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40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

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40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up
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Entrepreneur Staff
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16 min read

For many, the path to their job is winding, with a lot of stops, starts and detours along the way. For others, they saw what they wanted in their mind early on and always stayed on one track.

Related: 6 Tips for Goal-Setting That, Trust Me, They Don't Teach You in College

No matter where we are today or how we got there, all of us at one time has a childhood aspiration that probably informs some of what we do today.

Read on for what some of the most innovative founders wanted to be when they grew up.

Related video: How Do You Get New Employees Invested in Your Mission as You Scale?

 

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Merrill Stubbs

Merrill Stubbs
Image credit: Food52

Name: Merrill Stubbs
Company: Food52
Childhood dream: I really wanted to be a performer. I did a lot of acting and singing as a kid and teenager. I think I was pretty convinced for a while that was my destiny. But I don't think I had the backbone for the rejection that comes with that path. Ultimately when I was deciding between a conservatory as opposed to a liberal arts college, that's when I made that decision: to keep singing as something for fun rather than my career.

Read more about Stubbs: The Life-Changing Book That Helps This Entrepreneur Think Big

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Ryan Holmes

Ryan Holmes
Image credit: Hootsuite

Name: Ryan Holmes
Company: Hootsuite
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a video game developer, but after high school, I decided to do the practical thing and study business in university. That turned out to be a mistake. I dropped out and opened a series of businesses, including a pizza joint, before finally getting back to what I originally loved, in a way, with Hootsuite.

Read more about Holmes: How Following His Heart Led This Entrepreneur to Start a Multi-Billion Dollar Company

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Julia Hartz

Julia Hartz
Image credit: EventBrite

Name: Julia Hartz
Company: Eventbrite
Childhood dream: I wanted to work in television, and I did! I studied broadcast journalism at Pepperdine University. After a short career in television with MTV and later on at FX Network, I found my true calling in Eventbrite.

Read more about Hartz: The Day This Eventbrite Co-Founder Learned When to Speak Up

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Tim Chen

Tim Chen
Image credit: Nerdwallet

Name: Tim Chen
Company: Nerdwallet
Childhood dream: I grew up in Houston near NASA, and I thought I wanted to be an aerospace engineer because huge flying objects seemed really cool at the time.

Read more about Chen: Nerdwallet's Founder Shares the Worst Advice He Ever Got

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Daniella Yacobovsky

Daniella Yacobovsky
Image credit: BaubleBar

Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Company: BaubleBar
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a singer for a very long time. I used to beg my father to take me on Star Search. Ultimately, I did not go to Star Search, but I did do a lot of singing and art classes. I always loved tapping into my creative side, even though in school I ended up pursuing math and finance and that ended up being my initial post-college path.

 

Read more about Yacobovsky: This Co-Founder of BaubleBar's Secret for Inspiration? Always 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled.'

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Gavin Armstrong

Gavin Armstrong
Image credit: Lucky Iron Fish

Name: Gavin Armstrong
Company: Lucky Iron Fish
Childhood dream: When I was little, I did want to be an entrepreneur. My uncle started his own company when I was in elementary school, and I always admired him for that. His company sold plumbing and washroom equipment. I went into work with him all the time; I swept the floors for nothing just to be in the office, loved the atmosphere and felt proud by association.

Read more about Armstrong: This CEO Has Helped Thousands -- and He's Just Getting Started
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Oliver Kharraz

Oliver Kharraz
Image credit: Zocdoc

Name: Oliver Kharraz
Company: Zocdoc
Childhood dream: A doctor. My father was a doctor, his father, and his father before that. It was really passed down in my family. In a lot of ways the underlying value for this was that I've always been taught that talent breeds responsibility, and so being a doctor was a very direct way to live up to that responsibility.

 

Read more about Kharraz: This Founder Says to Succeed You Need to Question Everything

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Matt Ehrlichman

Matt Ehrlichman
Image credit: Porch

Name: Matt Ehrlichman
Company: Porch
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a pro-basketball player, and then realized I wasn't going to be nearly as athletic enough. Luckily, for me, I got on the entrepreneur track very early. I started my first company at 14; I was selling sand dollars on the street.

