These men have proven that being too cool for school doesn’t always mean you’re a fool.Technically, by society standards, one is judged to be a fool if you drop out of school,but in practical sense its not always so.I will be sharing with you a brief compilation of the entrepreneurial success stories of self made men and women; who took the bull by the horn by building a business, without being held back by the lack of a college degree. These men and women found their entrepreneurial spirit, surmounted business challenges, completed the entrepreneurial process and became successful entrepreneurs.
I dedicate this to those who feel dejected or left behind by his/her peers because they don’t have a college degree. Do you see your supposed illiteracy as a limitation to achieving your dreams? Or are you in the group that thinks education is the ultimate yardstick for success? If any of these questions best describes you, then, this is for you.
How does it sound to your ears that most of the world’s richest men and women were school drop outs? Well don’t be surprised; it’s the truth.
To flag us off are some quotes that I believe drive the point home. “I have nothing against education. But at times, education gives people false confidence. It makes people relax, trusting in the power of their certificates rather than in working hard.”-Rasaq Okoya
“Behind every adversity is an opportunity. If you lament over the adversity, you will miss the opportunity.” – Ajaero Tony Martins
“I have been within the four walls of school and I have been on the street. I can confidently tell you that the street is tougher, challenging, daring, exciting and more rewarding. In school; you play alone. But on the street, you play with the big boys.” – Ajaero Tony Martins
1. Bill Gates: He is the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, the world largest software company. Dropped out of Harvard at 19 to focus on building Microsoft. According to Forbes magazine, Bill Gates has held the position of the world richest man for thirteen consecutive years and he not showing a sign of letting go that position.
“To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.” – Bill Gates
“We were young, but we had good advice good ideas and lots of enthusiasm.” – Bill Gates
2. Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison was labeled dumb and scatterbrain by his school teachers but he went on to become one of the world’s greatest inventors and founded General Electric; one of the most powerful companies in the world.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
3. Orji Uzor Kalu: He is one of the richest men on the soil of Africa. This young billionaire was rusticated from college for his participation in a student’s protest. Instead of lamenting over his predicament; he started trading on palm oil and from that humble beginning, he grew his business into a conglomerate “Slok Group.” Though he was later pardoned by the school authorities, he rejected the amnesty offer thereby refusing to return to school.
“A good businessman must have nose for business the same way a journalist has nose for news. Once your eyes, ears, nose, heart and brain are trained on business, you sniff business opportunities everywhere.” – Orji Uzor Kalu
4. Li Ka Shing: Li Ka Shing the founder of Cheung Kong Holdings said “deuces” to school at age 15 and started selling watch bands. Today he’s the world’s largest operator of container terminals, world’s largest health and beauty retailer, Chinese energy supplier and real estate developer.
“The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did everything myself. I had to keep my overhead low by learning everything about running a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I really started from scratch.” – Li Ka Shing
5. Richard Branson: Best known for his adventurous spirit and outrageous business tactics. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to start his first successful business venture; Student Magazine, bought his own 79-acre Caribbean island when he was just 24 and he was knighted in 1999. He is the billionaire founder of the Virgin brand and its 360 companies. His companies include the famous Virgin Atlantic Airways.
“I wanted to be an editor or journalist. I wasn’t really interested in becoming an entrepreneur, but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going.” – Richard Branson
6. Lawrence J. Ellison: Larry Ellison dropped out of college twice and was told by his adoptive father that he would never amount to anything but he went on to become a billionaire by building Oracle, the world’s second largest software company.
“I have had all the disadvantages required for success.” – Larry Ellison
7. Michael Dell: He dropped out of college at the age of 19 to start PC’s Limited; later renamed Dell Computers Inc. Dell became the most profitable PC manufacturer in the world making Michael Dell a billionaire.
“I had to give it a full go and see what happened.” – Michael Dell
8. Steve Jobs: Billionaire co-founder of Apple Inc and Pixar; dropped out of Reed College to start Apple. Jobs stated this in a 2005 Stanford Report, “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”
9. Henry Ford: This automobile billionaire was born in abject poverty. He never saw the four walls of school but he went on to build Ford Motor Company and become one of the richest men that ever lived. Henry Ford dropped out at 16.
“Thinking is the hardest work to do, that’s why so few people are engaged in it.” – Henry Ford
10. Walt Disney: Walt, regarded as the most influential animator because of his creativity with cartoons. He dropped out of high school at 16 and founded Walt Disney; a company which now has an annual revenue of about $30billion.
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
11. Ray Kroc: Billionaire Ray Kroc never saw the four walls of school and spent most of his life working as a salesman. He bought McDonald’s in 1961 for $2.7m and grew it into a multi billion dollar company.
“Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Ray Kroc
12. Debbi Fields: A 20 year old housewife with no education and business experience started Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery and became the most successful cookie company owner. She later renamed, franchised, and then sold Mrs. Field’s Cookies.
“You don’t have to be superhuman to do what you believe in.” – Debbi Fields
13. Cosmos Maduka: Nigerian Elementary school drop out and billionaire founder of the Coscharis Group.
14. Ingvar Kamprad: Billionaire founder of IKEA. He dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to start IKEA; now the top home furniture retailer in the world, with over 90,000 employees working in its 200-plus stores, and annual revenues in excess of $10 billion.
“I’m not afraid of turning 80 and I have lots of things to do. I don’t have time for dying.” – Ingvar Kamprad
15. Carl Lindner: Billionaire investor and founder of United Dairy Farmers. He dropped out of high school at the age of 14 to deliver milk for his family diary.
16. Simon Cowell: Famous for his involvement in American Idols, he dropped out of school at age 16 and started his own record label “Fanfare” at the age of 23.
“Good is not enough; you’ve got to be great.” – Simon Cowell
17. Mary Kay Ash: Founder of Mary Kay Inc and best known as the most outstanding business woman in the 20th century. Mary never saw the four walls of school.
“When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure.” – Mary Kay Ash
18. Coco Chanel: Fashion magnate and founder of the Coco Chanel brand, she never saw the four walls of school.
19. Wayne Huizenga: Wayne is the only person in history to build three Fortune 1000 companies practically from scratch: Waste Management Inc, Blockbuster Entertainment and AutoNation. He is the only person to have developed six NYSE-listed companies. He also owns the Miami Dolphins and is previous owner of the Florida Marlins baseball team and the Panthers hockey team, making him the only person ever to own three pro teams in a single market, two of which won national championships. He dropped out of college to join a friend in a garbage collection business.
20. Barry Diller: This billionaire media magnate dropped out of college to start Fox Broadcasting Company. He is chairman of Expedia, and was once the CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp which includes Home Shopping Network and Ticketmaster.
“There’s a world in which reasons are made up because reality is too painful.” – Barry Diller
21. Andrew Carnegie: Founder of Carnegie Steel Company and one of the richest men that ever lived. Born in abject poverty, Andrew never saw the four walls of school.
“I shall argue that strong men conversely know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater purpose.” – Andrew Carnegie
22. Sir Philip Green: Billionaire retail mogul and owner of the Arcadia brand, he dropped out of school at the age of 16. After four business failures, Philip Green made his first million at the age of 33.
“If you’ve got a natural talent, I think it’s fantastic. If I wasn’t in retail, being a singer or a tennis player would be a better idea.” – Sir Philip Green
23. Madame C. J. Walker: She was born into the family of ex-slaves and farmers. Despite being widowed at the age of 20 and faced with extreme hardship, she started a cosmetics business and went on to become the first American self made female millionaire.
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them” – Madam C.J. Walker
24. Mark Zuckerberg: The youngest billionaire in the world, dropped out of Harvard to promote his social networking platform; Facebook. As at 2010, he was 23 years and worth $4billion.
25. Ted Turner: Billionaire drop out media mogul and founder of CNN; pledged a billion dollars to the United Nation.
“All my life, people have said that I wasn’t going to make it.” – Ted Turner
“Over a three year period, I gave away half of what I had. To be honest, my hands shook as I signed it away. I knew I was taking myself out of the race to be the richest man in the world.” – Ted Turner
26. Cornelius Vanderbilt: Dropped out of school at the age of 11, began operating his own boat at the age of 16 and became one of the richest men in history.
“If I had learned education, I would not have had time to learn anything else.” -Cornelius Vanderbilt
27. Mayer Amschel Rothschild: was born in a ghetto; started business as a money lender and built the largest private fortune in history. He never saw the four walls of school.
“Give me control over a nation’s money supply and I don’t care who make the laws.” – Mayer Amschel Rothschild
28. Ty Warner: Billionaire real estate investor, hotel owner, sole owner, CEO, and Chairman of Ty, Inc. Ty Warner is a savvy, yet private business man. Ty, Inc; made $700 million in a single year with the Beanie Babies craze without spending money on advertising. He has since expanded to include Ty Girlz dolls, directly competing with Bratz dolls.
29. Howard Hughes: Dropped out of California Institute of Technology and Rice University; founded Hughes Aircrafts and Co and went on to become a billionaire.
“I intend to be, the richest man in the world.” Howard Hughes
30. Giorgio Armani: Billionaire founder of the fashion brand; Giorgio Armani S.P.A. Dropped out of medical school at the University of Bologna because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
“Remain true to yourself and your philosophy.” – Giorgio Armani
31. Asa Candler: Founder of the Billionaire company and world’s most popular brand; Coca Cola. He dropped out of school at the age of 10.
