Don’t you hate it when someone pitches you a “success story” and then it turns out to be nothing more than a “got lucky story”?
Well forget luck.
Today, we’re going to look at 6 entrepreneur success stories that will absolutely restore your faith in the power of entrepreneurship and your own ability to succeed.
Why Entrepreneurs Need Inspiration
Let’s be honest.
Being an entrepreneur is tough.
Sometimes it’s REALLY tough.
Many new entrepreneurs dive into their journey believing the quality of their “big idea” will carry the business.
They soon discover that executing the idea and building a real business is what truly separates the entrepreneurs from the “wantrapreneurs”.
Andy Molinsky says it well:
Most people think that being an entrepreneur is about having that big idea. And it is. But without the capacity to execute an idea — to take an idea and turn it into a living, breathing, viable organization — you’re doomed to fail.”
When the going gets rough, one of the best ways to inspire yourself is to look to those who have gone before you – those who have fought a similar fight and come out on top.
We’ve all heard stories about average people who started from scratch and became spectacularly successful. In fact, it’s likely one of those stories is what inspired you to be an entrepreneur in the first place.
And that need to be inspired is even stronger once you are actually in the trenches. Every entrepreneur needs inspiration. Every founder needs that nudge on the inside to keep fighting, building and climbing, despite the road bumps, setbacks, disappointments, and outright failures.
Yes you can get inspiration from books, expert quotes, blogs, and more. But personally, I have yet to find something that inspires me on the same level as a genuine entrepreneur success story.
I think you’ll find that the same is true for you as read through the following stories.
Let’s get started!
1). The $400 Million Dollar Man, Jeff Walker, Internet Entrepreneur
Jeff Walker, is one of those guys I saw early on in my entrepreneurial start. I was really drawn to his incredible story.
The first step in turning your big idea into a successful business that actually makes other people wealthy is to recognize – and acknowledge the challenges. And with that in mind, let’s see how a man did it.
Jeff Walker had a humble beginning. When he first started his online business, he was a stay-at-home dad with two small children to cater for.
Funny enough, his online business started out from his baby’s changing room. Back in 1996, Jeff had collected 19 email addresses and started his first email newsletter.
To cut the long story short, Jeff was determined to develop a system for launching new digital products and businesses that everyone can leverage.
From tiny product launches that sold tens of thousands, to mega launches that sold millions of dollars in sales, he was confident that his Product Launch Formula has come to stay.
Fortunately, tens of thousands of online entrepreneurs still use the Product Launch Formula to research and idea, device a premise, launch new products, and even cross-sell and upsell their existing customers.
It doesn’t matter what business model they’re in – as long as they follow the underground process they will be successful.
I’ve used this formula myself, and though I’ve built tons of other funnels, honestly the PLF style funnel works the best for me.
In this post-Product Launch Formula, well-renowned entrepreneurs have found a lot of success with it. In fact, selling thousands of dollars worth of products isn’t a fluke anymore, it’s become a routine.
So far, entrepreneurs who use the Product Launch Formula have generated well over $500 million in sales.
Jeff Walker lives in Colorado, with his lovely family.
Five lessons to learn from Entrepreneur Jeff Walker’s success story:
i). Getting started is key: I was particularly inspired by Jeff’s $20 million dollar decision, said Eric T. Wagner. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the brave. If you’re going to make headway in the business world, you’ve got to get started. It’s the ultimate key.
Of course Jeff Walker had a lot of excuses to make, considering that he had no money to start his business. Nonetheless, he started with an idea, and scaled from there.
Jeff is a common man just like you and me. But he believes that he who dares wins.
Don’t just dream of having a profitable and thriving business, do something.
Dreaming will not get you there. Perhaps it’s an aspect of your business (e.g., marketing) that you want to execute – don’t sit around waiting for the perfect timing – it’ll never come.
