You hear it all the time from famous entrepreneurs: Long before they were running multimillion-dollar companies, they were flexing their entrepreneurial skills by selling lemonade on the corner, building gadgets in their garage or hosting weekly college beer pong tournaments. It seems that behind every successful mogul is a kid who grew up knowing they were born for business.
But what exactly is it that sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest? What is it that makes certain people believe in themselves enough to take the prospect of failure head-on and have the determination to come out on top? It takes a special kind of person to set an idea in motion, riding the highs and lows from humble beginnings to ultimate success.
The entrepreneurial spirit is a gift that inspires others to become the best they can be. From passion and positivity to leadership and ambition, here are the entrepreneurs that best define the entrepreneurial spirit.
No one embodies the word "passion" quite like Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin mega-brand. Part of Branson's passion lies in his insatiable appetite for starting companies. Founded in 1970, the Virgin Group has expanded to more than 200 companies, ranging from music, publishing, mobile phones and even space travel. "Businesses are like buses," he once said. "There's always another one coming."
Part of Branson's appeal is that he not only has passion for business, but an incredible passion for life. Branson is famous for his adventurous streak and zest for life, making him one of the most admired entrepreneurs for his ability to have a successful work/life balance.
Jeff Bezos knows the power of positive thinking. Living by the motto that "every challenge is an opportunity," Bezos set out to create the biggest bookstore in the world with a little internet startup called Amazon.
Amazon.com launched in July 1995, and with no press, managed to sell $20,000 a week within two months. By the end of the '90s, though, the dot-com bust had brought Amazon's shares from $100 to $6. To add insult to injury, critics predicted that the launch of Barnes & Nobles' rival website would wipe out Amazon. Instead of hiding in the corner, Bezos came out fighting with optimism and confidence, pointing out to critics all the positive things his company had accomplished and would continue to do.
Bezos continued to expand Amazon, which now sells everything from books to clothes to toys and more. Bezos claims his wife loves to say, "If Jeff is unhappy, wait three minutes." Thanks to Bezos' positive thinking, Amazon.com has grown into a $5.7 billion company.
Having the ability to adapt is one of the greatest strengths an entrepreneur can have. Every successful business owner must be willing to improve, refine and customize their services to continually give customers what they want.
Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page take this concept a step further by not just reacting to change, but leading the way. Google continually leads the internet with innovative ideas that allow people to see and do things in ways they couldn't before (think Google Earth). With their ability to continually be one step ahead, its no wonder Google is one of the most powerful companies on the web.
A good leader is someone with charisma, a sense of ethics and a desire to build integrity within an organization--someone who's enthusiastic, team oriented and a great teacher. All of these attributes were embodied by the late Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, a company that has helped more than half a million women fulfill their dreams of owning a business.
Ash's story began as a single mother, working in sales for a home products company. Despite being one of the top sales directors for 25 years, Ash was repeatedly refused the promotions and pay raises her male co-workers were receiving. Fed up with the way she was being treated, Ash started Mary Kay Inc. in 1963 with $5,000.
Ash was best known for being a powerful motivator and inspirational leader, creating a company with a "You can do it!" attitude. Her sometimes over-the-top incentives included the famous pink Cadillacs she would give top sales directors. Thanks to her powerful leadership skills, Ash has been named one of the 25 most influential business leaders in the last 35 years, and her company has been recognized as one of the best companies to work for in America.
At age 20, Debbi Fields didn't have much. She was a young housewife with no business experience, but what she did have was a great chocolate chip cookie recipe and a dream to share it with the world.
Fields opened her first Mrs. Field's store1977, despite being told she was crazy to believe a business could survive solely on selling cookies. Fields' headstrong determination and ambition helped her grow her little cookie store into a $450 million company with more than 600 locations in the U.S. and 10 foreign nations.