6 Famous Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Give Up

famous entrepreneurs who didn't give up startup founders overcoming obstacles richard branson

For entrepreneurs there is great value to be had in the age old saying ‘’If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’’. For many people initial rejection is the fuel for determination in entrepreneurship. Business can prove a difficult nut to crack, regardless of whether you are just starting out or if you are looking to build upon your successes. 

Let’s look at some big names in business, showbiz, and entrepreneurship who had to overcome failure to succeed. 

6 Famous Business Leaders Who Kept Going

1. Walt Disney 

It’s quite difficult to comprehend that someone who has created an entire fantasy world based on creativity and imagination was fired from his first job for not thinking big enough. This was the case for Walt Disney though, a treasured figure in the cartoon animation industry, who lends his namesake to some of the most famous productions and a whole host of theme parks which celebrate and are inspired by his works. As a cartoonist, animator and film producer, he faced a string of rejections before his career took off. One of his earliest ventures ‘Laugh-O-Grams’ went bankrupt after a brief run of success, and this triggered his big move to Hollywood; where he went on to form the Disney that we know today with his brother Roy and a fellow cartoonist, Ub Iwerks. 

After his death in 1966, his legacy was propelled into the mainstream and it is constantly being adapted, evolving from his original ideas into epic productions on the silver screen. In 2024, the company was worth a staggering $125 billion, which shows how prolific his creations have become. 

From ‘The Three Little Pigs’ being rejected as it only had four characters, to Mickey Mouse being deemed "too scary for women’’, Walt Disney took many criticisms and progressed through them, creating a world of characters and stories which guided the childhood years of people all around the world. 

2. Simon Cowell 

The intensely crucial music mogul is notorious for his work in the entertainment industry, and in 2022 his net worth is near an eye-watering £456 million. His television phenomenon The X Factor first aired in 2004, and it was an immediate hit with viewers. However, his road to success was not without any struggles. In his education, his teachers deemed him a failure, with consistently low grades and a series of expulsions from numerous boarding schools. He began his working life as a clerk at EMI, a prolific record company, and he left at 23 to start his own recording venture; only for it to fold by the time he was 24. When he turned 30, he filed for bankruptcy, having lost all of his revenue he moved back in with his parents. His turning point unfolded during his time at BMG as a music consultant, where his pop acts made more than 25 million in album sales and had 17 UK singles. It was onwards and upwards from then on for Cowell, and he still remains a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. 

3. Steven Spielberg 

Not all of us can boast a glowing record in our years of education – but neither can the notable American director, producer and screenwriter, Steven Spielberg. His career spans over four decades and he is considered as a pioneer of the New Hollywood Era, but things didn’t just fall into place for him. After finishing high school with poor grades, Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California 3 times, but he did not simply accept this. By 1996, he was an honorary graduate and a trustee at USC, and by this time he had directed a long string of titles including Jaws (1975), E.T The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and The Colour Purple (1985). He is regarded by many as one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry, winning 3 Academy Awards and 7 Emmy’s. As of 2024, Spielberg’s net worth was a staggering $3.7 billion, making him testament to the idea that your school grades really do not always follow you into professional life. 

4. Richard Branson 

The words Richard Branson and failure don’t seem to sit naturally together, considering he is one of the world’s most infamous entrepreneurs. A school dropout, Branson has had some of the most notorious successes, alongside a string of failures. His first money spinning venture, Virgin Records, set a precedent and he has since branched out in to areas such as Virgin Galactic – a space-tourism initiative. The first actual business idea Branson had was Student, a generational magazine that attracted a string of big names but struggled to make serious profits. In 1984, Branson launched Virgin Atlantic Airlines, but it almost failed to take off at all, never mind become one of the biggest names in the aviation industry – due to a flock of stray birds flying into his test flight Boeing 747. Branson was constantly trying to break into unchartered territories, but his soda venture was a notable failure. Set to rival Coke and Pepsi, in 1994 he found that Virgin Cola just wasn’t selling. However, he seems to have found the winning formula, with a current net worth of $4.1 billion. 

5. Oprah Winfrey 

While her talk show which began in 1986 is one of the highest–ranking television programs in American history, Oprah is hailed as ‘The Queen of All Media’ and rightly so. However, the road to success wasn’t a simple journey, as the now billionaire screen queen and philanthropist found out. Her self–titled program is renowned for its empathy and compassion, and Oprah Winfrey herself is praised for how attuned she is with her audience. Oprah’s couch has become a point for people to confide and share thoughts and feelings, taking a personal setting and broadcasting it to millions of viewers eager to relate to her ability to create universal sentiments. 

She has tackled taboos at every end of the scale, giving a platform to those who bear the brunt of racism and tragedy. However, she was slated by producers in the past for these exact qualities, deciding that she was far too emotional to succeed in the industry. She has truly created her own self–help empire, and in 2013 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest honor for civilians) by then president, Barack Obama. 

6. The Beatles 

Well I guess The Beatles count as 4 famous entrepreneurs, not to mention the other promoters and businessmen that helped their career. But regardless of that fact, The Beatles defied the odds to become one of the world's most successful, if not the most successful, band of all time. 

That iconic Abbey Road shot may have just been an ordinary zebra crossing if The Beatles had listened to the first record label that they auditioned for. In fact, Decca Records could have changed the whole course of British music history, as they told George, John, Paul and Ringo that ‘’guitar music was on its way out’’, concluding that their sound was unpolished and not current enough. Not many other bands would’ve had the sticking power after being knocked back by the leading record label of their time, but the foursome did not take it as the end. They were ahead of their time in terms of the music that they demonstrated to Decca, and while this didn’t go in their favor, they soared to stardom and their first UK album topped the U.K charts for an astounding 30 weeks. In fact, The Beatles demonstrated the power of innovation by revising perceptions of rock music. 

Never Give Up In Business Or Life If You Want To Become A Famous Entrepreneur

So what is the moral of the story here? Failure isn’t definitive, and there is always room for revision to get where you want to be. You can overcome any obstacle in business and life like these famous entrepreneurs and entertainers in 2024.

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