You’re dead on your feet if you wait for the right timing, circumstances, or people to believe in your idea. It’s your idea, why would other people buy into it? According to the British Special Forces, the equivalent of Special Air Service (SAS), “Who dares, wins.”
Whether you’re starting out or you’re already in your business, you’ve got dare. Jeff started out as a full-time, stay-at-home-dad, and even planned going back to school. Be he carved out time to do it.
Successful entrepreneurs are doers – not thinkers. What’s on your mind right now? Will it have a lasting impact on your business or entrepreneurial career, if yes then do it.
ii). Follow GladWell’s 10,000 Hour Rule: No true success happens in a hurry or as you often say, “overnight.” Of course, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, founders of Instagram, may have had their billion dollar payday from selling Instagram, but that’s never the whole story.
What led to this billion dollar sale? I can guarantee you that it didn’t happen overnight. They worked hard to bring Instagram to where it was before they received an offer for it.
And that’s the whole essence of GladWell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. If you study Malcolm GladWell’s Outliers, you’ll become confident knowing that no matter how much effort you put into your business as an entrepreneur, the results will eventually speak for themselves.
If you look at the Outliers Pyramid, you’ll see the the 10,000 Hour Rule weighs more than other factors of success. In other words, you need to put in 10,000 hours into your business to truly make it phenomenal.
According to Jeff, “It’s all about baby steps and moving towards your goal.” When he sent his first email out to 19 people, he didn’t give up because less than 10 recipients opened it, instead he kept at it.
From there, he started getting one new opt-in a day and then three, all the way to 10 new subscribers a day. Today, Jeff gets well over 500 new subscribers per day.
If you follow the 10,000 Hour Rule, then you should be excited about delay gratification – being willing to put in the work now knowing it’s not going to pay off in three months or six months or two years.
You should read Outliers, to fully understand how to apply this rule to your business. I read this book about 5 years ago and it dramatically changed my thinking on how success is born.
iii). Build connections and relationships: According to Sir. Richard Branson, “the key to your success in business is relationships.”
One of the striking lessons which you can pick up from Jeff Walker is the place of building relationships and how it impacts business’ outcomes.
In Jeff’s words, “My business in terms of traffic is largely driven through joint ventures — through partners who drive me traffic. One of the things I’m good at is building relationships with people.”
There’s no success without building connections and relationships with your target audience.
Yes you may not have tens of thousands of leads, email subscribers or customers, but if you can build strong rapport with the few people that trust you, your business can kick off from there.
So how do you build this relationships? Sujan Patel gives us 5 unique ways:
a). Connect with influencers: Influencer marketing is now a commonplace marketing practice. The earlier you connect with influencers who have over the years built loyal and huge followings and customer base, the quicker you can grow your own business.
Why do it all alone when you can connect with highly influential professionals and entrepreneurs in your field? These people can make your entrepreneurial journey more fulfilling.
b). Offer value: Both your customers and influencers don’t care about your business. What they care about is wrapped up in this catchphrase: “What Is In It For Me?”
If you offer something of value (e.g., ebooks, educational videos, valuable posts), then building relationships become easier.
c). Take accountability: It’s easy for your target audience to trust you if you’re transparent. Don’t use hype or marketing gimmicks to sell your product. Accept your brand’s shortcomings, and make improvements. Don’t blame anyone. Be accountable!
d). Find the right networking groups: Networking groups are great for connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs and influencers. Sites like Meetups.com can be beneficial.
e). Create your own community: Social media has redefined community building. You don’t have to waste more time or invest tens of thousands of dollars to start and establish your own community.
Why not start a Facebook Group, LinkedIn, or become an administrator of a group? Any of these approaches can help you build a community, and in turn relate with people on a personal level.
iv). Focus on your inherent abilities: You may have unique abilities, but how do you identify them? You can start by looking at the mirror, and asking yourself what you do better than anyone else.
What’s your competitive edge? How do you harness these to achieve unimaginable success in your business?
