Think of the computer, mobile phone, automobile. The brains behind these innovations changed the world and have shaped our modern lives – yet how many people know who is behind these successes?
We don’t always know the name behind some of the innovations that we use in our everyday lives. But some of the lesser known entrepreneurs are actually responsible for creating the incredibly successful businesses that we all know and love today.
Each starting small and growing their business step by step, these entrepreneurs are an inspiration to anyone working hard to start their own enterprise…
- 1. George Eastman – Kodak
The photography pioneer founded his business, Eastman Kodak, in 1884, and hired Henry Strong to run it for him so he could focus his attentions on innovation and product development. It wasn’t long before he saw the fruits of his labour – in 1885 he invented the roll film, a staple in modern photography for more than 100 years and the basis for the motion picture camera film Thomas Edison used. When he died in 1932 his net worth was over $100 million – a significant portion of which he donated to causes he supported.
- 2. Jeff Bezos – Amazon.com
Under his direction, Amazon grew from a small start-up to a major global brand. Today, the company is the largest retailer on the World Wide Web and has been a model for retail sales on the Internet from design all the way to delivery. While we might know Amazon as a retail powerhouse – Bezos is from humble beginnings. He was keenly interested in science and engineering as a child, and thought of the idea for his service (originally named “is on”) during a long journey in 1994. He started the e-commerce company in his garage that year and since then it has expanded all over the world. His net worth is an estimated $6.5 billion and he has been named Time’s Person of the Year along with being selected as one of America’s best leaders by U.S News & World Report.
- 3. Niklas Zennström – Skype
Loved by many as the free video chat service that lets you keep in contact with friends and family around the world, it’s no surprise Niklas Zennström, one of the brains behind Skype, made the list. The Swedish entrepreneur started the company with Janus Friis in 2003 – the two had already worked together to create file sharing site Kazaa and came together again to grow Skype after the software was created by its Estonian developers. The company was famously acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for a staggering $8.5 billion and is used by more than 660 million users worldwide in 27 countries – a particularly impressive achievement for a business that’s just a decade old.
- 4. Anita Roddick – The Body Shop
Her passion for ethical consumerism propelled the business forward – she travelled the world to source ingredients for the 15 products that she would use to open The Body Shop in 1976. Competing against other major players in the beauty industry was particularly difficult at first, but with perseverance she eventually managed to create a niche for her products and grew her empire around the world to 1,980 stores serving 75 million customers in 50 different countries. She wasn’t just a successful entrepreneur, but a pioneer in the industry; The Body Shop was one of the first of its kind to prohibit the use of animal testing and promote fair trade in third world countries. In 2003, five years before her death, she sold the company for £652.3 million to cosmetics giant L’Oreal, who have maintained the brand’s unique charm.
Which entrepreneurs have inspired you on your own career path?