Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs began their companies from garages, basements, or even a church crypt, in the case of Richard Branson. These bootstrapping entrepreneurs are not always well-educated, but they often have things in common that other entrepreneurs can learn from. They often made their fortunes by taking risks that other businesses avoid, and they all persevere and work hard to overcome obstacles on their paths to success.
Perhaps the most famous bootstrapper of them all, Jobs began his technology career at Atari, where he and Steve Wozniak worked together to improve the Atari circuit board design. Jobs, the business man, motivated Wozniak to design the earliest machines and Apple prototypes in the late 1970s. Jobs worked out sales deals that would allow him to finance the growing company. With the income that Jobs helped secure, Wozniak was able to improve on each of the successive Apple computer designs, and by 1980, it was the second-largest home computer manufacturer in the world.
Parsons, the famous CEO and founder of GoDaddy.com and numerous other associated companies, began his working life in Baltimore, where he and his family struggled to make ends meet. After almost failing out of high school, Parsons served in the Marine Corps, obtained an accounting degree from the University of Baltimore, and then taught himself to program. He began Parsons Technology in his basement in 1984, which sold an accounting program called MoneyCount. Using direct mail marketing, Parsons grew the business over ten years into a business that eventually sold to Intuit for $64 million. His next business venture was GoDaddy.com, the number one hosting and registration company in the world.
The founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, was a precocious child who spent his early years exploring the world and trying new things. As a toddler he tried to dismantle his crib, when he was a young child he jerry-rigged an alarm to keep his siblings out of his room, and turned his parents’ garage into a laboratory for science experiments. After a successful high school and college career, lack of support from investors prompted him to quit his job and set up Amazon in his garage. Bezos has gone on to fund other companies and win numerous awards for his entrepreneurial vision.
The famous business leader who began Wal-Mart and Sam’s club began his career as a salesman at JC Penney, where his slipshod bookkeeping almost got him fired. After a stint in the army during World War II, he returned to support a wife and child. With what little money he had, and some money borrowed from his wife’s father, he purchased a Ben Franklin’s variety store, where he established the fundamental principles that would make Wal-Mart a national success: consistently low prices. Through the fifties and sixties, after a few bumps in the road, Walton purchased a number of variety stores and opened his first Wal-Mart in 1962, and the rest is history.
The founder of the Virgin empire began a mail order record company in the crypt of a church, where he had already been distributing his magazine called The Student. By advertising through his startup magazine, Branson’s record business boomed quickly, and he opened a record store in London in 1971, then began Virgin Records in 1972. Signing on “risky” bands such as Sex Pistols and obscure bands such as Faust and Can brought Branson tremendous success, and over the next several years, Branson expanded his group of companies to more than 400.