Do you remember what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
For me, I always felt something inside of me, driving me towards creating my own businesses. Even before I really knew what I was doing, I took chances, trying to make my entrepreneurial ventures into successes. And pushing me forward were some of my entrepreneurial heroes.
Now, these entrepreneurs weren’t in the same business as I am today, but there are many elements of their stories that I deeply relate to. Even the biggest entrepreneurs in history faced failures, some of them so significant that no one would have ever expected them to recover. But recover they did, and with their passion and vision, they created some of the most successful businesses in history. Here are five entrepreneurs I admire!
Overcoming adversity is something that many entrepreneurs have in common. Often, their successes are followed by failures. But something else they have in common is that they get up again after getting knocked down. Steve Jobs is a perfect example.
You likely know him as one of the founders of Apple Computers, but that was only the beginning of his career. Only nine years after founding Apple, he was forced out of the company by his board of directors.
Being exiled from the company you founded could be devastating, but Jobs took it as an opportunity. He started a new computer company, NeXT, that planned on entirely revolutionizing the industry. Then in 1996, he acquired a small graphics company called “The Graphics Group.” This company went on to become Pixar Animation. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?
A little over ten years after he was forced out of Apple, they invited him back, buying NeXT for almost $500 million, and making him the interim CEO. From that position, he spearheaded multiple projects that changed our world forever, from the iPod to the iPhone to the modern iMac. When he died in 2011, he was mourned the world over, not just for what he accomplished, but what he might have accomplished in the future. Who knows what today would look like if Steve Jobs was still around?
Few entrepreneurs can claim to have changed the world of retail quite like Jeff Bezos.
From his early years studying computer science and working on Wall Street, Bezos showed remarkable promise as an entrepreneur. On a cross-country road trip with friends in 1994, he came up with a rough idea for a bookstore that would eventually become Amazon.
Bezos saw the potential of the internet long before massive book chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble. From his early successes, he expanded into movies and music sales and started to acquire many of his smaller competitors. Though the early 2000s were rough for Amazon, they soon began to turn $400 million in profits every year. They moved into web services, launched game-changing products like the Amazon Kindle, and expanded Amazon all over the world.
Amazing how a single idea that you had on a car ride can change the entire world, right?
Let’s get away from “tech” entrepreneurs for a minute. One of the most successful and flamboyant entrepreneurs in the world comes from the U.K., where he changed the music, airline, and telecom industries: Sir Richard Branson.
Branson got his entrepreneur start early in life. Initial attempts at selling Christmas trees and parakeets were less than successful, but he soon started up a magazine called Student in 1966. From there, he created a mail-order record business, which led to him opening his own record store.
In 1972, he launched his own record label, Virgin, that quickly signed popular and controversial acts like the Sex Pistols. Rapidly bringing on other musicians like The Rolling Stones and Peter Gabriel, it became the largest independent record label in the world.
Branson took the Virgin brand and expanded it to air travel, railways, and even space travel. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t experience regular setbacks. He was forced to sell Virgin Records for more than $500 million USD to bail out his airline. Other failed ventures included Virgin Cars, Publishing, Clothing, and Cola, but he never let these obstacles stop him. Instead, he looked upon them as learning opportunities. With a current net worth of $4.4 billion, he must have learned an awful lot!
“It all began with a mouse.”
This is what Walt Disney used to say about his world-famous creation, Mickey Mouse. From that one idea sprung one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world, and one that has lived long past Disney himself.
Back in 1928, Walt Disney was an animator who was down on his luck. He recently lost control of his character, Oswalt the Lucky Rabbit, to Universal. He came up with the idea for a new character, Mickey Mouse, while on a train ride cross country to California. No one could guess what would happen next. Mickey turned into a phenomenon and has starred in countless cartoons since then. But what really makes me respect Walt Disney was his entrepreneurial spirit.
This was a man who was always looking for the next big thing. He created the world’s first full-length animated feature with Snow White. He pioneered new animation techniques that revolutionized the industry. And, of course, let’s not forget Disneyland! Walt Disney was an entrepreneur who sold “magic,” and his brand of magic was so potent that it continues to entertain us, even today.
You don’t get to be called the queen of all media without having an entrepreneurial spirit!
Oprah is one of the most famous, respected, and beloved TV personalities of all time. Her approach to daytime talk shows revolutionized the genre, spinning off countless imitators to this day.
Her career in media started with anchoring the news, but that changed after she began hosting a daytime talk show in Chicago back in 1984. Within months, she had the highest-rated talk show in Chicago. Just two years later, the Oprah Winfrey Show was the number one talk show in America!
You likely know all that, but what blows me away is how she parlayed that success into the multimedia empire she has today. She negotiated for ownership rights to her talk show, quickly making her a millionaire. She starred in Oscar-winning movies like The Color Purple. Her “Oprah’s Book Club,” is still going to this day, making countless books into bestsellers. Today, she is a multi-billionaire and one of the most loved people in America. An entrepreneur to the bone.
The reality, of course, is that there are far more names that I could add to this list. Entrepreneurs have changed the world in countless ways, both large and small. That’s the reason why I am so proud to be an entrepreneur. With the right idea and enough hard work, you can change the world forever!