How often do we find ourselves dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur? We all want to attain a measure of financial independence and be free of the daily grind of a 9 to-5 lifestyle.
We read or hear many entrepreneurial success stories and hope we would be the ones people are reading and talking about. The term “entrepreneur” conjures images of a business- owner; someone who runs an enterprise and reaps the fruits of his labor.
Wanting to become an entrepreneur is not the same as actually becoming one. Many remain only as day- dreamers; never taking that first step to assume the entrepreneurial lifestyle. And that is because their own fears overcome them. We can a lot of lessons from the successful entrepreneurs.
We can a lot of lessons from the successful entrepreneurs as they are consumed by self- limiting beliefs and they are afraid of failure; of the possibility of losing everything they had worked for.
But what of those who had nothing or lost everything even before they became entrepreneurs? For some, it wasn’t just financial stability they lost. Life had stripped them of everything they had; their dignity, self- respect, shelter, and relationships. Everything had been taken away; everything except HOPE.
Or those whose noble dreams to transform the world through the power of innovation almost cost them everything? Here are 6 entrepreneurial success stories to keep you motivated. The bond that holds them together is the unwavering spirit to overcome adversity and take control of their own life and success.
6 Great Entrepreneurial Success Stories
1. Oprah Winfrey
Everyone knows Oprah Winfrey. She has become a global icon; a media mogul whose touch turns everything gold. But before she became “Ms. O”, life for Oprah had none of her “favorite things”.
If you came across a story of a young girl who while growing up in abject poverty was repeatedly abused by family members, became pregnant at 14 and lost the baby that year, would you ever think she would one day grow up to become a billionaire and one of the world’s most iconic personalities?
Despite a horrific upbringing, Oprah persevered and continued to follow her dream to become a media personality. She landed her first radio stint in high school and worked her way to television.
Her early days working in the male- dominated broadcasting industry were met with discrimination and harassment. But Oprah kept pushing until she landed her daytime talk show.
Perhaps becoming the “Queen of All Media” was a metaphor for, as Oprah used to say, “Getting back the power.”
2. Jack Ma
How far would you go for an education? Would you spend every waking morning for the next nine years on a bike trip to the nearest hotel so you could learn and practice English with tourists?
Ma lived in Hangzhou Zhejiang Province in China. His parents were traditional musician story tellers. Life was simple and humble for Jack who was born Ma Yun who assumed the name “Jack” because foreigners could not pronounce his Chinese name.
It was obvious early on that Jack had amazing resilience that fueled his ambition not just to improve his life but those of other Chinese as well. Jack Ma failed the university entrance exam three times before finally making it to Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute.
After a chance discovery of the Internet, Jack started a business creating websites for Chinese companies that grew from $20,000 to $800,000 within three years.
Today, Jack Ma is known as the Chairman and Founder of the Alibaba Group. Alibaba is one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world worth US$23 Billion.
3. Travis Kalanick
Why is it that many of the world’s iconic entrepreneurs drop out of college?
For Travis Kalanick, it was an overwhelming desire to provide mankind with more convenience using the benefits of technology. Kalanick founded Scour; a multi- media search engine in 1998.
But he had to declare bankruptcy and shutter Scour in 2000 after receiving lawsuits for copyright infringement from the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America and National Music Publishers Association.
Undeterred, Kalanick founded another peer- to- peer file sharing program called Red Swoosh in 2001 which he eventually sold to Akamai Technologies for US$19 Million.
But it was his collaboration with Garrett Camp where Kalanick found his greatest success so far. In 2009, Kalanick and Camp founded Uber, a mobile application which helped commuters secure taxis faster and more conveniently.
Despite Uber’s global success, Kalanick continues to face challenges from clone competitors and critics of his aggressive pricing tactics. For Kalanick, business is a lever for transformation. But there will always be those who see the transformation in another light. That is part of life as an entrepreneur.
4. Elon Musk
If you asked people to name the first person who comes to mind when they hear the word “visionary”, most people would probably mention Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. By all accounts Space- X and Tesla founder Elon Musk should be on that list.
A child prodigy who started to learn computer programming at age 12, Musk was severely bullied growing up. In one incident, he was thrown down a flight of stairs and beaten up so badly he passed out and was hospitalized.
Still despite the harsh conditions growing up, Musk continued to dream about introducing innovations that would benefit humankind.
Musk had early success in business. He founded Zip2, a web software company, with his brother. Musk eventually sold it and started another company called Confinity which had a money transfer serviced called PayPal.
Eventually Confinity was renamed PayPal and Musk was ousted after a series of disagreements with top management over his attempt to migrate the Linus-based system in favor of Microsoft Windows.
Musk’s greatest challenge came when he founded Space- X and came on- board Tesla. Space X was involved in space exploration while Tesla was tasked to find sustainable sources of energy.
But these projects proved to be too ambitious and Musk found himself on the cusp of being bankrupt; losing the US$165 Million fortune he earned from the sale of PayPal to eBay. It was a period of time where Musk recalled he almost had a mental breakdown.
His break came on 24 December 2006 when Space- X was awarded a billion dollar contract from NASA to develop the Space X Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft.
Today, Musk is worth US$12.9 Billion and continues to pursue his dreams of changing the world and humanity.
5. Daymond John
Entrepreneurs only need a moment of inspiration to trigger an idea. For Daymond John, it was the idea that wool hats were overpriced at US$20.
He made a few designs, bought material, produced the hats by hand and sold them for US$10. In one day, he made US$800. Seeing the potential in her son’s idea, Daymond’s mother mortgaged their house for US$100,000 to finance his business idea.
Thus, FUBU was born. John recruited two of his friends to help produce the hats and took a part-time job at Red Lobster to sustain FUBU. In 1993, he asked a childhood friend rapper-actor LL Cool J to wear a FUBU hat in a commercial for The GAP.
Not only did LL Cool J wear the hat but included the line, “For Us By Us” in his rap. FUBU is estimated to be worth US$6 Billion. John is a mainstay in the entrepreneurial reality show, “Shark Tank”.
6. Kevin Systrom
For parents who believe technology for a child at an early age is detrimental for their mental well- being should take comfort from Kevin Systrom. According to Systrom, his love for technology was nurtured for his fascination with the Role Playing Game, “Doom”.
But Systrom’s ascent to the world of IT was delayed by a noble call in judgement. While working as a Barista at Café Del Doge, Systrom was approached by Mark Zuckerberg to help him develop a photo sharing service for Facebook.
Systrom declined to cite his need to finish schooling at Stanford. Eventually, Systrom found his way back to Facebook by developing Instagram which was bought by Zuckerberg for US$1 Billion. Systrom earned US$400 Million from the buyout but retains his position as head of Instagram.
Over To You
Success in entrepreneurship can be fleeting. As you have seen from these inspirational entrepreneurial success stories if you want to turn your dream into reality, you must take a risk. These entrepreneurs took what life gave them then put everything on the line.
When you are in pursuit of your dream, there will come a time in the journey that you will be at a crossroads where a crucial decision has to be made. Entrepreneurs are risk- takers but they are not gamblers. The decision you make can transform your life for better or worse.
Those who succeed are the ones who take the next step forward with the eye firmly on the future. If they fail, they will simply regroup and get back on track.
If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to be ready when it comes to making big decisions.
Felix Tarcomnicu works with OutsourceWorkers, a company providing real estate virtual assistants for busy agents. He enjoys writing about businesses and entrepreneurship. You can connect with him on Twitter.
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