Read more about Ehrlichman: How This Founder Uses His Competitiveness to Succeed in Business

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Jennie Ripps

Jennie Ripps
Image credit: Nicole Franzen

Name: Jennie Ripps
Company: Owl's Brew
Childhood dream: I always wanted to make things and what that meant changed. I wanted to make bracelets and then I wanted to make lemonade. So I always wanted to be a maker but there was no profession that I was drawn towards. I was just more excited by the idea of trying to build and make things and that shifted with age.

Read more about Ripps: The One Thing This Entrepreneur Does Each Day to Stay Productive

 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Angie Hicks

Angie Hicks
Image credit: Courtesy of Angie Hicks

Name: Angie Hicks
Company: Angie's List
Childhood dream: I loved math, so I actually wanted to be an actuary. Calculating life insurance and probability and stuff like that. It's a really exciting career, I know.

Read more about Hicks: This Introvert Founder Swears by This Management Tip
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Whitney Wolfe

Whitney Wolfe
Image credit: Bumble

Name: Whitney Wolfe
Company: Bumble
Childhood dream: I was very artistic and never strong with numbers or science. I wanted to be an artist or a fashion designer. I wanted to be something that allowed for a lot of imagination.

Read more about Wolfe: The Founder of Bumble Reveals How the 'Question of Nine' Can Help You Stay Focused

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin
Image credit: Kara Goldin

Name: Kara Goldin
Company: Hint
Childhood dream: I fluctuated between wanting to be a lawyer and a vet. I was always obsessed with animals. Someone once said to me, and I think it's true, that you can tell a lot about people's character by how they treat animals and how animals respond to them. I also thought about being a lawyer, because I always had to fight for what I wanted as the youngest of five kids.

Read more about Goldin: The Entrepreneur Behind a $90 Million Company Shares How You Can Get Past the Naysayers to Build a Successful Business

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Bea Fischel-Bock

Bea Fischel-Bock
Image credit: Courtesy of Hutch

Name: Bea Fischel-Bock
Company: Hutch
Childhood dream: I'm pretty much obsessed with animals, so I thought I was going to be a vet until I saw my dog after surgery and realized there was blood involved. Once I got clarity on the fact that being a vet didn't just mean meeting cute dogs and cats, I shifted my attention to my passion for design.

Read more about Fischel-Bock: This Founder Shares Why In Order To Learn Fast, You Need to Fail Fast

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Daniel Lubetzky

Daniel Lubetzky
Image credit: Kind

Name: Daniel Lubetzky
Company: KIND
Childhood dream: In all seriousness, I wanted to be a magician with special powers that would cause enemies to become friends. I didn't like to see people fighting.

Read more about Lubetzky: How a 9-Year-Old Taught This Super Successful Entrepreneur About Taking Risks

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

John Zimmer

John Zimmer
Image credit: Lyft

Name: John Zimmer
Company: Lyft
Childhood dream: A doughnut man. That was the first thing I told my parents. I used to go to Dunkin' Donuts, and I told them that I wanted to be a doughnut man. That was a person that was making the doughnuts. I used to talk to the people that were making them and so just my love of doughnuts made me want to make them too. This is when I was 5.

Read more about Zimmer: Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer: 'You Should Never Veer Off the Path of Your Own Values'

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Jen Rubio

Jen Rubio
Image credit: Masha Maltsava

Name: Jen Rubio
Company: Away
Childhood dream: I thought I was going to be a lawyer, at least until I got to college. I liked to argue. That was what appealed to me.

Read more about Rubio: Use This Founder's Top Tip To Make Your Meetings Work For You

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

David Bladow

David Bladow
Image credit: Courtesy of BloomThat

Name: David Bladow
Company: BloomThat
Childhood dream: An NBA basketball player. I wanted to be a basketball player and entrepreneur. I'm 5 feet 9 inches tall, but I was better suited for the latter. I always wanted to work for myself, even when I didn't know what I was going to be. My grandfather, dad, mom and stepdad are all entrepreneurs. I've never known anything else, none of them never had bosses. I grew up with that mentality.

