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10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs That Started with Little to Nothing

Author: NeuroGym Team | 2021

The world is full of successful entrepreneurs who can teach you more about running an amazing small business. They have walked the walk and talked the talk, so now, it is time for you to learn from them.

Let’s have a look at 10 entrepreneurs who built their empires from nothing and identify what they did to become successful.

Sara Blakely

The creator of Spanx had a tough time getting the company and concept off the ground. After going door-to-door selling fax machines, Sara attended a party but didn’t have any undergarments that worked with her outfit.

Sara worked on several prototypes of her unique leggings. She kept her idea secret until she could file a patent for them, but no attorney was willing to represent her—one of them thought it was a prank for a TV show. Sara ended up filing her own patent.

The next obstacle is that no hosiery mills were willing to produce the pantyhose. The only reason one person would give her a chance was because his daughters believed it was a good idea.

From this point, Sara worked on all other aspects like marketing and packaging until her product launched to success. This shows how you can do anything if you persevere.

Howard Schultz

What’s the name that you have written on your cup of takeaway coffee? The name you can thank for this whole idea and the growth of coffee trends is Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks.

Howard spent his childhood in housing estates and was the first person in his family to attend college. He paid for it by working part-time jobs and getting government loans.

Howard first had contact with the Starbucks brand while employed at another coffee company and soon joined the team at Starbucks. Two years after leaving the company to start his own business, Starbucks sold the outlet to Howard.

Starbucks became successful rapidly. Howard doesn’t consider himself lucky; instead, he says his success is due to accepting responsibility daily.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson recently traveled to space—something he wouldn’t have thought of doing as a child where he was frequently branded a dumb person. His first entrepreneurial venture was an ambitious student magazine which many considered revolutionary.

Richard didn’t have the money to continue the magazine but happened into a small inheritance that covered his debts and allowed the business to continue. From this point on, he started business after business which grew his portfolio substantially.

The most important lesson Richard learned was that personality and reputation went a lot farther than money. He recommends that entrepreneurs should rather do unconventional things than focus on funding from the start.

Jan Koum

How many times per day do you send a WhatsApp message? Well, you can thank Jan Koum for inventing this successful app.

Jan grew up in poverty and soon immigrated to America from Ukraine. His family had very little, but he worked hard at school and quickly had advanced computer skills.

Yahoo! was one of the first places that Jan worked as an infrastructure engineer. He soon purchased his first smartphone and was inspired by all it could do. This innovative phone gave him the idea for an instant messaging service that spanned across continents.

In 2009, Jan invented WhatsApp, and it became popular very quickly. He later sold the company to Facebook for a whopping $19 billion. He attributes his success to doing one thing well instead of focusing on many small things.

Sophia Amoruso

It’s difficult to imagine that the founder of Nasty Gal once had a nomadic lifestyle and scoured scraps from bins to survive. Yet this is exactly what Sophia Amoruso had to do to make ends meet.

Sophia stalked the shelves of vintage stores for unique products and sold them on eBay. Eventually, she had enough saved to stock a warehouse and leveraged social media to appeal to customers.

Times are still tough since Sophia has lost some of her wealth but continues to look for a better life. She has become a brand name, worked on a memoir, and the series Girlboss is based on her experiences.

Sophia had a tough time making her fortune, but she never gave up. She was persistent, gave her best effort, and refused to let little things upset her.

Do Won Chang

You might not know who Won Chang is, but you probably know his international business, Forever 21. Won Chang emigrated from South Korea to America where he started his janitorial career. He also worked at a coffee shop and a gas station.

Along with his wife, Won Chang opened a small store (only 900 square feet) in Los Angeles and called it Fashion 21. Initially, his customers were Korean Americans.

The business flourished after changing its name to Forever 21, and its customer base grew quickly. Won Chang always had big dreams, and the business expanded internationally. He hopes that his success will inspire other people to reach for their dreams.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren is a giant in the fashion world, but this only happened after he dropped out of college. Instead, Ralph opted to enroll in the United States Army.

Brooks Brothers offered Ralph a position as a sales assistant which got his creative juices flowing. He soon considered whether colorful ties would appeal to men and opened his own business.

Ralph sold merchandise of $50,000 in the first year and opted to start Polo the following year. The business went from strength to strength and became a global presence.

Ralph believes his success is due to seeing opportunities throughout the world. He feels that people can reinvent themselves daily and that results in success.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey has become a household name and formidable presence in the media industry, but she worked exceptionally hard to get to this point. Her early life had been challenging, but she didn’t let that get in her way.

Born in rural Mississippi, Oprah grew up in poverty. She started working as a radio presenter during high school and co-anchored the evening news by 19. From there, everything changed rapidly for her.

Oprah took on the role of daytime talk-show host and established a production company soon after. She was a millionaire by the age of 32, and her empire grew from there. The powerhouse we now know as Oprah Winfrey continues her climb to success because she is doing what she loves.


John Paul Dejoria

A small loan of $700 in 1980 went a long way for John Paul Dejoria when he established John Paul Mitchell Systems. The hairdresser, Paul Mitchell, worked along with John Dejoria to make a range of hair-care products successful up to this day.

It wasn’t always this easy. John didn’t come from money; instead, he is a self-made billionaire. His first job was as a truck driver followed by being a janitor. At one stage, John even went door-to-door to sell Christmas cards.

John frequently heard the word, “No” from people and had many doors slammed in his face. Yet he continued to get up every morning with a positive outlook. He had made it a habit to pursue excellence even in the face of rejection.

Steve Jobs

Almost everyone has an Apple device at some stage in their lives, and this is all thanks to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Our focus is on the former who was worth $10.2 billion by the time of his passing.

Steve Jobs started working at 13 years old and continued in low-paid employment. Even though he attended college, Steve dropped out to build computers with Steve Wozniak in the garage of his parent’s home.

The pair did well and developed several models but had to get additional financing. Steve succeeded in getting a guarantor for his bank loan. His entrepreneurial success can be attributed to perseverance even when the times got tough.

Lessons From Successful Entrepreneurs

These 10 entrepreneurs became successful on their own and without any initial investment. They are an example of what you can achieve in your small business.

Build Good Habits

In life, you have to repeat processes daily so that they form habits. It allows you to think about what you want constantly and inspires you to find better ways of getting things done. Schedule time daily to work on your business ideas even if you are still in a day job which allows you to take steps forward in the face of adversity.

Find a Coach or Mentor

Many successful entrepreneurs looked for assistance in getting their businesses off the ground. Nobody has all the knowledge from the start, so it is always a good idea to find a mentor or coach who can assist you in life. They will hold you accountable for your actions, be there to guide you through decisions, and motivate you to succeed.

Grow Your Small Business

There are many ways to grow your start-up, but no progress occurs if you don’t make a decision or take action. In essence, it all comes down to you and your brain. You have to think well to do more and earn more.

During the Brain-A-Thon, six brain experts share tips about how you can leverage your mind to become more successful. Reserve your space today and get ready to change your life!

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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