Entrepreneurs thrive on finding their own path. They see opportunities and make the most of them, often succeeding wildly, while others struggle to maintain the status quo. These entrepreneurs make it look easy, sometimes giving the impression that they stumbled across their success almost accidentally. Anyone who has ever ventured down the road to entrepreneurship, however, knows just how wrong that impression is.
Many entrepreneurs started their path to success as young children, succeeding (and failing) multiple times before finding their niche. Their stories serve as inspiration and a reminder that you are never too old (or too young) to get started on the road to entrepreneurship. Here are seven entrepreneurs who got their starts as children.
1. Ingvar Kamprad
Not familiar with Kamprad’s name? The Swedish entrepreneur Ingvar Kamprad started the furniture and housewares giant, Ikea, at the age of 17. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t his first venture into entrepreneurship. Kamprad started honing his business skills at the age of 5. He would ride his bike through his neighborhood and sell matches. He bought matches in bulk from Stockholm and sold them individually at a reasonable price. Over time he added new products, eventually including other home supplies, which led to the creation of Ikea.
2. Daymond John
Made famous by his appearances on Shark Tank, Daymond John began his entrepreneurial journey in first grade. While it’s hard to decide if he was more interested in making money or impressing his female classmates, he managed to accomplish both tasks with his money-making prowess.
John developed a business creating customized pencils by scraping the paint off pencils and personalizing them for a small fee. He had a specific target market: the girls in his class. His business was booming until it was shut down by regulations and accusations of wrong-doing; the principal discovered he was stealing his raw materials (pencils) from boys he didn’t like. John would go on to develop FUBU in the 90s, propelling himself to the forefront of fashion industry and sales.
3. Warren Buffett
Known by many as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett was first known as the gum man. Buffett would buy packs of gum from his grandfather’s grocery store and then go through his neighborhood selling the packs. He learned early the power of negotiation: one woman only wanted to buy a single stick. His response? “We don’t break up packs of gum.” Today, Buffett is famous for his investment wisdom and common-sense financial advice.
4. Juliet Brindak
A creative and thoughtful child, Juliet Brindak created a world full of characters and stories to entertain and delight her friends. When she was 16, she asked her mother, a graphic designer, to help her create a website to bring her imaginary world to life. Her site became Miss O & Friends, an internet home world for tween girls.
While you may have never heard of her site, Proctor & Gamble certainly did, and after three years they invested in the company, valuing it at $15 million. The company has added books, games, and other merchandise and has reached $30 million in value over the last few years. Brindak is the CEO, still managing the world she created at 10 years old.
5. John Paul DeJoria
At the age of 9, John Paul DeJoria started selling Christmas cards. He would go door to door in his neighborhood with his brother, raising money any way he could to help his mother provide for their family. By age 10, he and his brother had paper routes, getting up at 4 a.m. to fold papers and deliver them before heading off to school. Today, DeJoria is the founder of Patron, the pioneer in premium tequilas, as well as the cofounder of Paul Mitchell Systems, the haircare industry giant.
6. T. Boone Pickens
Another name you may not be familiar with, T. Boone Pickens started acquiring his fortune early. Like DeJoria, Pickens had a paper route that he started at age 12. After a while, he started buying adjacent routes, and his role as the “king of takeovers” began. According to Pickens, he developed a knack for acquisitions and honed his skill over the years, making a career and his fortune from his tactics.
7. Mark Cuban
The owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a famous Shark Tank investor, Mark Cuban got his start as an entrepreneur at the age of 12. Cuban asked his dad to buy him a pair of expensive shoes. His dad was playing cards with some friends at the time, one of whom offered Cuban a deal: sell boxes of garbage bags for him to earn the money. Cuban went door to door selling 100 count boxes of garbage bags for $6, convincing his neighbors to buy their bags from him. Through his life, Cuban would start and sell several companies and is well-known for his role on Shark Tank, where he is continuing to invest in start-ups.
Encouraging your children to develop skills that will help them later in life may lead to a career as an entrepreneur. Using these and other examples of the power of childhood lessons can inspire your kids to find their own path to success and can motivate them to work towards greatness, in spite of what may seem to be humble beginnings.