For Jeff, he takes 3 days off to think about and identify his inherent and unique abilities. In those moments, he’s completely focused, not looking at or considering other things. No Skype, no text messages, and no internet connection.
After these thinking and mining sessions, Jeff comes out better. This time around, he works smarter and his results are obvious for all to see.
v). First give; then receive: Last but not the least, Jeff teaches his secret of $400 million in collective sales to his clients and students:
First Give; Then Receive.”
In other words, make up your mind to spend more time with people, answer their questions, relate with them, and satisfy them first, before asking them to buy your product. If you do it the other way round, you’ll struggle to get sales, and of course build a successful business.
2). Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur
Going above and beyond takes your business to new heights. Gary Vaynerchuk is an epitome of success. He’s known as the guy who builds businesses.
When he graduated college, Gary took a bold step that surprised every established and aspiring entrepreneurs at the time. He took his family Wine business and grew it from a $3M to a $60M business in just five years.
Having gained deep insights in the world of Entrepreneurship, he became a prolific angel investor and venture capitalist, investing in companies like Twitter, Uber, Birchbox, Facebook, and Tumblr.
As a public speaker, Gary has delivered keynotes at popular events like Le Web, SXSW, and more.
He has an active YouTube channel, where you can watch his keynotes and advanced marketing techniques. Currently, he hosts the #AskGaryVee Show, where he answers common and bugging questions related to social media, startups, family businesses, and entrepreneurship.
Important lessons from Gary Vaynerchuk:
i). Always do the right thing: The people that you’re serving in your business may not be there, you should always do what’s right. Create products that are helpful, and affordable. No matter the customer acquisition channel that you choose to use, don’t deceive people.
Gary believes in saying no to offers that will soil your reputation. No matter how much money or influence you’ll seemingly get as a result of this “one deal,” do the right thing. It will take your business to the next level.
ii). Depth matters more than width: In the business world, Gary learnt that truly helping a few group of people is better than offering shallow advice or solution to tens of thousands of people.
From Gary’s New Book, AskGaryVee, “depth matters more than width.” In the words of Gary, “That is, the smallest meaningful, intentional act will mean much more than a huge one that lacks intent or substance.”
iii). Motivate employees: Gary runs a 500-plus organisation. He loves the headaches, the calls with an upset customer, and all of it, because he knows that by attending to all of these, he will draw closer to achieving his goals.
Above all, you’ve got to pay attention to your employees. “Motivating employees should be one of a leader’s top priorities,” he said.
You should lead by example, not just in your meetings, but in the emails that you send, your posture, and in your daily interactions. The way you carry yourself should motivate employees to work hard and smart.
3). Neil Patel, Digital Marketer and Entrepreneur
When you understand that success isn’t a key to happiness, but happiness is what brings success, then you should learn from Neil Patel, a digital marketer and Entrepreneur.
He’s born in London, but raised in California as an investor and analytical expert. He’s now based in Seattle, WA. He graduated with a degree in Marketing from California State University, Fullerton in 2007. And he speaks four languages.
Neil Patel is highly prolific not only in starting companies and making them successful, but he never gets tired of helping real businesses generate revenue through digital marketing – In particular, through content creation and marketing.
His content strategy is based on this premise: to help small businesses compete with big brands without spending a lot of money.
His articles have been featured in TechCrunch, Forbes, Fast Company, TheNextWeb, and several other authoritative publications. QuickSprout, his business blog generates well over 1,000,000 million unique visitors per month.
Entrepreneur Magazine calls Neil Patel the #1 marketer in the world. He started his first website at the age of 16. Sadly, He took all the money that he earned from working in an amusement park and hired a marketing firm that provided no results.
Out of his frustration and being broke, Neil decided to learn digital marketing. His first client was a power supply manufacturer, and he helped them generate $25,000,000 million dollar in sales. Neil built his reputation by being honest, and you can see this being replicated in his content.
