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Success Stories

Small Business Stories of Success

With a great, one-of-a-kind idea, an ambitious mindset, and determination, you can become a successful business owner. It may seem like a huge risk, but the reward can be even greater, especially with a strong plan. Take these rags to riches stories for example. The inspiring success stories all have a key takeaway you can remember when you move forward with your business endeavor.

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Five Small Business Success Stories: How did They do It?

1. eBay

Lesson: Start specific.

With the mission of dedication “to bringing together buyers and sellers in an honest and open marketplace,” Pierre Omidyar launched AuctionWeb in 1995. The first item sold was a broken laser pointer (that’s not the inspiring part obviously). It was a simple concept originally intended for selling collectibles but quickly developed into a total e-Commerce site due to true demand. In less than a year, the number of items sold reached over $7 million and Jeff Skoll was hired as president of the company. AuctionWeb was renamed eBay in September of 1997. In about ten years from starting, eBay had millions of users, purchased PayPal, gained over 15,000 employees, and had billions of dollars in revenue. Today, eBay operates in 30 countries and is a multibillion-dollar business and the successful business owner, Omidyar, is worth 10.5 billion!

2. Cirque de Soleil

Lesson: It takes risk.

In Quebec, Canada, Guy Laliberté saw an opportunity for his troupe of performers to show their skills in 1984 at the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada. The street performance was wild and outrageous, without any animals. It was called Cirque du Soleil because, according to Laliberté, “The sun symbolized youth, energy and strength.” In 1987, the group booked a one-way trip to the Los Angeles Festival and found success. It was dubbed the “modern circus” because it was theater-centric, did not have animals, and involved the audiences’ imagination, and eventually was a frequent show in Las Vegas. From the streets of Canada to a daily Los Vegas show, Laliberté’s Cirque du Soleil generates about $1 billion in annual revenue, while Laliberté (CEO) himself is worth about $1.2 billion. Talk about rags to riches story.

3. Ikea

Lesson: Be fearless.

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad started selling matches in the streets of south Sweden starting at age five and as he grew up he expanded his horizons to selling Christmas decorations, pencils, and other items. In 1943, when Kamprad was 17 he took his cash reward from his father for good grades and started Ikea, which originally only sold household items. Five years later, he started selling furniture and Ikea began to develop into what we know today (not as massive). He completely revolutionized the furniture market by cutting costs for customers by selling the furniture in pieces and assembling it themselves. Kamprad has been described as conscientious, open, and disagreeable, which are the traits that made him such a fearless entrepreneur at a young age. In 2018, the successful entrepreneur Kamprad died as the 8th richest man, worth $58.7 billion. Ikea currently operates in 63 countries.

4. Starbucks

Lesson: Be passionate about it.

Staying true to what inspires you will keep your focus and drive. If you’re passionate about your business endeavors, you’re more likely to be successful. Take Starbucks founders for example. Three students from the University of San Francisco, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siefl, and Gorden Bowker wanted to sell very high-quality coffee beans. They named their company Starbuck are a shipmate in Moby Dick. In 1982 Howard Schultz joined the Starbucks team and got the coffee beans into restaurants and espresso bars. He might be the real successful entrepreneur story here. He traveled to Milan and was infatuated with the fancy, popular espresso bars there and in 1984 he convinced the three founders to open a coffeehouse in Seattle. In 1987, the Schultz-founded company acquires Starbucks assets and opens in Chicago and Vancouver, with a total of 17 stores. A lot of people like coffee, but these entrepreneurs were so passionate about good quality coffee that they were determined to have success. Starbucks has six times as many employees as the Greenland general population, around 32,000 stores worldwide, and annual revenue of approximately $29 billion.

5. Harry Potter Franchise

Lesson:  Finish what you start.

J.K. Rowling’s mother died when Rowling was 25, and it took a huge toll on the young aspiring writer. She channeled her suffering into the feelings of Harry Potter, which is why the books are largely about death, and escaping it/wanting to live forever. She had a very hard first marriage, which eventually led to divorce, and as a single, jobless mother she was on welfare. The best way to get her daughter to sleep was to walk her around, leading her in and out of cafes while she wrote the first Harry Potter book. When she finally got “Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone,” the O.K. to be published, Scholastic bid $100,000 for American publishing rights, which is a very large amount for a children’s book. She said the biggest luxury of being a successful author is the lack of worry she now has. She wrote on her website, “I have not forgotten what it feels like to worry whether you’ll have enough money to pay the bills. Not to have to think about that anymore is the biggest luxury in the world.”

These success stories are inspirational to startup business owners, and it’s hard to imagine these wealthy individuals being so low at the beginning of their professional or personal lives. Don’t forget why you started your business and continue pushing yourself to succeed. If you need help making payroll or covering other expenses to pursue your dream, get in touch with us to get a free quote. For more advice for starting a business, check out our Startup Series for information and articles on everything from Management, Financing, Planning and more.

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