneurs:

Branson was inspired to share the advice after meeting 13-year-old Iolo Edwards, from Wales. The teen had recently had his bowel removed due to acute severe ulcerative colitis and had a stoma bag (to collect waste).

"He said he hated the stoma bags that he left hospital with — they were beige and looked really old-fashioned. He said he spent a long time looking at different products that would suit him better and settled with a plain black or white bag," Branson writes on his blog. "He said there were loads of patterned bags for babies but nothing for teenagers — so they decided to make their own bags."

Edwards told Branson he also had another business selling Japanese air-dry clay and styrofoam craft balls online, which he'd started after noticing unusual demand on social media. He used his birthday money to buy the clay to resell, writes Branson, and he bought cheap balls in bulk then split it into smaller packets, selling two for the same price as a what he'd paid for a big bag.

"He said he 'made a killing on that,'" Branson writes.

Iolo Edwards told me his moving story and how even in a challenging situation, he's finding ways to make his ideas come alive

Edwards, who also fundraises for the organizaton CIRCA, which supports children with Crohn's disease and Colitis, and his drive reminded Branson of his own young entrepreneurial efforts when he launched a mail order record business — it eventually became Virgin Records.

"Hearing stories like Iolo's fills me with hope for the next generation and it's so interesting hearing all about the different ways young people are spotting and filling gaps in the market," Branson writes. "The ways we do business may have changed dramatically since I started out as technology has advanced — as showcased by Iolo using Instagram as a way to find business — but the motivations and reasons for doing it remain the same. Iolo looked around himself and saw that he could do things better for other people. There's no better reason to start a business."

See also:

Billionaire Richard Branson says he's never been motivated by money — here's why