Neil has helped top brands like Amazon, General Motors, Ebay, HP, and the like, to generate more revenue through content marketing.
Neil co-founder CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics with Hiten Shah. Income Worth estimated that Neil’s Net Worth is $30 million dollars.
Entrepreneurship lessons from Neil Patel:
i). You will fail, and it’s okay: Although Neil is regarded as a successful digital marketer and angel investor today, but his past stories were ugly. Sure they were. Failure shouldn’t be a quit button, but an inspiration to do more and better next time.
Before he started CrazyEgg, an analytical SaaS company that has become successful today, he failed on several occasions.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, there’s a common statistics that “8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within 18 months.”
For most people, this statistics might be scary. But it doesn’t have to. As long as you learn from your mistakes and other entrepreneur’s mistakes, you’ll scale through.
Have a marketable product, and learn to execute fast. There’s no time to waste. The competition will most likely drown you if you keep waiting for the perfect timing.
ii). Blogging can help you grow your business: Neil believes in the power of content. And to him, there’s no better way to start creating content that will help your target audience – outside of blogging.
Through blogging, he brings well over 300,000 monthly active readers to his Neil Patel blog – which he started in 2014.
Neil doesn’t create the typical 500-word article. Instead, he creates 1,500+ words articles per week. He’s the guy who invested $30,000 in creating epic and topical guides, and gave them away for free.
If you’re looking to start blogging, follow these 3 rules and you’ll succeed:
a). Get to know your audience: Because when you do, you’ll be able to create content that answers their questions, and truly help them.
b). Create compelling content: Don’t be in a hurry to get blog posts out there, take your time to craft an irresistible piece of content. In today’s highly competitive digital marketing world, you’re either creating quality content or nothing.
c). Be consistent: Most entrepreneurs know the importance and power of content creating and blogging. But they give up too soon – especially when they don’t see results within a short period of time.
I know you’re smart and will not behave that way. Don’t quit yet. When you feel like quitting think about why you started.
4). Marie Forleo, B-School Founder
Marie Forleo was born and raised in New Jersey.
She’s a motivational speaker, author, web television host, and the founder of B-School, an online educational portal where people learn how to make money, and change the world. She’s also the founder of Marie Forleo International and MarieTV.
She was named by Oprah as the thought leader for the next generation. Her digital education company has been named one of Inc’s 500 Growing Companies of 2014.
Marie is proud to have created a digital conscious empire where millions of lives are changed. Her world-class online training programs reach people from 195 countries, and her book has been translated into 19 languages.
Truly, she’s built a multi-million dollar empire through sheer love and passion to see other people succeed. In 2013, her company generated $11.9 million dollars, and revenue has grown geometrically till date.
In her words, “I believe you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive in today’s world.”
Marie has interviewed and spoke on the same platform with world renowned entrepreneurs, including Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and many more.
What lessons can you learn from Marie Forleo? Let’s see:
i). Build your brand ahead of your business: If you’re going to build a powerhouse business which in turn builds your life, you need to focus on your brand – and give it a facelift.
Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs aren’t focusing on their brands.
According to Graham Robertson, founder of Beloved-Brands, “Many brands I see don’t even know where they are–either have their head in the sand in denial, or have a team mis-aligned in debate.”
For Marie, he created opportunities which enabled her focus on creating stellar Marie Forleo brand. When she started out, her products were beyond perfect.
Yet, that was not a barrier – she kept infusing personality and uniqueness to personal training and business development.
Nothing builds your brand like that personal touch.
Yes your product/service may not be the best out there, but if you can spend time with customers and answer their questions, while acknowledging the shortcomings of your product, your brand will thrive no matter the competition.
ii). Position yourself as an expert: This may be the case of, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” And for that to happen, you need to position yourself as an expert, by giving away valuable and helpful materials or information.
Marie is perceived by her followers, customers, and students as a thought leader and expert. She got to this position by creating compelling content for her audience.