Read more about Bladow: This Founder Has 3 Simple Tips to Achieve Maximum Productivity

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Carrie Dorr

Carrie Dorr
Image credit: Pure Barre

Name: Carrie Dorr
Company: Pure Barre
Childhood dream: I wanted to be Janet Jackson's choreographer and one of her backup dancers. I started dancing when I was 3. I taught dance and fitness classes through law school and after I graduated, my second chapter, I wanted to save every woman and child on the planet who needed help. Two very different desires that ended up crossing paths later in life.

Read more about Dorr: This Founder Shares How to Tailor Your Schedule to Fit Your Brain

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Bastian Lehmann

Bastian Lehmann
Image credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images

Name: Bastian Lehmann
Company: Postmates
Childhood dream: I always wanted to be a movie director. Stanley Kubrick is my absolute favorite. I think what a director does, and how you give life to an idea is related to building a company. I want to be the guy that makes things work out.

Read more about Lehmann: This Founder Shares the One Trait He Looks for in Every Hire

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Randi Zuckerberg

Randi Zuckerberg
Image credit: Randi Zuckerberg

Name: Randi Zuckerberg
Company: Zuckerberg Media
Childhood dream: For a while, I wanted to be a mermaid, but apparently that was not a tangible goal. I really wanted to sing on Broadway. That was my big goal my entire life. I eventually gave it up to go into something reasonable, like technology and entrepreneurship.

Read more about Zuckerberg: Why Everyone Can Use Randi Zuckerberg's Number One Focus Tip

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Heidi Zak

Heidi Zak
Image credit: ThirdLove

Name: Heidi Zak
Company: ThirdLove
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. I looked up to Katie Couric when she was at the Today Show. I think she was just really knowledgeable and came across as very friendly -- something about her that was really real. I liked that about her.

Read more about Zak: What This Founder Learned at a Farmstand Helped Her Bra Startup

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Alex Friedman

Alex Friedman
Image credit: Matthew Eisman | Getty Images

Name: Alex Friedman
Company: Lola
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a cartoonist. I spent a lot of time as a kid doing arts and crafts. I loved to draw, and I started buying books that were all about being a cartoonist 101 and about drawing comics. Eventually, I created my own series of characters and made my own comic book. .

Read more about Friedman: How You Can Use Your Computer Password to Make Your Aspirations a Reality

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Katrina Lake

Katrina Lake
Image credit: Katrina Lake

Name: Katrina Lake
Company: Stitch Fix
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a doctor. I was pre-med at school, and I even took the MCAT. My ultimate decision was that I didn't love the work environment in a hospital. It just didn't feel like me, like this is where I want to spend the rest of my life.

Read more about Lake: Stitch Fix Founder Explains Why the Worst Piece of Advice She Ever Got Was to Raise A Lot of Money

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Luis von Ahn

Luis von Ahn
Image credit: Courtesy of Duolingo

Name: Luis von Ahn
Company: Duolingo
Childhood dream: At first my mother was very concerned because I wanted to be a fire truck, not a firefighter. Then I wanted to be a policeman, a doctor, an astronomer and then I settled on professor, which I ended up being for the first part of my career.

Read more about von Ahn: Why This Founder Says the Worst Advice He Ever Got Was to Listen to His Users
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison
Image credit: Courtesy of Charity: Water

Name: Scott Harrison
Company: Charity:Water
Childhood dream: I grew up with a mother who was incredibly sick, so I wanted to be a doctor to help people like her.

Read more about Harrison: Everyone Can Adopt This Founder's One-Step Productivity Advice
 
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Bruce Poon Tip

Bruce Poon Tip
Image credit: G Adventures

Name: Bruce Poon Tip
Company: G Adventures
Childhood dream: I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had three companies before I turned 15, won a gold medal in entrepreneurship in my province in Canada at the age of 14. I had my first business at 11.

