Every year on August 21 we celebrate World Entrepreneurs’ Day. The purpose of the World Entrepreneurs’ Day is to create awareness for entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership throughout the world. WED is the perfect day to celebrate the people who starts a business alone. WED is the day of founders, managers, producers, contractors, industrialists, innovators, administrators, designers and producers. AIBA, the Alliance of International Business Associations invites everyone to organize happenings around the world to promote WED. World Entrepreneurs Day is a great opportunity to push philanthropic, social and ethical business practices via conferences, awards and initiatives.
In honour of world entrepreneurs’ day we wanted to highlight some inspirational stories of entrepreneurs from the past and the present. Entrepreneurs are risk takers; with unknown challenges always lurking around the corner, entrepreneurs face uncertainty head on, pushing forward to innovate, whilst hopefully making a few bucks too. Entrepreneurs are due credit for quite a few of the comforts of modernity that we hold so near and dear. Let’s check out a few examples some you may be familiar with, and some not. Let’s go!
Born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio, this American inventor and innovator is often credited as being one of the greatest American inventors of all time. Most known as the creator of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison was quite an intriguing figure. Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison cannot be credited for inventing the lightbulb but in bringing it to the majority of Americans. His explorations as an innovator began at the age of 19 when Edison traveled to Kentucky, USA where he worked for the Associated Press. During this time, he honed his skills as a creative thinker. How? Well, he had lots of time to read and research while working the long hours of the nightshift.
Later, Edison patented the lightbulb that he created in 1879. In 1980, Edison developed a company that would bring light and electricity to the masses – General Electric.
Edison, like many creative thinkers, wasn’t always successful with his inventions. But that never stopped him from continuing to test out new ideas. Throughout his life he remained committed to electricity and innovating new ways to bring electricity to other new inventions, like a battery for the Model T Ford car built by Henry Ford.
Edison died in New Jersey on October 18, 1931 at the age of 84. Pretty long life for that time period! Just goes to show that curiosity and a hungry mind can contribute to living a longer life. Interesting fact: Many communities and corporations throughout the world dimmed their lights or briefly turned off their electrical power to commemorate his passing. Shine on Edison!
This Indian Innovator who you may not have heard of, is the founder of the largest biomedical firm in India. Founded in 1978, Biocon became the first company to gain approval from the USFDA for two different biosimilars of drugs used in certain cancer treatments. Kiran Mazudar-Shaw is the founder of Biocon and currently sits as a Chairperson and Managing Director. Shaw’s net worth is approximately 2.4 Billion and she is ranked as one of Forbes magazine’s ‘World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ and Fortune’s ‘Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Asia-Pacific.’
Kiran founded Biocon with just 10,000 rupees. She struggled early on due to this severe lack of funds. She was turned down time and again by banks where she applied for loans. The fact that she was a woman only made her business that much less fundable as many banks saw this as a reason her enterprise would never succeed. Believe it or not, in the early days of Biocon she even struggled to hire employees, many of which turned down their offers upon learning that the company was led by a woman. Boy, I bet they wish they hadn’t now!
Facing these obstacles head on, Kiran continued to fight for success. In 2004, Biocon got an Initial Public Offering (IPO), following which, Kiran became the richest woman in India. Her strong determination led the company to become one of the most successful companies in India. In 2007, Biocon was ranked by Med Ad News as one of the leading biotech companies worldwide and the 7th biggest biotechnology employer in the world.
Beyond being an entrepreneur, Ms. Mazumdar-Shaw has also taken up prominent government positions to ensure biotechnology is regulated and reaches all. These positions include, the Governing Body of the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission and she has been appointed as a member of the high-level expert committee constituted by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
Ms. Mazumdar-Shaw is committed to ensuring that Indians have access to affordable healthcare. In Bangalore, where she was born, she has also established a 1,400-bed Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Center, which delivers healthcare services to India’s wealthy and its poor.
You could also call her a philanthropist. Shaw is using her immense wealth to contribute to a better Indian society. In fact, she has joined other billionaires like Bill Gates through participating in the Giving Pledge created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with Warren Buffet. This initiative asks billionaires to give away the bulk of their wealth for social causes. She is one of two Indians to join such a noble cause! An inspiration to all young women hoping to become successful entrepreneurs, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw never stopped fighting, even when the mountain of challenges seemed too great to overcome.
MADAME C.J. WALKER
Born Sarah Breedlove but known as Madame C. J. Walker, Breedlove was a social activist, entrepreneur and one of the wealthiest black businesswomen of her time. Born in December 1867, Walker is best known for her hair cream and beauty products all created under her brand, Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories. She was in fact, the first self-made female American businesswoman to become a billionaire. This is even more impressive given that she was born on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana where her parents, Owen and Minerva, were recently freed slaves, and Sarah, their fifth child, was the first in her family to be free-born.
During the 1890s, Sarah Breedlove developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair, and she began to experiment with both home remedies and store-bought hair care treatments in an attempt to improve her condition. Through conducting research for another wealthy African-American owned cosmetics company, Sarah developed her own products. Her husband at the time advised her to use a recognizable name for her startup business. She came up with the name Madame C.J. Walker.
Her business grew in popularity and she promoted it throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the United States. Walker promoted her products alongside the advancement of black people and her community within the USA, where black communities to this day continue to fact discrimination.
As a businesswoman with growing wealth and influence, Walker later went on to become a philanthropist and use her power to support the challenges faced by those in her community. She founded philanthropies that included educational scholarships and donations to homes for the elderly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Conference on Lynching, among other organizations focused on improving the lives of African Americans. Overcoming racism and stereotypes against black people and women in the USA, C.J. Walker’s story goes to show that through dedication and strength of character strong women entrepreneurs have broken through barriers throughout history. And funded profitable ventures too!
Jeff Bezos is a household name these days as just about anyone around the world has heard of his company Amazon. But do you know how he got his start?
Bezos was born in 1960 in New Mexico, USA to young, working-class parents. In high school, Bezos worked at his local McDonald’s. So, if you have ever judged someone working behind your local fast-food restaurant’s counter, just think that the wealthiest man on the planet was once in that same place! ORDER UP!
A strong student, Bezos attended Princeton University; an Ivy League school that is the alma mater to some of the United States’ smartest minds. In the years following University, he worked on Wall Street in New York City. In 1994, he founded Amazon while on a road trip from New York City to Seattle. Although the company began as an online accessible bookstore, it has burgeoned into one of the largest companies in the world; in turn, making Bezos the richest man on earth with a net worth of 90 Billion USD. Who knew that books could be so lucrative!
Bezos has turned Amazon into more than just a bookstore, with lucrative subsidiaries and products like the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Web Services. He even has a human spaceflight company called Blue Origin! He has gone on to purchase the Washington Post, a top US newspaper and Whole Foods, the 8th largest grocery story in the USA, further expanding his already immense portfolio of ventures.
Who knows what the future holds for Bezos? As the leader of such a wide array of businesses and having amassed such immense wealth, it seems Bezos is truly unstoppable! However, in 2017 he got into a political skirmish of sorts with current US President Donald Trump, leading some to think less of this once flawless reputation as a business mogul. But, we all have missteps in life and Bezos is only human after all. Only time will tell what industry Amazon will conquer next.