Starting a business is hard work, but making it successful is a whole other challenge. Some entrepreneurs want to do something that’s never been done before, while others want to build upon existing business niches or ideas and become a strong competitor.
Whatever the goal may be, entrepreneurship is a tough undertaking and these nine risk takers have helped change the world for the better:
- Bill Gates
It's hard to believe that the genius behind the co-creation of software giant Microsoft never finished college, but it's clear he didn't need his diploma to do big things. Gates made the decision to leave Harvard to go work with Paul Allen at Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems. This risky decision to leave school truly paid off when Gates and Allen partnered up to create Microsoft in 1975. Today, Microsoft and its line of operating systems are the biggest and most widely used in the world. His entrepreneurial spirit and incredible intellect have made him one of the world's wealthiest people and most admired entrepreneurs.
- George Eastman
George Eastman was the mastermind behind the Eastman Kodak Company, in which he invented roll film and helped make photography a mainstream form of art. Eastman's roll film invention also paved the way for the movie industry with his invention of motion picture film. His incredible contributions and commitment to the field of photography and filmmaking helped change the industry in so many fundamental ways, something we take for granted today.
- Sergey Brin
Sergey Brin is a co-founder of Google and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Before starting the multinational Internet and software corporation with Larry Page, Brin was a student at the University of Maryland, studying mathematics and computer science. He went on to get his PhD at Stanford University and met his future business partner Page there. Together, the two developed new search engine designs and algorithms, which led to the creation of the PageRank system and later Google.
- Henry Ford
Henry Ford gave us the first affordable automobile and prompted the use of assembly lines in mass production. His incredible contributions to the American public changed the way people got from place to place and performed work. But Ford didn't become a successful businessman overnight. In fact, he had to overcome some adversities, such as dyslexia and rejecting taking over the family farm to pursue his own business ventures.
- Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban is best known for his wide range of business ventures, ranging from owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks to the owner of Landmark Theatres, Magnolia Pictures, and chairman of the HDTV cable network, HDNet. But the tech-savvy businessman and investor wasn't always a huge success. Before Cuban struck gold, he was working as a bartender, then a salesman at a computer software store. Cuban was fired less than a year after working at the store, and decided to turn his attention to starting his own company, MicroSolutions. Cuban diversified his wealth and business ventures as a serial entrepreneur and influential leader in sports business.
- John Mackey
Whole Foods Market might be a household name today, but back in the late '70s it wasn't quite as promising. Before becoming a supermarket chain, Whole Foods was a small natural foods store in Austin, Texas, called Safer Way Natural Foods. John Mackey and his then-girlfriend Rene Lawson Hardy opened up the store in 1978 and later partnered with Clarksville Natural Grocery owners Craig Weller and Mark Skiles to join the two grocery stores. Together, they opened the original Whole Foods Market in 1980, and it soon became a hit among health-conscious shoppers. It is now a leader of the premium natural and organic supermarkets, and thanks to Mackey's expert leadership, it has maintained its ranking as one of the 100 best companies in America.
- Walt Disney
No one would have guessed that the man who created Mickey Mouse and one of the largest motion picture production companies would have ever been doubted or rejected for not being good enough. But the truth is Walt Disney and his creations weren't always a hit. In 1919, Disney was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star because he lacked imaginative ideas. He went on to create a cartoon series that later developed into what we now know as The Walt Disney Company. Walt's undying creativity, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit helped him become one of the most admired and successful businessmen of all time.
- Mark Zuckerberg
Who would have guessed that a young brainiac from Harvard would create the biggest and most successful social network in the world? Facebook originally served as a directory-like website for Harvard students, but was later expanded to other colleges in Boston and in the Ivy League. Facebook quickly spread to various universities around the world and eventually became available to anyone 13 and older. The incredibly popular social network now has more than 845 million active users. Zuckerberg's creation has significantly changed the way people socialize and use the Internet.
- Oprah Winfrey
It's hard to believe that anyone could ever doubt the incredibly powerful and successful Oprah Winfrey, but in the beginning, few thought she had what it takes to be a successful talk show host. The odds were against her as an outspoken black female working in a field dominated by white males. Despite the doubts and negative predictions, Oprah's talk show career became a huge success. After the initial success of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah began to explore her entrepreneurial side by creating Harpo Productions, Inc., which includes Harpo Films and Harpo Radio, Inc. After seeing how successful her Harpo Productions creation has been, Oprah joined with Discovery Communications to create a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011.
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