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First Jobs of Successful Entrepreneurs

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Posted by Joe Garza on 2014-08-28

While the achievements of successful entrepreneurs are usually what make the headlines, it is too often overlooked that they started somewhere, often working typical blue-collar jobs. So if you think your current job is holding you back from launching that dream company of yours, don’t despair, because we have a list of industry leaders who managed to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur:

Warren Buffett

Widely considered to be the most successful investor of the 20th century, Warren Buffett is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people. However, this wasn’t always the case; throughout his childhood, Buffet earned revenue from various odd jobs, including selling chewing gum and Coke door-to-door, moonlighting at his grandfather’s grocery store, detailing cars, and delivering newspapers.

Mark  Cuban

Before making a name for himself as a businessman, investor, and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures, Mark Cuban made a living slinging drinks as a bartender at a local club in Dallas. However, he knew early on that he was meant for bigger and better things:

I initially got a job as a bartender at a place called Elan, which was a hot Dallas club. But bartending wasn’t my end goal. I wanted to start my own business.”

Oprah Winfrey

Hailed as the “Queen of All Media”, the first few jobs of this internationally recognized media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist were anything but royal; as a teenager, Oprah worked as a clerk at a small grocery store in Nashville. However, she soon started delivering the news on her local radio station, which led to an incredibly successful career in the broadcasting industry.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuck has made quite a name for himself as co-founder and CEO of a social media brand consulting agency, video blogger, and an author and public speaker on the subjects of social media, brand building and e-commerce. Would you believe he started out by selling baseball cards? Here’s what he has to say on that:

Everything I learned about business, I learned from selling those baseball cards. Standing in front of a table, watching how customers responded, marketing, negotiating, interacting with competitors: That was the foundation of all my professional success.”

Larry Ellison

A high school dropout, many people would have been surprised to learn that the young Lawrence Joseph Ellison would become the co-founder and chief executive officer of Oracle, a multinational computer technology corporation. Despite his lack of formal education, Ellison developed an impressive aptitude for math and science, which led to his first job as a technician at Wells Fargo.

Michael Dell

Michael Dell is a successful business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author, as well as the founder and CEO of Dell Inc., one of the world’s leading sellers of personal computers. Would you believe that he got his start washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant? And how much did one of the world’s richest people make? An impressive $2.30 an hour.

Henry Blodget

You all know Henry Blodget as the CEO & editor-in-chief of Business Insider, but did you did you know that his first job was as a tennis court caretaker? At the tender age of 12, Henry was getting paid $3.75 an hour to arrive at 7am and lug around 50-pound bags of calcium chloride and crushed rock.

My first job with an actual paycheck was brushing, rolling, and watering clay tennis courts. All in all, not a bad transition to the working world."

George Lucas

George Lucas needs little introduction: this four-time Academy Award nominated film director, screenwriter, producer, and entrepreneur is known as the creator of the Star Wars saga, the founder of Lucasfilm, and one of the film industry's most influential personalities. Who would have thought that he spent much of his youth hanging out in garages and driving in dangerous underground racing circuits?

Giorgio Armani

Considered the king of men’s high fashion, Giorgio Armani was able to develop his eye for design at a young age by working as an assistant photographer, window dresser, and displayer for a department store. This, of course, led to him launching his own clothing line in 1975, and is now acclaimed as the most successful designer to hail from Italy.

Nate Blecharczyk

Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder and CTO at Airbnb, developed his technical prowess early in life; after dabbling in coding as a hobby, began writing programs for others while in high school, and soon made enough money to pay for college. Now, he is the co-founder and CTO of Airbnb, which recently closed on an investment of $450 million by TPG Capital at a valuation of approximately $10 billion.

In Boston when I was 12, I was home sick from school one day and grabbed a book off my dad's shelves about how to write computer programs. That's when I first taught myself how to code. It started as a hobby, and it became a job.”

(Little businessman portrait in office image by Shutterstock)

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