32. Jenny Craig: With no college degree, this woman started Jenny Craig Inc from scratch and grew it to become one of the largest and most recognized companies in the weight management industry.
“If I make a commitment to something, I will stick to it no matter what.” – Jenny Craig
33. Rachael Ray: Despite having no formal training in culinary arts, Rachel Ray made a name for herself in the food industry. With numerous shows on the Food Network, a talk show and cookbooks, high-energy Rachael never slowed down. She has also appeared in magazines as well has having her own magazine debut in 2006.
34. Milton Hershey: With only a fourth grade education, Milton Hershey started his own chocolate company. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate became the first nationally marketed chocolate.
35. Frank Lloyd Wright: surpassed all odds to become the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,100 projects with about half actually being built. He never saw the four walls of high school.
36. David Geffen: billionaire founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks.
“I never went to business school. I was just bumbling through a lot of my life. I was like the guy behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.” – David Geffen
37. Haim Saban. $2.9 billion. The Egyptian born billionaire and war survivor, made his billions in television and media. Yet, he never attended college.
38. Larry Page (Google) Net Worth $29.1 Billion – Dropped out at 21. Larry Page is known for co-founding the then little site called Google. He technically graduated from University of Michigan but later dropped out of his PhD. program which why he’s on the list.
39. Evan Williams (Twitter) Net Worth $2.9 Billion– Dropped out at 19. Williams is one of the co-founders of Twitter and the founder of Square, and before each of the aforementioned companies he co-founded the successful podcasting company Odeo.
40. Sean Parker (Facebook) Dropped out at 14.
He’s the co-founder of the infamous music sharing service Napster, which changed the music industry forever. He later served as Facebook’s first president owning 28.2% of B shares.
41. Jack Dorsey (Twitter) Dropped out at 20. Dorsey, who is now on the board of Disney, is one of the founding members of Twitter, and founder and CEO of Square. He’s often referred to as the “cool” guy in tech.
42. Hiroshi Yamauchi (Nintendo) Dropped out at 22. Yamauchi dropped out to take over the company his grandfather started in 1889, maintaining his role as the third president of Nintendo for 55 years, taking them from small card company to video game powerhouse.
43. Jan Koum (WhatsApp) Dropped out at 20. Koum made $6.8 billion when Facebook acquired his mobile messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion. He had originally dropped out of school to Yahoo, where he oversaw security and infrastructure for the internet giant.
44. Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook) Dropped out at 21. Forbes reported Moskovitz to be the youngest self-made billionaire in history. Zuckerberg’s roommate at Harvard and Facebook’s third employee, Dustin left Facebook in 2008 to start hist software firm Asana.
45. Lee Byung-chul (Samsung) Lee Byung-Chul was born on February 10, 1910 to a wealthy landowning family in South Korea. The family was a branch of the Gyeongju Lee Clan. He attended school all the way up to college, where he went to Waseda University in Tokyo, but did not complete his degree, much like Steve Jobs.
Lee first started his business career when, after his father’s untimely death, he started a largely unsuccessful rice mill in Gyeongnam. Because it was not successful, he moved on to establish a trucking business in 1938 that was the forerunner to Samsung; it was named Samsung Trading Co. It expanded until it became one of the ten largest trading companies in Korea by 1950. In 1953 he started to expand to other products such as textiles, cars, insurance, and most of all, consumer electronics. The Samsung Electronics branch was founded in 1969. This was the branch that the Samsung Galaxy phones would come out of, coming to rival the iPhone.
46. Jack Ma (Alibaba)Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, is the richest man in China. While he may not have been a school dropout per se, he flunked his university admission exam twice. Jack Ma is not your ordinary tech guru, he is a former English teacher, in fact he got his first computer when he was 31. His first start-up, China Yellow pages was a complete flop. In 1995 he went on an English translation project in the US that turned out to be a scam, but while there he discovered the internet. Still unfazed and inspired by the potential he found in the internet he took another stab at an internet business 4 years later. He called his second company Alibaba. The company had to battle the much bigger then Ebay in a typical Goliath-David duel until it finally out–muscled it in 2006.
Today Alibaba is more valuable than Facebook, combines the services of Amazon and Ebay and handles more merchandise than both of them combined.
NOTE: Alibaba is a Business-to-Business (B2B) platform that helps fragmented business entities to find and make deals. In 2003, Alibaba kicked off their new Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) platform which is named “Taobao“. Alibaba also owns AliExpress, a wholesale marketplace from Alibaba.com offering quality products at factory prices. You can order as low as 1 item and pay safely using their secure Escrow service. Payment is only released to the supplier after you confirm delivery.