If there is one thing that strikes a chord with any fledgling entrepreneur, it is hearing how the most successful and famous entrepreneurs started out. Hearing about the early struggles, be they financial or otherwise; hearing about how they fought against the odds and managed to turn their lives around can be truly inspirational.
So we thought we would today highlight just a few of those enterprising individuals and how they started out on the road to entrepreneurship. As they say…”Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…”
The IKEA founder’s first foray into enterprise was when he was a young boy . He discovered that he could buy matches in bulk cheaply from Sweden and sell them individually at a low price whilst still making a good profit. He then started to diversity the products he sold – from seeds, Christmas decorations through to pens and pencils. Furniture was eventually added to his product range in 1948 and the flat pack revolution began.
He may not have achieved the best grades at school, but the young Richard Branson certainly would have got top marks for his entrepreneurship. He was just 16 when he founded a small newspaper aimed at students – the Student – featuring articles with rock stars, celebrities of the day and famous politicians. Noticing though that record stores were not discounting records, he started running ads selling records at discount prices. The orders started flooding in , and soon the record sales were much more profitable than the newspaper sales. Virgin records had begun. What is now one of the world’s most famous brands started its’ life in a small office above an old shoe shop.
The founder of Dell computers started his career as a dishwasher in a local Chinese restaurant. However it was whilst at university that he started assembling and selling IBM PC compatible computers. His idea was that if he sold PC systems directly to customers, his products would be cheaper than that of his competitors. He also believed that consumers would want individually customized computers and that is what he provided. He was right – and ended up dropping out of university at at the age of 19 after taking a loan from his grandmother to set up what we now know as Dell Computer.
Michael J. Kittridge ‘s entrepreneurial endeavours first began one Christmas when he was a 16 year old, broke teenager. With no money to buy his mother a Christmas present, he tapped into his own creativity and resourcefulness.
Simply by looking around his house, he found some metal bowls, used milk containers, used crayons and some fragrances, he experimented and made his mother a scented candle. His mother never actually received the candle though – a neighbour saw it first and promptly bought it. Realising he was on to something, the enterprising teenager and his cousin set about making more of them, selling them to family, friends and neighbours. The business that we now know worldwide as The Yankee Candle company had begun. So, when Michael sold the business in 1998 for $500 million , it was certainly an excellent turnaround for a once virtually penniless teenager.
Love him or loathe him, The Apprentice star certainly showed entrepreneurial drive from the off.
At the age of 12 he started making ginger beer and selling to his neighbours. But of course his selling skills truly developed when he started selling car aerials from the back of a van that he had bought with £100 savings. He was just 21 when he started expanding into selling other small electrical products and thereby founded Amstrad . And as viewers of The Apprentice well know, there is hardly a board room encounter where he does not mention how he managed to create his empire from those early days selling from the back of a van on a market.
There are of course countless stories of entrepreneurs who have made it in this way. But whether they have come from wealthy or affluent families, or have lived a truly “rags to riches” existence, they all have the same innate traits – drive, passion, creativity and belief.
So , if you can nurture or develop these traits yourself, you will certainly be on the right road to success.