Read more about Poon Tip: I Was About to Shut Down My Business but I Changed My Mind. Here's Why.
40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Ayah Bdeir

Ayah Bdeir
Image credit: Courtesy of Ayah Bdeir

Name: Ayah Bdeir
Company: LittleBits
Childhood dream: I wanted to be an architect. I was good at math and science, and I also liked art and design. I felt like architecture was kind of a combo. I didn't become an architect for the silliest reason. My mom said, "Well your oldest sister is already an architect, we don't need two architects in the family."And I was like OK, then I'll become an engineer. It was a very quick pivot, but now I'm happy that I did engineering.

Read more about Bdeir: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why Revenue Is Not the Most Important Thing (and What Is)

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams
Image credit: Courtesy of Wendy Williams

Name: Wendy Williams
Company: The Wendy Williams Show and the Hunter Foundation
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a newscaster or radio personality. I grew up in New York tri-state area, and so I had the best influences with our New York broadcasters.

Read more about Williams: Media Mogul Wendy Williams on Why She's So Happy She Ignored the Worst Advice She Ever Received

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Dr. Katie Rodan

Dr. Katie Rodan
Image credit: Rodan + Fields

Name: Dr. Katie Rodan
Company: Rodan + Fields
Childhood dream: I always wanted to be in business for myself and recognized this ambition at a young age, starting with Girl Scouts. One year, our troop sold so many cookies we won a trip to Disneyland. Instead of riding the rides, I spent the day outside the ticket booth selling each individual ticket. My parents couldn't believe it when I came home with a pocket full of money. A couple of years later, around age 13, I started a small business creating and selling purses and beaded necklaces to a retail shop. In a few years, I made enough money to buy myself a car. These early experiences rewarded me for being resourceful and fueled my fire to seek an entrepreneurial path.

Read more about Dr. Katie Rodan: Want to Build a Billion-Dollar Business? Here Are 2 Simple Ideas That Helped These Two Skincare Heavyweights.

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Alexa von Tobel

Alexa von Tobel
Image credit: Courtesy of Alexa von Tobel

Name: Alexa von Tobel
Company: LearnVest
Childhood dream: I used to think the coolest people ever were CEOs of companies. I used to think they were all rock stars, and people who invented and created and ran corporations. I was always fascinated by that as I got older.

Read more about Tobel: This Entrepreneur Shares Her Surprising Secret to Fighting Decision Fatigue

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Tamara Mellon

Tamara Mellon
Image credit: Tamara Mellon

Company: Tamara Mellon
Childhood dream: I always wanted to be in the fashion business, or a psychologist. While it's obvious which one I ended up in, I still love being an armchair therapist with my girlfriends.

Read more about Mellon: Jimmy Choo's Co-Founder Explains Why There Are No Small Jobs

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Vicki Fulop

Vicki Fulop
Image credit: Brooklinen

Company: Brooklinen
Childhood dream: I wanted to be three things: a singer, but I can't sing, so that didn't work out; an actress -- I would rope my friends into performing plays with me; and fashion designer, and I've gotten close to that. When I look back they had a common theme in that I always loved storytelling.

Read more about Fulop: Use This Founder's Simple Email Strategy to Keep Burnout at Bay

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Nirav Tolia

Nirav Tolia
Image credit: Nirav Tolia

Company: Nextdoor
Childhood dream: Definitely not a CEO. It wasn't even a consideration. Both of my parents are physicians, both of my grandfathers are physicians, and I always aspired to be a surgeon like my father.

Read more about Tolia: This Successful Entrepreneur Shares How You Can Build A High-Performing Company While Staying True to Your Values

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Jennifer Hyman

Jennifer Hyman
Image credit: Jennifer Hyman

Company: Rent the Runway
Childhood dream: I still want to be all the things today that I wanted to be as a kid: a singer in a Motown band, a Knicks city dancer or a Broadway star. Careers have many chapters, so who knows?

