I’m 19, in my last year of high school, and I already find myself at a crossroads. The only thing I’m passionate about is being an entrepreneur and launching my own business. I’ve considered starting an ice cream shop, a Mexican restaurant, a car wash, a software company and other businesses, and I find them all equally intriguing.

Right now, I plan to get a degree in computer science, as the first step towards creating my own software company later on. However, I’d like to diversify my businesses when I can (just as you did with Virgin).

Since you have experience in many different arenas, I’d like to know what you consider to be the most relevant and crucial qualities of a successful businessman? Should I stick with studying computer science and technology, or should I develop skills in another area? Should I stay in Bulgaria, or should I seek better opportunities abroad?

—Boyan Kushlev, Bulgaria

Deciding which direction to take is something everybody struggles with at one point or another. But part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is the fact that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do or what direction to take—it’s all up to you!

Right now, Boyan, it probably seems like your entire life is hinging on this decision about what you should study, and that there will be no going back after you make a choice. In reality, that isn’t the case. Just because you start in a certain sector, or study a certain subject at university, doesn’t mean you will have to spend your entire life at it. In my case, I decided not to go to university, and treated my life experiences as a source of higher education.

That said, I agree that learning to code is a good idea—coding is the language of innovation. And if you would like to set up a software company, then studying computer science sounds like a good idea. The skills you will learn will take you places that you can’t imagine right now. However, you could also take these courses online or part-time. Have you looked at that option?

This may also tie into your question of whether you should stay in Bulgaria or leave. I always encourage people to travel if possible, especially young entrepreneurs. Travel broadens the mind, exposing you to new cultures, different problems and better business approaches. You might learn why a successful business model in one part of the world will not work in another, or you might even meet different people who can push your business ideas forward.

But the most important thing for any budding entrepreneur to do is to get out there and start a business. You may have considered starting an ice cream shop, a Mexican restaurant and a software company, but until you commit to one idea and give it everything you have got, you won’t know how enjoyable starting a business can be, or if entrepreneurship is even a good fit.

If none of your ideas for a business inspires you to take the plunge, ask yourself “what frustrates me?" Jot down a list of all the things you would like to see changed or done better. If it frustrates you, it is likely others will want to see change too, and it could be the spark that ignites a great idea.

Make sure that you make your choice because you are following your own passions, and not just mimicking others. Bill Gates built Microsoft because he firmly believed in the personal computer, at a time when others dismissed it; Richard Reed founded Innocent Drinks because he wanted to promote healthier lifestyles. They didn’t look at what others had found success with before. They did what they loved to do, and what they thought would make a positive difference in the world. Every successful entrepreneur shares this trait. It will help you to keep your business going through the tough times.

Many successful entrepreneurs also share the ability to take risks. At Virgin, we have taken so many that I can’t remember them all. And while there are obviously some that are worth taking and some that aren’t, you should learn to trust your instincts.

This is where your friends and family come in. Ask for their advice, and together you will come up with the right solutions. As long as you have a desire to innovate, the curiosity to try new approaches and the passion to change an industry, you will have all the makings of a successful entrepreneur.

By NYT Syndicate

©2015/Richard Branson


Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and
companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America,
Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog--

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