Entrepreneur; “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking financial risks in the hope of profit.”
The definition alone should tell you that being an entrepreneur is not a venture for the faint of heart. Yet, we have been privileged to witness and are inspired by numerous high-flyers during our century. These are the men and women who are willing to dream and daringly chase after those dreams.
An entrepreneur faces many adversities and struggles in terms of competition, keeping a healthy balance between their personal and work life and they have to stay adaptable within an ever-changing economic landscape.
In this article we will be looking at some of the biggest entrepreneurs of our century and what made them earn this prestigious title. We will also be looking at some business tips they themselves have shared with the envious rest of us aspiring to one day be right at the top of the ladder alongside these legends
Just by saying his name, you are filled with a spontaneous childlike joy. But how did he do it? It was a long road for Walt Disney. And perhaps the first lesson to be learnt from his life is to get up and dust yourself off after a fall. Walt Disney started his career with a joint venture between himself and Iwerks. However, it didn’t take long for the entire company to collapse. Walt was forced to go back to working for a boss, nine-to-five everyday. Here he spent his days making commercials using cutout animation and this is also where he decided that he wanted to become an animator. It was his boss that motivated him in his passion by borrowing him a camera to experiment at home. It wasn’t long after that he started his own company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio and the studio’s cartoons were screened at local theatres.
They became so popular that Walt was forced to hire more employees. Unfortunately the studio profits wasn’t nearly enough to pay the high salaries of these employees and soon Walt stared another failure in the face; the company became loaded with debt and had to declare bankruptcy. But Walt never gave up dreaming and daring big. He decided his next stop would be Hollywood. Two months after arriving in Hollywood, Walt and his brother Roy pooled together every cent they had and officially started the Disney Brother’s Studio. Since that day Walt never looked back, and even though there were still many challenges to face in the future, Disney grew from strength to strength into the wonderful world of make belief it is today – whether on or off the screen.
Walt’s Top Tip:
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacle, have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Conrad Hilton Snr
It is a shame that this great man is overshadowed by his son who simply keeps an inherited business going as well as his granddaughters with their media-exploited shenanigans. Conrad Hilton Snr. was someone who came from humble beginnings and with his keen eye for a gap in the market soon became a successful businessman. When he was young he worked in his father’s general store. As he grew up he chose a career as a banker. It’s probably important to note here that a good lesson to learn from Conrad is to keep your plans flexible according to the business opportunities you find. When Conrad went to Texas after he decided to buy a bank there, he soon realized that he had arrived at the height of the oil boom and Texas was bulging at the seams with people all vying for accommodation. So, instead of buying his bank, Conrad purchased a hotel.
The hotel was so busy that the rooms were booked three times a day and the dining room had to be converted into additional rooms. As the business grew, so did his hotel empire – all throughout Texas. But although it all sounds so easy, Conrad nearly lost it all during the great depression and was on the brink of bankruptcy. Luckily, he scraped through the ordeal and eventually expanded his hotel empire into the rest of America. Today the Hilton hotels are the favoured choice of many tourists and accomplished business men and women from all over the world.
Conrad’s Top Tip:
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
Steve Jobs is well-known for his risk-taking as well as his incredibly imaginative ingenuity. And clearly this approach in life has served him well. Steve chose the road less travelled and it was this alternative thinking that made him stand out amongst the crowd. As a young man he only briefly attended college before dropping out and travelling through India to study Buddhism. Shortly after his return, he joined forces with his best friend, Wozniak, to sell Wozniak’s personal Apple computer. Merely a year after this, they gained fame and fortune with the Apple II – the first mass-produced personal computers. But although Steve had many successes, there were also a lot of failures and struggles such as the disastrous Apple Lisa and the fact that he was eventually forced out of his own company after a long power struggle.
