Shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den have shoved entrepreneurship into the media spotlight over the last ten years. Although it’s not easy and there are undoubtedly many lessons along the way, the rewards of being your own boss are numerous and exciting (Necker Island, anyone?). Here are our top 5 success stories of UK entrepreneurs and, like them or loathe them, you can’t deny that this lot have bags of spirit, money and honours.
Sir James Dyson – founder of the Dyson company
“The key to success is failure… Success is made of 99 percent failure”
Best known for his invention of the bag-less, cyclonic vacuum cleaner, Sir James Dyson created a whopping 5,127 prototypes of his first machine before finding success with his DC01 ‘dual cyclone’ model. The Dyson company has since gone on to develop other products including a fan heater, air multiplier fan and the increasingly popular Dyson Airblade; the first hygienic commercial hand dryer.
What to learn: Keep going. Even if a product or idea doesn’t work straight away, keep re-designing, testing and evaluating your ideas until you get it right and, ultimately, you’re happy with it.
Michelle Mone, OBE – founder and CEO of Ultimo
“I knew nothing about the way bras were made”
After a brief stint as a model and a career in marketing, Michelle Mone set up MJM International after wearing a particularly uncomfortable bra and deciding she could design lingerie that was both more comfortable and better looking. The launch of Ultimo in 1999 became the biggest ever bra launch in the UK and Mone, who has a net worth of over £30 million, was awarded an OBE in 2010 for her contribution to business.
What to learn: Inspiration can strike at any time. If you have a great idea for a business or product, do your research but don’t expect to know how to do everything. Your ambition and drive can go a long way and compensate for a lack of manufacturing skills, for example.
Peter Jones, CBE – founder of Phones International Group
“The best entrepreneurs keep a tight lid on expenses and will wisely re-invest profit to continually improve their business”
Famed for his appearances on the BBC show Dragons’ Den, Peter Jones is a businessman with many interests including mobile phones, television and wine, to name a few. He set up Phones International Group in 1998 which has become one of the fastest growing enterprises in Europe and he has an impressive investment portfolio including a lifestyle magazine, properties, a TV production company and, who can forget, Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce.
What to learn: Critically consider your investments. Jones’ success is no doubt partly due to his ability to make sensible decisions, so be sure to invest your time and finances in the right areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, staff training and so on.
Sir Richard Branson – founder and chairman of Virgin Group
“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts”
The charismatic founder of Virgin Group, an international conglomerate with more than 400 companies and 50,000 employees, Sir Richard Branson started his business career at the age of 16 with magazine ‘Student‘ before moving into the travel and entertainment industries. Challenging the rules and breaking world records, here is an entrepreneur who clearly loves what he does.
What to learn: Be passionate. If you’re not head-over-heels for your business idea then you’ll be less motivated to make it succeed. A lack of enthusiasm will affect not only your productivity but the productivity of those around you too.
Lord Alan Sugar – founder of Amstrad
“Once you decide to work for yourself, you never go back to work for somebody else”
Known for his sharp tongue as much as his sharp business mind, Lord Alan Sugar- who is worth an estimated £770 million – started selling consumer goods from a van before founding Amstrad in 1968. The self-taught entrepreneur went on to found/chair a number of other ventures such as YouView and Amscreen and, after more than 40 years in the business, is still heavily involved in his empire.
What to learn: It takes a certain person to be an entrepreneur. The move from working for someone else to being your own boss is a huge step and you should be proud that you’re one of the few people with a strong enough character to start your own company. If you’ve got resilience and bold determination, the sky’s your limit.
This post was brought to you by Laura Gilmour at Companies Made Simple – The Simplest Company Formation Service.
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