For one thing, every content that she publishes is rich and actionable. Additionally, the content help potential customers make informed decisions so that by the time they decide to buy from her, they’re already engaged with her, trust her, and know what to look forward to.
iii). Let others do the talking: Marie has a lot of testimonials on her website. This is striking because most digital marketers and personal coaches don’t have that much success stories.
In building your business, provide much value so that others will do the talking for you. Ideally, You should spend more time showing results, while others promote you through social media and word of mouth.
By focusing on your brand and not your business, you will make it easy for people to talk about you.
5). Eben Pagan, Digital Entrepreneur
If you’re looking to start a business, grow a business, or get more customers, Eben Pagan has a unique hands-on approach to it.
Eben Pagan was born in Brooklyn, New York, and he’s best known for teaching dating advice to men (although he uses the pseudonym, David DeAngelo).
He’s an American entrepreneur, author and speaker, and helps internet marketers develop and sharpen their marketing skills.
On his website, GetAltitude.com, you will see some of his digital products that have generated millions of dollars worth of sales.
From Double Your Dating Brand to Digital Product Blueprint, Pagan had delved into other profitable niches and built an unforgettable brand.
His teaching approach is memorable. He teaches through a mix of written guides, 1-on-1 coaching and seminars, video trainings, webinars, blog posts, and more.
I consider Eben one of my earliest marketing mentors and I’ve learned so much from him. I’ll never forget how much he’s taught me about growing an online business and I’m forever grateful. – Marie Forleo.
Can we learn anything from the way Eben Pagan grew his multi-million dollar digital marketing business? Let’s see:
i). Aim for “great” product, not perfect: Do it. If you wait for that product or business idea be perfect, you’ll never act. Elizabeth Lombardo said that “the paralysis of perfectionism can be a dream killer for any entrepreneur.”
If you find yourself over-analyzing everything, then you know that perfectionism is lurking at your door.
Eben is a go-getter. When he’s in need of something, he goes for it. Most times when he’s launching his product, there will be hiccups on the way. Regardless, he still moves on and always fix things along the way.
If you don’t want to be paralyzed by perfection, then live by this rule:
80% is good enough.”
Once you’re able to create a product or business that will help solve 80% of people’s problems, don’t aim for the elusive 100%, because it may never happen. More importantly, 80% success rate is great. So pay attention to that. And act now.
ii). Bring stars into your business and personal life: Inasmuch as you are the sole inventor of your idea, don’t make the mistake of running every task in your business alone.
You should bring stars into your business and personal life. By “stars” I’m talking about influencers and other successful entrepreneurs who can teach and impact knowledge into your audience/customers.
If you can, you should have 20 – 100 successful entrepreneurs and influencers. You should be able to reach them at the click of a button or via direct call.
According to Eben, surrounding yourself with successful entrepreneurs is human’s highest leverage point. These people could be your mastermind group members, mentors, social media influencers or world’s renowned entrepreneurs.
Truth be told, if one of these power users tweets your next post or product, you may end up getting thousands of new users and customers. Your sales will skyrocket, and your brand will take on a new form.
iii). Don’t be scared of selling: How many marketers and entrepreneur hate selling? Lisa Larter said that the reason why you aren’t confident of selling is the fear of failure.”
In case you aren’t aware, selling is one of the strategies for building a loyal audience. A loyal audience should consider and buy from you. If they don’t, then they aren’t loyal!
Can I be straight up with you? Did you know that if you aren’t selling a product that you’re doing your customers/audience a disservice? Yes you are.
To make selling easier, learn to appeal to your customers emotionally. Because interests are tied to emotions.
In other words, if customers are going to be interested in your product, they must first express emotions toward it. You can win customer’s trust and loyalty through their emotions. As Zig Ziglar said, “selling is essentially the transfer of feelings.”
