American Success Stories and How They Started
July 6, 2017
Hard-work, perseverance, and thick skin: all qualities of a successful entrepreneur. Every inspiring story has a starting point, but sometimes those starts aren’t as clean cut as the final product.
Barack Obama stated, “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failures along the way.” This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Take a look at the following Americans who paved their way to success and in the end, created empires.
Bill Gates, a native to Seattle, Washington, attended Harvard in 1973 unsure if studying law was the correct path for him. In late 1974 Gates, along with his friend Paul Allen, noticed a magazine ad for the first ever microcomputer. Gates and Allen decided to take a chance and call the manufacturer of this microcomputer (based in Albuquerque, New Mexico) to tell them about a computer program they wrote.
Here’s the catch: that program had yet to be written. When the manufacturer accepted their offer to test the program, Gates and Allen began working on codes that would run successfully. After hours of hard work, they flew to Albuquerque to run their program for the microcomputer manufacturer. The program, thanks to their many sleepless nights, ran successfully and they both dropped out of Harvard, moved to New Mexico, and established Microsoft in 1975.
As years went by, Microsoft expanded itself and Bill Gates became the face of the company because of his superior business savvy. Of course there were speed bumps, like complaints of the system being too slow or Apple feeling as though Microsoft was a rip off of the Macintosh operating system, but it ultimately established Bill Gates as one of the most successful men in American history.
The name Ruth Handler might not immediately ring a bell, but Barbie certainly does. In 1959, a woman named Ruth Handler noticed that her daughter had more interest in playing with paper dolls that looked like adults, rather than dolls that looked like babies or children. She designed a plastic doll that had mature features, and brought it to the 1959 New York Toy Fair. The Barbie Doll was an instant hit with young girls.
Ruth and her husband Elliot already had a small toy business meant for dollhouse furniture they were operating out of their garage in Hawthorne, California. They eventually pivoted their business so they could sell a variety of toys rather than just one niche.
They called the company Mattel, which it is still known as today. Mattel’s business expanded after Ruth’s Barbie Doll invention. In 1967, she was named president of the company. To this day Mattel is one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world.
Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1954, Oprah Winfrey had a childhood and adolescence that was filled with abuse and heartache. During her time at Tennessee State University, she studied communications and started working in radio and TV. She eventually moved to Baltimore where she hosted a talk show titled People are Talking that ran successfully for eight years.
After her run in Baltimore she was recruited to host another local talk show in Chicago called A.M. Chicago. The show was such a hit that it eventually expanded nationally on ABC and was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.
Oprah eventually gained ownership of the show from ABC with her production studio, Harpo Studios. This move is what propelled her to billionaire status. She continues to be a powerful public figure that uses her image for philanthropic purposes. On Top of owning the O Network, the channel she created after leaving The Oprah Winfrey Show, she also built The Leadership Academy for Girls, a boarding school in South Africa.
Walt Disney grew up in Kansas with a burgeoning passion for drawing and photography. He was disinterested in classes in high school, so at the age of 16 he dropped out to join the army. Unfortunately, he was rejected by the army due to being a minor, and instead joined the Red Cross which sent him to France for a year. When he returned from France, Walt Disney found himself back in Kansas and pursued a career as a local newspaper artist. He eventually made a deal with a Kansas theater to screen his cartoons, and was then inspired to create his own animation company.
In 1923 Walt Disney, and his brother Roy, moved to California and established Disney Brother’s Studios. They created the lovable characters of Mickey Mouse and his friends Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy which were a huge hit. In 1939, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released and was considered a phenomenon among audiences. The Disneyland Theme Park opened in 1955 and launched the Disney brand into something larger than anyone could have ever imagined.
Interested in starting your own success story? Check out how The Close School of Entrepreneurship co-op or Baiada Institute can help!
Andrea Moran, Communications, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship