Find the best business loan rates (2021)

9 Accomplished Entrepreneurs and Their Business Success Stories

By Barb Weidner Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Barb Weidner
By Barb Weidner Reviewed By Mike Lucas

Many business success stories don’t follow the conventional narrative. The road to entrepreneurial fame and fortune is often paved with headaches, hang-ups and setbacks.

A large part of what makes a business successful is the owner’s capacity to persevere in the face of adversity. At times, it might even require fearlessly walking down a road less traveled.  

Our List of the Best Entrepreneur Success Stories

Take a look at the following small business success story examples, from famous millionaires with humble beginnings to local small business owners making a name for themselves. In each case, determination and willpower helped these entrepreneurs take an idea and convert it into a profitable venture. See what you can learn from their experiences to take your own brand to new heights.

1. Joy Mangano, Ingenious Designs

Maybe you’ve seen Joy Mangano’s motivational business story on the big screen. After all, her life inspired the 2015 film “Joy,” not to mention she left her mark on the Home Shopping Network and QVC.

Mangano’s creative inventions began when she was a teen, though her first hit was the best-seller Miracle Mop, which she developed more than a decade after earning a bachelor’s degree in business. She invested her life savings to develop the prototype, working out of her father’s auto body shop. 

In her first year, Mangano sold several thousand mops. Then she took to the television shopping network QVC. While the first airing of her product didn’t go well, she convinced the network to let her appear on the next show. That turned out to be a wild success, and more than 18,000 mops sold during her slot. 

Today, she holds more than 100 patents. She sold her company, Ingenious Designs, to the Home Shopping Network in 1999. Mangano is reported to have a net worth of $50 million. 

2. Barbara Corcoran, The Corcoran Group

You may know her from the television show “Shark Tank,” but Barbara Corcoran actually got her start in real estate. When she was a waitress, she secured a $1,000 loan and quit her job to found her New York real estate company, The Corcoran Group. It grew from a small startup to one of the most notable names in the brokerage industry. 

She wrote a best-seller to share her experience, entitled “Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business!” She’s also the host of a business podcast and has invested in more than 80 small businesses to date. Corcoran is reported to have a net worth of $80 million, according to financial website Money Inc.

3. Daymond John, FUBU

Another notable “Shark Tank alumni is Daymond John. What began in his mother’s basement with a $40 budget turned into a multibillion-dollar fashion enterprise: FUBU. Since his start in 1992, John’s gone on to invest in numerous small businesses, serving as a mentor and branding authority. 

He also has taken on the role of chief executive for brand consulting company, the Shark Group. Clients, which have included Forbes, Shopify and Gillete, learn how FUBU became a successful worldwide brand. They get expert advice on social media, marketing, influencer integration, licensing and more. Daymond John also is a motivational speaker and best-selling author. 

4. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s

A $5 correspondence course from Penn State University, a mutual love of a classic frozen dessert and a childhood bond was what led to the makings of a worldwide ice cream empire. In 1978, Cohen and Greenfield borrowed $4,000, and with a total of $12,000 to invest, they opened their first ice cream shop, in Vermont.

Things began to take off. These days, Ben & Jerry’s is known for its commitment to fair trade and fully sourced nongenetically modified products. They’re also committed to giving back to the community and their employees, who get to take home 3 pints of ice cream a day. In 2020, the company generated more than $863.1 million in the U.S., according to Statista.

Mosquito flying over buildings

5. Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post and Thrive Global

Arianna Huffington was raised in Greece in a single-parent household. Even though she didn’t speak English, she relentlessly pursued her dream of getting a prestigious English education. This brought her to the University of Cambridge, where her stand-out success eventually brought her to New York. That’s where she co-founded Huffington Post with Kenneth Lerer in 2005. 

Even after enduring harsh criticism from the journalism community, Arianna persisted and eventually grew the small alternative website into a major media conglomerate, where she worked as editor in chief until 2016, when she stepped down to build lifestyle and wellness website Thrive Global. She also has authored 15 books.

Today, Arianna’s net worth is estimated at more than $50 million.

6. Laure and James Widmaier, The Presentation Source 

In 1997, Laure and James Widmaier founded The Presentation Source (TPS) to sell digital audio and visual solutions to government and nonprofit organizations. Headquartered in Pittsford, N.Y., The Presentation Source quickly established a strong foothold in the Northeast U.S., reportedly growing into a multimillion-dollar business.

In August 2018, The Presentation Source was acquired by Solutionz for an undisclosed amount. With the help of TPS’s proprietary audiovisual technology, Solutionz has become a major player in the New York audio-visual industry and has acquired other competitors in the field in recent years.

7. Scott Lee, Gooroo 

Our entrepreneur success stories don’t end there. Take Scott Lee, who founded Gooroo, in 2015. The artificial intelligence-powered learning platform and tutoring hub uses cutting-edge technology to personalize learning experiences. In only a few short years, Lee has been able to employ data-driven AI insights to drive innovation in the online learning space. 

Gooroo isn’t Lee’s first foray into business ownership. Before founding Gooroo, Lee created a Korean tutoring company, served in the Korean military, started a clothing company, worked briefly in the U.S. financial sector and advised the organizers of the 2018 Olympic Games.

Using his diverse work experience, Lee learned how to make a successful business from scratch.

8. Eric Yuan, Zoom

When Eric Yuan founded the audio-visual cloud conferencing platform Zoom in 2011, he envisioned a way for long-distance partners and team members to stay in touch. 

Yuan first arrived in the U.S. after immigrating from China on his ninth attempt. When less-determined entrepreneurs would have given up, Yuan kept applying for new work visas to keep the dream alive. After several years of applying, he was finally approved and quickly rose to the rank of vice president of engineering at Cisco. 

Shortly after, he founded Zoom, which now employs more than 2,500 people and at the start of 2021 had a market valuation of more than $16 billion.

Knowing how to run a successful business is one thing, but knowing how to rise above seemingly impossible odds is a whole other skill. 

9. Rhys Powell, Red Rabbit 

Rhys Powell, a former Wall Street trader, started Red Rabbit in 2005. Initially, the company plan was to offer an online platform where NYC parents who wanted healthy meals for their kids while they were at school could place an order. 

However, the company shifted its focus to catering to local daycares, pre-kindergarten, charter schools, public schools, private schools, camps and after-school programs. Lunch box home deliveries are also available.

Today, Red Rabbit delivers more than 28,000 fresh meals daily. The company also strives to promote sustainability as well as offer community education about healthy eating and wellness. Powell’s Red Rabbit has rapidly grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise that employs nearly 100 people.

Powell managed to turn a somewhat philanthropic effort into a successful business.

How to Find Success Yourself

A million successful business tips and corporate success stories won’t translate into material wealth unless you’re willing to put in the work. Creativity, consistency and determination are aspects of character and mind that are cultivated through real-life entrepreneurial experience, not osmosis.

Knowing what makes a successful business is not the same as knowing how to build a successful business. From applying for small business loans and grants to securing working capital in the early stages of your startup, there are countless aspects of entrepreneurship that make the difference between a dud and a stud in the market.

It’s critical that you know how to do the following:

  • Keep financial records
  • Analyze your competitive advantage
  • Generate new ideas
  • Stick to a long-term vision
  • Make sacrifices
  • Be consistent

There are plenty of guides available to teach you how to become a successful entrepreneur, but few are willing to tell you about the “intangibles.” Cultivating soft skills, such as persistence, combined with hard skills, such as market research and analysis, can make the difference between a failed startup and a booming enterprise.

Person walking on top of buildings

What Successful Small Business Owners Are 

A common theme to having a successful business seems to involve doing the legwork and quickly learning and adapting to the ebb and flow of entrepreneurial life.

While you need to be motivated as well, most successful entrepreneurs will tell you, strength of character is the true test to which every aspiring business owner must eventually answer.

Let the success of these entrepreneurs and once small business owners inspire and motivate you to succeed. 

Barb Weidner CEO at Fast Capital 360
Barb Weidner is the co-founder and CEO of Fast Capital 360, a leading online business loan marketplace. Prior to entering the Fintech space, Barb was the Chief Credit Officer for a mid-sized mortgage bank based in NY. Barb is passionate about simplifying the lives of small business owners and empowering them with the resources they need to thrive.
Back to Top