Come to think of it. You know how unique you are, and you’re confident that when people apply your advice they will get results, right? The question is, why don’t you want to sell them?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you push sales messages down your customer’s throat. That would be awful. On the contrary, I’m saying that you should:
- Build relationships: If people don’t know or trust you, you’ll find it difficult to recommend your product. So start with this step: build relationships through your content and answering questions. Blogging can help in this respect.
Be consistent with your content creation. No you don’t have to be. Instead, be clear on your message. And, match your content to the customer buying cycle.
- Determine the needs: For example, if people want to start a business, what’s their greatest challenge?
Is it how to raise capital, pick a niche, or attract partners? If you aren’t sure what your customers need, ask questions and get into the conversions via Quora, Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, and more.
- Overcome objections: You can instill confidence in your customers by overcoming objections – related to pricing, timing, customer service.
- Present a solution: If you’ve listened to your customers, before long, you’ll know exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t present a different solution. Know your audience, and serve them relevant and valuable product/service.
- Ask and close the sale: At this point, don’t hold back from asking for the sale. Most marketers and entrepreneurs make this mistake. Once you’re confident of your product, don’t be scared to sell.
During his product launches, Eben Pagan usually ask for the sale after the third free video training. He doesn’t apologise when asking customers to buy a product that would help them. He’s fearless. No wonder he’s successful.
6). John Lee Dumas, Podcast Entrepreneur
John Lee Dumas (now 36) went above and beyond to build a successful business through podcasting.
He’s the founder of Entrepreneur On Fire show on iTunes, and author of The Freedom Journal, which can help you achieve your number one goal in 100 days, with well over 7,000 backers on Kickstarter – generating over $420k in 30 days.
Trust me, a huge part of what contributes to John’s entrepreneurial success is his determination.
He actually started podcasting when a lot of digital entrepreneurs were busy creating written content, videos, and other forms of packaged guides (e.g., ebooks, whitepapers).
John Dumas and his girlfriend Kate Erickson, Content Creator and Community Manager, produce the compelling audio-only content alongside three full time virtual assistants – one in Pakistan and two in the Philippines.
Since inception of Entrepreneur on Fire Show, John has achieved tremendous feats, which includes being the best of iTunes in 2013 with 7.4 million podcast downloads and 829,000 unique listens in June alone.
John’s podcast subscribers are in 145 countries of the world, and they are loyal to the EOFire brand. In 2013 alone, John grossed $446,000. In 2 years he grossed $2 million dollars in sales. Fast forward to October 2016, and his gross monthly income is over $130,000 dollars. Not bad.
In particular, I’ve picked up a few lessons from John’s podcasting entrepreneurial success. Take a closer look:
i). Small beginnings can have a long-term impact: From a humble beginning, John has grown to become a successful podcasting entrepreneur. From interviewing 1 entrepreneur at the time, he’s been able to interview Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, and more than 1,300 entrepreneurs on the EOFire Show.
As an entrepreneur, don’t be held bound by your big plans. Start small and scale from there. That tiny idea in your head might just be the only solution that entrepreneurs all over the world may be looking for.
ii). Listen to your ideal customers: There’s no alternative to spending time with your customers. If you can listen well enough, you’ll surely serve them better.
In the words of John Dumas…,
The first email I received from a listener telling me that because of the inspiration and motivation they get from EOFire every single day, they quit their job and started their own business.”
Whether you’re producing audio-only content or you’re creating blog posts, you need to listen to your customers as they listen to you. That’s the only way to know what challenges they’re going through, and how well to help them.
There you’ve it. I’m sure that by now you’re already fired up to take your own business to another level. That’s my #1 goal for creating it.
However, to build a thriving business and become a successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to define what success means to you. Because it can be relative.
For example, many entrepreneurs believe that if they’re earning 6 figure income, then that’s success, while others believe that earning less than that, but spending more time with family is what success is all about.
Truth is, no one can define success for you. Use these entrepreneur success stories to make informed decisions and run a business that makes the world a better place.
Which of these success stories inspire you the most? Share your comment in the box below.