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How 5 Entrepreneurs With Household Names Turned Failing Businesses Into Successes

by Marshall Childs


Posted on Friday Sep 22, 2017 at 10:00AM in Finance


This post was orginally published on this blog

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck. Most of all, you need the right business idea.

Take it from Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, who has seen many of his business ventures, including Virgin Cola, Virgin Cosmetics, Virgin Cars and more fail. On the Virgin blog, he wrote, “I’ve been failing for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’ve been failing even longer than that -- I fell over many times as a baby before learning how to walk. The pattern has continued into adulthood and my life as an entrepreneur, and I have learned and loved every step of the way.”

For many small businesses, failure is inevitable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 50 percent will fail within their first four years.

The path to success, then, is not a straight line, and entrepreneurs can expect to encounter many challenges along the way. But how you react to those challenges and how you pick yourself up and keep on going will determine your success.

These five entrepreneurs are no strangers to adversity. Here’s how they took failing businesses and turned them into huge successes:

In partnership with Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976, and their company achieved initial success. The Apple I and Apple II computers launched the company into powerhouse territory, but subsequent  products tanked.

The executives of the company blamed Jobs for the company’s misfortune and began phasing him out. Jobs left the company in 1985. During his time away, the company continued to flounder, struggling to compete against Microsoft.

In his 2005 Stanford commencement address, Jobs said, “I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and revitalized the company, bringing it back from the brink of bankruptcy. With new products like the iMac, and eventually the iPod, iPhone and iPad, he put Apple back on the map to become one of the most successful companies in the world.

Before she founded The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington was a journalist and writer, but she wasn’t always successful. Her second book was initially rejected by 36 publishers before being accepted for publication.

In an article for Fast Company, Huffington wrote, “My mother used to tell me, ‘Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.’ So at some point, I learned not to dread failure.”

Related: Arianna Huffington: Talk to Your Children About Your Struggles. It Allows Them to Understand Failure as a Stepping Stone to Success.

Even The Huffington Post fell short of success right off the bat. When it first launched, there was a lot of criticism of the site’s quality and content. Despite the critics, though, HuffPo has gone on to become one of the leading news sites today. The Observer even named it the most powerful blog in the world.

In the early 1900s, it was a race to come up with the automobile that would transform transportation forever. Many were working on such a vehicle, including Henry Ford. Ford was able to fund his ideas with an investor, William H. Murphy, a businessman in Detroit.

But Murphy was pressuring Ford to complete the vehicle, and Ford’s first attempt was a failure. He tried again to create a new prototype, but more pressure from Murphy pushed the inventor to the breaking point, and he called it quits, ruining his reputation in the automobile industry.

Amazingly, Ford got a third chance when he received financial backing from Alexander Malcomson. Malcomson also allowed him more authority over the manufacturing process, and thus the Ford car was born.

Starting in his youth, Milton Hershey had an interest in candy making. At the age of 14, he apprenticed with a master confectioner in Lancaster, PA. Eventually, he decided to try his own hand at the craft and launched an entire candy company.

His first candy shop in Philadelphia failed. He then found work in Denver with a confectioner who taught him about making caramel with fresh milk. Hershey again decided to strike out on his own, in both Chicago and New York, but he was unsuccessful yet again.

Still, Hershey persevered, and returned to Lancaster where he founded Lancaster Caramel Company. Finally, Hershey struck gold and business was booming. The company would later evolve to become the Hershey Company, one of the most recognizable candy brands in the world.

Before Disney was a household name, Walt Disney established an animation company called Laugh-O-Gram. But the company struggled and eventually went bankrupt and was forced to close.

Penniless and unsuccessful, Disney found his way to Hollywood. There, he began producing cartoons. In 1937, his film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film, enjoyed unprecedented success. Disney went on to produce many other animated classics, and his company became a powerhouse success.

Disney was always known for his optimism and positivity, which is why failure was never able to get the best of him. He is quoted in the end credits of the film, Meet the Robinsons as saying, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Do you let failure stop you from accomplishing your goals? How do you persevere when you meet a challenge? Let me know in the comments below:

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