Anyone looking to start a business or grow their current company knows being an entrepreneur requires hard work, long hours, and dedication. But what is it that sets successful entrepreneurs apart from everyday business owners?
There’s a lot that can be learned by studying the journeys of today’s top entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs face difficult challenges, and it’s often the way they react during these trying times that sets them apart from the pack. If you’re hoping to become an entrepreneur and looking for tips to help you grow, evolve, and stay relevant, here are 10 top entrepreneurs you’ll want to learn from.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential and famous entrepreneurs of our time. She has an incredible rags-to-riches story that inspired women across the world — particularly women of color — and with a net worth of more than $3 billion, she’s one of the most recognizable women in the world.
With an award-winning talk show, magazine, production studio, television channel, and multiple movies and tv shows under her belt, Oprah encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to be passionate, relatable, and to keep taking risks to grow. Oprah’s story also inspires future business owners to not accept their fears and doubts and know that building a successful business endeavor will require time and grit.
2. Bill Gates
Once the richest man in the world, now number two, and a household name throughout the world, Bill Gates is one of the most well-known entrepreneurs alive. Gates is famous for founding Microsoft, the largest PC-based software company, but is also renowned for his charitable work across the world.
There’s a lot to be learned from such an impressive and successful businessman. When studying the success of Microsoft, those who wish to form their own disruptive businesses should strive to stay ahead of the curve, move quickly, and always keep innovating and evolving. If Gates didn’t continuously push digital boundaries and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, he might not be where he is today.
3. Steve Jobs
It’s impossible to talk about influential entrepreneurial people without covering Steve Jobs. Jobs had an impressive backstory, another rags-to-riches tale. In fact, the late Jobs never even finished college because his family couldn’t afford to pay his tuition. Eager to learn, Jobs continued to audit classes and eventually formed the Apple Computer Company, which would revolutionize technology forever.
New and aspiring entrepreneurs should take his journey to heart. He taught us to always continue to learn and showed the world that you don’t need a college degree to become successful. Jobs also made bold moves and decisions that put Apple on the map as the only viable PC alternative — in fact, many consider PCs to be a lesser alternative to Apple products.
4. Elon Musk
Now officially the richest man in the world, Elon Musk is one of the top entrepreneur examples. This multifaceted entrepreneur broke many of the rules that suggest a business owner should focus on one industry or niche.
Musk started by founding a company called X.com, similar to PayPal, before becoming CEO of PayPal itself. He then moved on to found Tesla and unleashed new innovations within the auto industry. Today, Musk can be found working on his latest aeronautics SpaceX company.
What can you learn from this talented entrepreneur? Musk showed the world that you can start businesses across different industries and still be successful, as long as you continue to innovate, grow, and think beyond current limitations.
5. Janice Bryant Howroyd
Janice Bryant Howroyd shattered the glass ceiling when she officially became the first Black woman to run a business that brings in more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Howroyd founded Act 1 Group, an employment agency and job consultant company, in 1978, with very little capital.
Howroyd continued to grow the company over decades, adjusting and embracing technological advances to grow her company.
Howroyd is a great example of a Black woman pushing through cultural obstacles, and she believes wholeheartedly that helping others grow and thrive is the key to her success.
6. Daymond John
In the 90s and early 00s, you couldn’t go anywhere without encountering Daymond John’s famous clothing line, FUBU. John launched this clothing line in 1989, but it wasn’t initially successful. He actually had to work at Red Lobster to subsidize his company and the business even closed three times in its infancy.
Today, John is the founder of The Shark Group brand management agency and Blueprint + Co., a Midtown Manhattan coworking environment.
John now has a net worth of over $250 million, but his story shows budding entrepreneurs that starting a business isn’t for the meek. You’ll need to be prepared to handle rejection, work side hustles to make ends meet, and stay committed if you want to meet your goals.
7. Warren Buffett
Anyone looking for investing advice and insight knows Warren Buffett. This investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist is one of the most notable businessmen of our era. Buffet has a net worth of over $85 billion, which makes him the fourth richest person in the world.
Buffett is most well-known for his investing prowess. He earned over $53,000 from investments at the age of 16, and his current company, Berkshire Hathaway, which he bought and transformed from a textile business into a holding company.
While there’s much to learn from this financial guru, one of the aspects that distinguishes Buffett from other entrepreneurs is his frugal lifestyle and dedication to saving money.
8. Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon was inspired to form her own business after her experience working as a portfolio services director at Kapor Capital. There, Dixon saw firsthand how male founders presented themselves as opposed to Black, Latina, and other minority women.
This sparked the idea for her company, Founder Gym, which offers six-week courses designed to teach underrepresented founders and aspiring entrepreneurs how to raise capital and scale their businesses.
While many entrepreneurs concentrate on simply building wealth or innovating, Dixon is more of a social entrepreneur, whose business is founded on an idea designed to help uplift people of color.
Dixon is a clear example of an entrepreneur who seized an opportunity when it presented itself. Aspiring entrepreneurs should learn to look for problems that aren’t currently being addressed to find out if there’s hidden business potential.
9. Mark Zuckerberg
You might not hear the name Mark Zuckerberg as often as you did in the late 2000s, but he’s still an incredible example of how a big idea can blossom into a billion-dollar industry. Famous for founding Facebook, this tech entrepreneur and engineer stayed committed to his creation, even before it was a success.
In fact, Zuckerberg turned down offers from big corporations, including Yahoo, because he believed Facebook could be something bigger and integral to the way we communicate online — and he was right.
Key takeaways? Always trust your gut. If you believe your idea is worth following through, don’t be afraid to stick with it.
10. Payal Kadakia
One of the keys to becoming an accomplished entrepreneur is finding that one good idea that no one else in the marketplace has spotted. Payal Kadakia is the executive chairman and co-founder of ClassPass, a paid subscription service that allows users to search and book fitness classes and training sessions. Kadakia served as CEO of ClassPass for four years until she stepped down in 2017.
Kadakia’s success shows budding entrepreneurs that developing an idea in a niche market can pay off tenfold. She also attributes her success to decades of work and a passion for the industry she serves.
The bottom line
No matter what type of entrepreneur you’re hoping to become, these 10 real-life examples offer actionable insights that can help you grow into a forward-thinking business owner. The road to entrepreneurship is seldom easy, but if we’ve learned anything from these success stories, it’s that making bold decisions during rough times can pay off in the long run.