failed entrepreneurs

The way you respond to your failure determines your way to success. Everyday from morning to evening we hear that the government is failing, businesses are failing, media is failing, economy is failing etc. You get a clear picture, right? It is failure that leaves deeper impressions and not huge successes! The day you start believing that failure is contagious, you will probably not get out of bed. But this doesn’t happen because hope is addictive and success is even more infectious. Let’s see the stories of some failed entrepreneurs for whom failure was a norm and the only dose to success.

Steve Jobs — A fortunate dropout!

Even Steve Jobs who is the idol of almost every entrepreneur went down through several blind alleys. We all know the famous story of Steve’s forced resignation from Apple in 1985, the same company that he built. The following years were not easy at all but his conscience knew that he has it in himself. He spent the years developing NeXT which was a computer workstation for educators. After spending hundreds of millions of investor’s cash, sales never materialized due to high price tags and several bugs. He went into utter depression counting himself as one of the failed entrepreneurs.

Finally in 1996, Apple decided to buy NeXT and Steve was back again in the team. After that he built products like the iPod and the iPad thus makingApple one of the biggest Fortune 500 companies of the decade.

This small description about Steve Jobs — the inspiration for every entrepreneur can never be enough. He is a personality who can be talked about for hours.

Colonel Sanders- Serial failure

Almost everyone thinks of retirement or gets retired at an age when Colonel Sanders started KFC. He, at the age of 65, opted to sell his chicken recipe to the world. He started a café on the main highway which he ran successfully for 10 years. But after a new highway was built, he was forced to shut down. Being left penniless, he approached and convinced a restaurant owner to sell his chicken and hence Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) was born.

He was turned down one thousand and nine times before his chicken was accepted finally!

At one point, his wife also left him saying that he was always trying to get rich double quick and that he is just a failed entrepreneur like any other.

He finally sold his company to an investor for $ 2 million and was awarded as the 2nd most recognizable celebrity in 1976.

This proves that if you are determined to be successful, age is not a barrier.

Feeling hungry again, right?

Kathryn Minshew- Founder and CEO of The Muse

In 2011, Minshew woke up one morning and found that she was unable to log on to PYP Media, a site that she built after putting all her life savings into it (close to $20,000). With this, the life of all the four cofounders seemed to fall apart. She said, “I felt completely humiliated, like I had failed them and myself.”

Every single person belonging to PYP Media left except two of his former partners who started The Muse in July 2011. The site saw more visitors in one month than in the whole history of PYP Media. She could have lost hope but she decided to start all over again. They built a stronger product and worked on the loopholes with a clear sense of purpose. The company was finally accepted by Y Combinator. Till date, they have raised over $2 million in angel funding and have reached more than 5 million people.

Henry Ford- The failed automobile starter

Henry ford, famously known for his company Ford Motor Co., suffered a few failed automotive endeavor early in his career. Detroit Automobile Co., which he started in 1899 failed miserably as the cars were of low quality and overpriced for the common masses. He never lost hope and kept on working on his models of car until he achieved national acclamation for his car-“Ford 999” which broke the record by going a mile in just 40 seconds. After that, he finally developed a low-priced car ”Model T” which gained quick traction with U.S. consumers. Annual sales exceeded $250,000 by 1914.

This gives an insight that great products can only beat the heat of competition and attract consumers. Products should be developed keeping in mind the necessities of the customers.

Frederick W. Smith- Innovator of a new mail delivery system

Smith was born with the courage of taking up challenges and turning them into reality. He was born with a bone disease and used to watch sports from the sidelines. By the age of 10, he regained his health and became an excellent football player. The idea of Federal Express which revolutionized overnight mail delivery was born after a disagreement with a professor. Before starting FedEx, he started Zapmail which didn’t attract much attention and cost the company nearly $350 million over a period of 2 years. Did he count himself as a failed entrepreneur? No. He stood up and started again and the result was FedEx which generated $35 billion in revenue in 2010.

His story teaches us that we should abandon bad ideas and move on, both in life and in business.

Mary Kay Ash — The frustrated employee

Mary Kay Ash resigned from Stanley Home production after working for 25 long years as a sales and marketing employee. She was frustrated by the fact that the company overlooked her promotions while her male counterparts who did the same training with her quickly rose through the ranks.

After resigning, Ash started writing an advice book for businesswomen when she realized that she was writing a business plan for herself. In this way, Mary Kay Cosmetics was born. It went through a traction of $2.5 billion in wholesale sales in 2009 worldwide.

Henry J. Heinz- The horseradish peddler

Henry J. Heinz who is America’s “Ketchup man” actually started as a horseradish peddler. At that time, horseradish was a popular condiment and was used by English and German immigrants to flavor their dishes. The condiment was famous and was sold in opaque bottles. Henry felt the need to sell them in transparent bottles as customers would be interested to see what they are buying.

With this idea in mind, he established Heinz Noble and Co. with his friend L.C. Noble. The venture took wings and did very well in the initial years. But after some years, the company fell victim to the Panic of 1873. He could not pay his employees. In 1875, he and his partner filed for bankruptcy. He failed but the entrepreneur inside him was still alive.

A year later, he formed another company H.J Heinz Company along with his brother John Heinz and cousin Frederick Heinz. Starting with ketchup, the company started growing quickly adding products like pickles and baked beans.

In 2013, Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital acquired the company for $28 billion.

While talking about failed entrepreneurs, the first name that crosses our mind is Jack Ma, the self-made billionaire who was rejected numerous times. You can read more about him here.

Never allow anyone to assess and mark your skills. You may not be perfect but that doesn’t mean you don’t know anything. If you are passionate enough, remarks should not matter. The above mentioned names were not among the“lucky” ones. For them, age, money, work, environment etc. were not a barrier. It was a single minded determination that helped them to land on what they are today. Their failures motivated them and pushed them harder towards success. If they could achieve it, so can you.

Pratibha Goenka

Passionate about entrepreneurship. Loves to follow her heart. An avid startup analyzer, a voracious reader and an ardent traveler.