America’s Greatest Entrepreneurs of All Time
Though he wasn’t as wealthy as some of the others on this list, Ben Franklin made a great deal of money marketing his book Poor Richard’s Almanac. He also invented various things, but his legacy is in pithy adages he coined in his almanac that stressed hard work, frugality, and practicality. Quote: “A Penny Saved is twopence dear.”
Levi Strauss had only 6 million dollars when he died in 1902, but he is on this list because of the way he earned his money. Strauss ran a dry good store in gold rush era San Francisco, and seeing the need miners had for more durable pants, Strauss provided them with canvas pants with strong copper rivets. His legacy is not only his company, but the wisdom in finding a market in search of a solution. Quote: “You got them, and they were stiff as a board, and you broke them in.”
By the 20th century, the railroads had made interstate travel accessible to many Americans… but what about the rest of the world? This was the question on Pan American founder Juan Trippe’s mind, and to answer it, he built the first airline to put intercontinental travel within the reach of ordinary people. Quote: “In one fell swoop, we have shrunken the earth. ”
Having a good product can lead to success, but effective marketing is arguably more valuable. Asa Candler probably realized this when he began bottling his tonic of baking soda, water, and syrup, dubbed Coca-Cola. The marketing behind Coca-Cola has been one of the key ingredients of its success since day 1, and the credit for that goes to Candler.
Business in America has always contained a measure of lust for wealth and shrewdness in getting it, and P.T. Barnum is one of the earliest and most salient exemplars of this fact. A consummate showman, Barnum used entertainment as his route to wealth, a path many have since tried to follow. Quote: “A sucker is born every minute.”
Oprah Winfrey’s life is something of a master class in marketing yourself and leveraging success in one field into success in many others. Moving from acting to hosting a television show then on to publishing, Winfrey always used the strength of her personal brand to its fullest effect. Quote: “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
Although Henry Ford is not known for being the most amiable figure in the annals of American business, he is nonetheless one of the most efficient. With the assembly line to his credit, modern business would not be what it is today without Ford’s mind for efficiency. Quote: “Any color - so long as it's black. ”
Madam C. J. Walker
The great thing about American entrepreneurship is that it rewards those who see an open market and make their mark on it, no matter what walk of life they may come from. The best exemplar of this is Madam C.J. walker, whose line of cosmetics for African-American women made her America’s first African-American millionaire and first female millionaire. Quote: “It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
If you take all of the previous lessons and apply them, the nexus point is surely at a place that few people other than Bill Gates have found. His unparalleled success involves hard work, tenacity, marketing, personal branding, catering to a niche and a demand, and many other virtues not yet discussed. Having conquered the world of business, Gates is now one of the world’s premiere philanthropists, ensuring prosperity for the next generation of innovators.
Quote: “It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
John D. Rockefeller
The name Rockefeller is synonymous with wealth, as it has been for over a century. As the world’s first billionaire, Rockefeller is believed to have been the richest man ever (although multibillionaires exist today, he was a billionaire when the dollar was far less inflated). Although his tactics have not always been the most scrupulous, you can’t argue with results, and this oil tycoon set the bar for many who would follow in his footsteps.
Quote: “I have ways of making money that you know nothing of. ”