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Rags to riches: entrepreneurs who came from nothing

Georgia Amundson

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Oprah Winfrey

There have been some amazing, inspiring stories of entrepreneurs coming from absolutely nothing. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and it’s a powerful reminder to everyone across the world to strive for happiness and success. Here are some of the most potent, awe-inspiring rags to riches the world has seen.

Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz served as the CEO and chairman of a little coffee company called Starbucks. He was born in an incredibly impoverished area of Brooklyn, New York, and spent most of his childhood in public housing projects. His father was a truck driver.

He graduated from Northern Michigan University with a B.A. in Communications and subsequently took up a role with Xerox as a salesman. In 1979, he became the general manager of Hammarplast, who supplied coffee machine parts to cafes. During this time, he came across the Starbucks Coffee Company, which he joined the following year.

At 29, Schultz was responsible for revitalising their retail operations and marketing. He oversaw the expansion of Starbucks into a global entity and international force in the coffee industry. As of April 2020, he is worth $4 billion US.

Oprah Winfrey

Most people know the story of Oprah Winfrey. She was born in Mississippi to an unmarried teenage mother and spent the first six years of her life living in rural poverty. She was molested by several family members and even gave birth to a son when she was just 14. He was born prematurely, however, and he died shortly after birth.

At 17, she began working in media and picked up work with a local radio station, WVOL. She relocated to Chicago and began hosting morning talk shows, like AM Chicago. Within a month of working on AM Chicago, the show’s ratings went through the roof. The rest is history.

Oprah is often credited with revolutionising talk show television, earning her the title “The Queen of All Media”.

I am a journalist with significant experience covering entrepreneurial, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the senior editor I report on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others.

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3 things you shouldn’t do as an entrepreneur

Georgia Amundson

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Steve Jobs

If you were to peruse a range of guides advising you on the best strategies for becoming an entrepreneur, chances are you wouldn’t find much relating to what you shouldn’t be doing. The world of business is built on entrepreneurial blunders, strategies mishaps and complete misfires. Want to know what you should be avoiding? Read on to find out.

Chase fame and success in the wrong places

Most young, naïve entrepreneurs are driven by one principle: get rich and famous. However, there’s more to being an entrepreneur and successful business owner than achieving fame and financial success. If you choose to operate your business on that philosophy, you are doomed to fail. If you want the best chance of success, make sure it revolves around something you are passionate about. Passion is arguably the essential attribute of a good entrepreneur.

Make everything about the customer

There is this misguided view that EVERYTHING must be about the customer. While adopting a customer-centric approach is crucial, letting down individual customers is unavoidable sometimes. You can’t please everyone, no matter how perfect your business is. Steve Jobs was reportedly a victim of this, especially when designing the iPhone.

Try and keep your messaging simple. Ensure that your staff are aware that pleasing the customer is essential; however, make sure there is some flexibility in that message. Honour the customer’s wishes, but don’t assume everything they want or need is essential. You’ll end up hurting most of your customers and pleasing the minority.

Use ineffective servant leadership

Most business owners think “servant” leadership is the philosophy your workers need to use. However, it’s the opposite. It would help if you worked to “serve” your employees, thereby giving them what they need to succeed. This includes things like training, compassion and holding them to a high standard. Sometimes, the most appropriate form of servant leadership is making someone redundant when things aren’t working out. It seems mean and harsh, but it’s unfair to keep someone in a job they aren’t thriving in.

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The crazy entrepreneurial stories that you’ll find inspiring and wacky

Georgia Amundson

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Mark Zuckerberg

Most business stories are conventional – a business magnate born into wealth, a “rags to riches” stories or a regular business owner that suddenly falls into that “lightbulb” moment. Some of these crazy stories below happened after the person had become an enormous business success; however, that doesn’t undermine the value of the story in any way. If you’re struggling to find success in your career, check out some of these ridiculous stories for inspiration, or to pass the time.

Mark Zuckerberg radically changed his diet

Zuckerberg is universally known as the founder and creator of Facebook (albeit contentiously). In 2011, Zuckerberg decided to switch things up in his diet by announcing that he would only eat meat that he killed. The purpose was to learn about sustainable farming and more ethical forms of consumption. The Facebook founder lived this way for a year before switching back to meat from the store.

Clive Palmer loves dinosaurs

Famous Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, loves dinosaurs so much that he tried to clone a dinosaur. He discussed the idea with scientists; however, it never took off. To quell his fix for the prehistoric icons, Palmer opened a dinosaur theme park called Palmersaurus in 2013. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long either.

David Daneshgar funded his start-up via poker winnings

David Daneshgar is the co-founder of BloomNation, an online floral marketplace. While he’s not a billionaire, Daneshgar is a multi-millionaire whose fortune came off the back of winning a poker tournament. He and a group of friends needed around $30 000 to get BloomNation up and running, which just happened to be the prize winnings attached to a poker tournament (the World Series of Poker in 2008). After collecting the money needed, Daneshgar reportedly told his friends “It’s flower time”.

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Inside the mind of George Soros: one of the most controversial entrepreneurs

Georgia Amundson

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George Soros

George Soros is, without a doubt, one of the most polarising entrepreneurs in modern history. His business acumen and philanthropy work have brought him acclamation and praise from some; however, those same decisions have brought him condemnation and criticism from others. Why is George Soros so controversial? Well, let’s hear his story to find out more.

He fled the Nazis in Hungary

Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. He endured a Nazi Germany-occupied Hungary and subsequently emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1947. After relocating, Soros graduated from the highly acclaimed London School of Economics with a Bachelor’s degree.

Black Wednesday

Given his turbulent upbringing, many would assume that Soros is widely respected for his rise to financial fame. However, Soros had an instrumental role in the 1992 UK currency crisis, known colloquially as “Black Wednesday”. Soros’ fund short sold over $10 billion worth of pounds sterling, which subsequently earned him a profit of over $1 billion. His intervention caused massive economic instability, and from then one he became known as “The Man Who Broke the Bank of England”. His involvement was lambasted by political leaders, many of whom claimed that he was partially responsible for economic downturns and market contractions.

Fall of communism

Soros was also pivotal in influencing the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe, naturally bringing him criticism from radical left-leaning groups across the world.

Criticism of China

Furthermore, Soros has also been highly critical of China and its economic approach. He did, however, praise their government as vigorous and more robust than the United States. Nonetheless, he did concede that China would represent a grave threat to open societies and free democracy, criticising the Chinese Communist Party for engaging in totalitarian tactics. In January 2019, Soros reaffirmed that Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE should not be forbidden from engaging in 5G telecommunications.

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