Read more about Hyman: Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Shares Her Worst Advice Ever: 'Shut Up and Act Sweet'

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Christene Barberich

Christene Barberich
Image credit: Frankie Marin

Company: Refinery29
Childhood dream: A writer and an editor. It never changed.

Read more about Barberich: Why Your Done List is Just as Important as Your To-Do List

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Sarah Kauss

Sarah Kauss
Image credit: Sarah Kauss

Company: S'well
Childhood dream: I wanted to be a teacher, but then towards the end of second grade I decided I already learned everything, so I probably should be a professor instead.

Read more about Kauss: This Successful Entrepreneur Shares Why You Should Do The Thing You Dread Most First Thing Every Day

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran
Image credit: Barbara Corcoran

Company: Forefront Venture Partners
Childhood dream: I had no idea what I was going to be. I just wanted to see what was outside the little town where I grew up. It was two miles long and two blocks wide -- not very big -- and everybody knew everybody.

Read more about Corcoran: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran Explains Why You Must Make Time in Your Schedule For Fun

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Tristan Walker

Tristan Walker
Image credit: Tristan Walker

Company: Walker & Company
Childhood dream: I wanted to work on Wall Street or play basketball. They were the easiest ways to get wealthy, as far as I saw it. With basketball, I figured that wasn't going to work out. I got to do the Wall Street thing but that didn't work out either. I fell into something [with this business] that I'm pretty passionate about.

Read more about Walker: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why You Don't Need Billions to Build a Brand That Hits Home

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Payal Kadakia

Payal Kadakia
Image credit: Payal Kadakia

Company: ClassPass
Childhood dream: In third grade I built a model stadium called Payal's Palace of Arts, complete with an ice skating rink and dance performance space. While I didn't have a clear sense for what I wanted to be when I grew up, I think in retrospect that the clues foreshadowed a future combining creativity with my passion for being active.

Read more about Kadakia: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why You Can't Succeed Unless You Invest in Yourself

40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

Melanie Perkins

Melanie Perkins
Image credit: Melanie Perkins

Company: Canva
Childhood dream: I guess you could say that design had always played a big role in my life. When I was 14 I started my first business creating handmade scarves that I sold at shops and markets throughout Perth, and I never forgot the freedom and excitement of being able to build a business. That was one of the driving forces that led me to launch what would evolve to be Canva.

Rad more about Perkins: She Was Told 'No' 100 Times. Now This 30-Year-Old Female Founder Runs a $1 Billion Business.

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  • 40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal What They Wanted to Be When They Grew Up
  • 1. Merrill Stubbs
  • 2. Ryan Holmes
  • 3. Julia Hartz
  • 4. Tim Chen
  • 5. Daniella Yacobovsky
  • 6. Gavin Armstrong
  • 7. Oliver Kharraz
  • 8. Matt Ehrlichman
  • 9. Jennie Ripps
  • 10. Angie Hicks
  • 11. Whitney Wolfe
  • 12. Kara Goldin
  • 13. Bea Fischel-Bock
  • 14. Daniel Lubetzky
  • 15. John Zimmer
  • 16. Jen Rubio
  • 17. David Bladow
  • 18. Carrie Dorr
  • 19. Bastian Lehmann
  • 20. Randi Zuckerberg
  • 21. Heidi Zak
  • 22. Alex Friedman
  • 23. Katrina Lake
  • 24. Luis von Ahn
  • 25. Scott Harrison
  • 26. Bruce Poon Tip
  • 27. Ayah Bdeir
  • 28. Wendy Williams
  • 29. Dr. Katie Rodan
  • 30. Alexa von Tobel
  • 31. Tamara Mellon
  • 32. Vicki Fulop
  • 33. Nirav Tolia
  • 34. Jennifer Hyman
  • 35. Christene Barberich
  • 36. Sarah Kauss
  • 37. Barbara Corcoran
  • 38. Tristan Walker
  • 39. Payal Kadakia
  • 40. Melanie Perkins
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