The elusive Sir Richard
Like so many before me, I tweeted Richard Branson. I noticed he’d posted on my birthday asking people to tweet him questions so obviously his #askrichard stream was pretty long. My tweet to him mentioned he’d asked the question on my birthday and wondered if he believed in the Law of Attraction. To my astonishment, he replied saying he did, that he believed one positive attitude attracts another. How exciting!
But, let me take you back a few years and I’ll explain why this was particularly poignant for me… *insert back in time dreamy music interlude here*
When I was young, perhaps 8 or 9 I went to London to see Disney on Ice with my Mum and friends. It was a quite an occasion to venture to London back then so there was a lot to take in, but I remember so clearly being in the queue for what turned out to be a soggy, overpried and disappointing tuna roll, I saw Richard Branson. He was with his young family enjoying a family day out. This was, ahem, circa 25 years ago so I’m going back a few years, but even back then Richard Branson was well know as the owner of Virgin. It wasn’t yet the vast empire it is today but back then seeing him for real completely inspired me.
We didn’t have t’internet then but I did do as much research as I could, namely asking my dad! I found out that Branson’s first business was a student magazine, but that he’d tried his hand at many things before he really made it.
At school I became known for selling stuff, mainly chocolate (well, they do say you should sell what you know!). I had the best profit margins ever, my mum and dad who at that time owned a shop, would buy me a box of Cadbury’s Caramel or Creme Eggs and I’d take them to school and sell them…100% profit 🙂
But I knew early on that I wanted to be my own boss, and it was years later, in fact when I was a mum trying to get MumsClub going that I realised how much that fleeting moment with Sir Richard had touched me. Another mum at playgroup told me that she could never be a Richard Branson, and with a dramatic flourish of the arms she gestured towards her children, telling me that she would never have a successful business because she had children, bless her. I immediately thought of that day at Earl’s Court, when I saw Britain’s most successful entrepreneur enjoying Disney on Ice with his kids.
To be fair to that mum at playgroup though, the thought had concerned me a little too; wondering whether I could actually start a business let alone make it successful when my only working hours happened to be my toddling son’s nap times. But really, worrying about that wasn’t going to help, I was doing it anyway. (and I did but that’s another story).
To bring you forward in time, 2 years ago I was invited to Sir Richard’s book launch. How exciting that was I can’t tell you. I’m not entirely sure how it came about, I think my friends at Virgin Media helped a little… But I was so excited about the prospect of being in the same room as Sir Richard. I was wondering if I’d be able to talk to him – I was going to tell him about seeing him at Disney all those years ago… But it wasn’t to be.
I was on my way to *meet* Sir Richard on a Virgin Train. The news on tv that morning had told me there were hold ups so I got there extra early. A tannoy announcement told everyone waiting that part of the line was closed, we were advised to catch another train into Birmingham to then get another to London from there. So that’s what I did.
To cut a long story short, the (non-Virgin) train stopped at every stop on the way and took FOREVER! And as I arrived at the venue where the book launch was being held, or rather HAD BEEN held, all I saw of Mr B was a gaggle of cameras and photographers rushing out. I may have seen some blonde hair glinting in the camera flashes but I couldn’t be sure. Oh how I sighed. I was tired from running across Birmingham and then London and I literally was running – if you’re familiar with Birmingham I ran from New Street station to Moor Street station, and I actually ran. In heels too.
It gets worse. Or better, I’ve still not decided. See what you think..
As I was there anyway I thought I may as well have a look around, there were still people milling, chatting about the fantastic presentation they’d just seen… It was a large room, windows all around. Under the windows to the left was a stage area with 3 white plastic high stools – where Sir Richard was perched I imagined. In front of the stage area were 8 oval tables with name place cards of the VIPs. Beyond that were rows of seats about 5 deep, for the non VIPs…that’s where I’d have been sat I supposed.
Looking back at the VIP area ‘let’s see who else I missed’ I sighed to myself. I saw the Innocent Smoothies founder’s names; Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright (I later found out from talking to Adam that he wasn’t actually there anyway), there was Jon Bird, the founder of The Big Issue, Sir Richard’s sister and more. Then I found a name I knew well. On the first oval table, as close to the stage you could have got, right on the end wasmy name. Oh Em Gee. I had been a VIP and I didn’t even know it.
I spoke to the PR who told me he was taking questions from the audience (which, with my aversion to such things was secretly relived about!) But wow what a missed opportunity. They don’t come around too often do they? Which leads me to missed opportunity number 3…
A while later I was invited, again as a VIP to attend a private drinks reception with Sir Richard. It was the Entrepreneurs Summit in London. I went with two friends and in age old typical fashion; our names weren’t down and we couldn’t get in. To say I was cross with the PR chap was an understatement. Let us speak of this no more.
Then more recently I got the closest ever. Thanks to my good friend Maria, who was going in her capacity as a Virgin Media Pioneer, I was invited to the Pitch to Rich event in London. Five brave entrepreneurs had won the chance to pitch to Richard and other judges to try and win £5k investment. It was a great event, we spent the day in RB’s company albeit not to actually to chat with, watching the fabulous pitches. Just being in that environment was a treat in itself, it was a small exclusive event and I was truly honoured to be there. And I felt I was one step closer.
And now Sir Richard tweeted me and I’m delighted. Small things eh?
I hope to update with more news one day 🙂
But in the meantime, there’s a number of our Mums who have entered the 2015 Pitch to Rich competition, please take 2 minutes to give them a vote, and hopefully some of my mums will meet him.