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Entrepreneurs > 20 Questions

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

Start early, think big.
Jared Siskin | Getty Images

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?

 

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

1. Merrill Stubbs

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

 

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

2. Ryan Holmes

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

 

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

3. Julia Hartz

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

 

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

4. Tim Chen

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

 

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

5. Daniella Yacobovsky

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.'

 

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

6. Gavin Armstrong

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

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

7. Oliver Kharraz

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

 

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

8. Matt Ehrlichman

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

 

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

9. Jennie Ripps

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

 

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

10. Angie Hicks

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

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

11. Whitney Wolfe

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

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

12. Kara Goldin

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

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

13. Bea Fischel-Bock

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

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

14. Daniel Lubetzky

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

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

15. John Zimmer

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'

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

16. Jen Rubio

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

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

17. David Bladow

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

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

18. Carrie Dorr

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

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

19. Bastian Lehmann

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

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

20. Randi Zuckerberg

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

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

21. Heidi Zak

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

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

22. Alex Friedman

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

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

23. Katrina Lake

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

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

24. Luis von Ahn

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
 

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

25. Scott Harrison

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

 

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

26. Bruce Poon Tip

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.
 

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

27. Ayah Bdeir

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)

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

28. Wendy Williams

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

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

29. Dr. Katie Rodan

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.

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

30. Alexa von Tobel

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