But Steve did not leave alone; he took the cream of the Apple crop with him and started NeXT, a development company specializing in computers for tertiary and business markets. What many also don’t know about Steve is that it was during this time that he also invested a fortune in a new company called Pixar. In truth, if it wasn’t for Steve no-one would ever have seen a movie called Toy Story. Ironically, Apple purchased NeXT which basically put Steve back in the driver’s seat. And it wasn’t a minute too soon either; Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy and it was through Steve’s innovative ingenuity that the company was saved. Steve used what came naturally to him: thinking differently and created a campaign by the same name. Through this campaign he focused on branching out into products that would have a bigger cultural impact. The iPod, the iPhone, iTunes etc… is just a few worth mentioning in his lineage of successful endeavourers.
Steve’s Top Tip:
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
He may not be everyone’s favourite person in the world and everyone has heard a joke about his hair, but it doesn’t make him any less successful. In fact, Donald Trump has made it very clear to people that he doesn’t care much about their opinions of him. Perhaps it is this act of “drowning out the noise” that makes him the successful business man that he is. Donald has always been into real estate. Throughout his youth he worked for his father’s real estate company that focused on rentals. He was still in college when he got his first big project and showed an increase in occupancy of 66%.
When Donald moved to Manhattan he became involved in much larger building projects and there was absolutely no stopping his success. Eventually he started The Trump Organization and acquired many real estate landmarks such as the Grand Hyatt hotel and the Taj Mahal Casino.
Donald’s Top Tip:
“Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.”
Richard Branson can be described as the amateur rebel who became a successful entrepreneur. His record business almost started by accident through his Student magazine he ran from a church. In this magazine he interviewed a lot of musical celebrities and advertised popular records for much less than you could purchase in store. He was so out of his league that the name Virgin he started trading under referred to how little he actually knew about business. But Richard was undeterred. Soon he opened his first record store on the infamous Oxford Street. The business proved so successful that he branched out and started the Virgin Record Label. In true Richard Branson fashion, the label was known for signing controversial bands such as the Sex Pistols.
Not long after this, Richard’s success began to look like something that could only happen to you in the movies. He owned clubs, airplanes, trains, a mobile network and, yes, even a spaceship. And to think that all of this started because Richard wanted to “stick it to the man”.
Richard’s Top Tip:
“There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration.”
Oprah wasn’t always the good girl she portrays today. In fact, Oprah had a very tough upbringing. After continuously acting out by stealing, arguing and going out with older boys, Oprah’s mother sent her to live with Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee. Vernon was a strict disciplinarian, but encouraged Oprah to achieve success and turned Oprah into an honors student and “Most Popular Girl” as voted by her peers. After school she had a full scholarship to study communication, which says a lot about pure determination and hard work. But by that stage, Oprah was already working. After winning a beauty contest, Oprah was noticed by a local radio station and given a job as their part-time news reader. The move into media didn’t surprise anyone since Oprah was known for her theatrics from an early age. She very quickly moved up the ranks as the youngest and first black female news anchor becoming co-host of a talk show as well as host of a local version of Dialling for Dollars.
After proving herself through phenomenal ratings, Oprah finally became the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show. And the rest, as they say, is history. Oprah went on to star in various TV series and movies, co-founded the women’s cable TV network, Oxygen, is the president of Harpo Productions and eventually took over the Discovery Health Channel, turning it into the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Oprah’s Top Tip:
“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
If the name rings a bell; it should. This is none other than the person responsible for the world-famous Huffington Post blog. Ariana started off her career proving that the pen truly is mightier than the sword. In the 1970’s she wrote a book regarding the women’s liberation movement. In the 1980’s she wrote several very-well received articles for the National Review. Ironically, she was only really noticed after her husband’s unsuccessful senate bid as she teamed up with the liberal comedian Al Franken and started covering the 1996 presidential election on Comedy Central. She later went on to being part of the writing team of Politically Incorrect, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award. She also did a few acting forays in popular programs such as Roseanne, How I Met Your Mother and The L Word.
But she never left the politics far behind her. She hosted the LA radio show, Left, Right and Center, opposed NATO intervention against Serbia , heads The Detroit Project lobbying motor manufacturers to produce cars running on alternative fuels and has numerous political speaking engagements every year. She is an entrepreneur that uses her well-deserved wealth to fearlessly try and better the world around her.
Ariana’s Top Tip:
“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”