Entrepreneur

Sara Blakely - Aaron Sansoni

Think Like Spotlight: Sara Blakely

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

This month’s entrepreneur spotlight is perhaps slightly less well-known than some of the other entrepreneurs we’ve featured, and yet she has the made the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world (2012) and named the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes (2014). She is Florida-native and Georgia-famous— Sara Blakely.

Claim to Fame: Spanx

Entrepreneur Spotlight:

Sara Blakely originally set out to pursue a career in law, but decided early on that it wasn’t the right fit for her. Instead, she found that she excelled in sales after gaining employment at a door-to-door company that sold fax machines. It was in this career that she came up with her billion dollar idea: women’s undergarments, like hosiery, that would hide lines and firm up the appearance of the upper legs and torso without an unsightly toe seam or rolling.

Blakely was just 27 years old when she set out to develop and sell her product. Over the course of two years, she met with several executives in the hosiery industry. Nearly all were male and nearly all of them rejected her product. Except one. A mill operator offered to support Sara and her product thanks to encouragement from his three daughters.

The prototype took a year to create. Sara spent $750 on a patent and $150 on a trademark for the product. They would be called Spanx.

Once the product was complete and packaging was created, Sara Blakely pitched Spanx to Neiman Marcus. The company took on the product, initially selling them in just seven stores. Several other major department stores took notice and added Spanx to their inventory not long after. Throughout all of this, Blakely maintained her job with the fax machine company. In fact, she would remain with the company until 2000 when Oprah Winfrey named Spanx a “favorite thing.” Sales soared and Blakely left the fax machine company to focus on her own business.

Not one to shy away from work, Sara managed all aspects of her business by herself until it was no longer possible for a single human to do so. Spanx netted a cool $4million in year one sales, and doubled revenue to $10 million in year two.

In 2005, Blakely met Richard Branson during her time on a then-popular reality tv show for billionaires. In 2013, she expressed interest in designing “the world’s most comfortable high-heeled show.” In 2015, she was a part of a group that successfully purchased the Atlanta Hawks – a professional basketball team based in Georgia.

As of November 2017, Sara Blakely was worth $1.14 billion…all because she was no good at law.

Aaron Sansoni - Bill Gates Header

Think Like Spotlight: Bill Gates

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

The entrepreneur featured in this month’s Think Like Spotlight is the second-richest person in the world as of August 2018. He has a net worth of $95.4 billion and his name is recognized in households around the world. Read along as we briefly cover the interesting entrepreneurial history of one Bill Gates.

Claim To Fame: Microsoft Corp.

Entrepreneurial History:

Gates developed an interest in computers and programming in the eighth grade. He attended a private prep school that was able to purchase an early terminal and computer time for students. Gates immediately took to the machine. When he no longer had access to the school computer, he pursued access via the Computer Center Corporation (CCC). It wasn’t long before Bill Gates engaged in his first business transaction, working out a deal with the CCC to identify system bugs in exchange for additional, free computer time.

Bill’s adeptness with computer technology was quickly identified, and he began to receive programming opportunities which he accepted with gratitude. His first real venture came in 1972. Gates partnered with Paul Allen on Traf-O-Data, a company that utilized the Intel 8008 processor to produce traffic counters.

In 1975, Gates left Harvard to once again work with Paul Allen. This time they were developing and distributing a BASIC interpreter for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in New Mexico. They had their own office and referred to themselves as Micro-Soft. It took less than a year for the company to drop the hyphen and officially register with the State of New Mexico. Legal disputes over payments for the general use of software eventually caused Microsoft to split from MITS and seek headquarters in Bellevue, Washington.

The eighties would see Bill Gates lead Microsoft through a series of strategic partnerships that would propel the company into the famous technology stratosphere. A two-part deal with Seattle Computer Products and IBM resulted in the widely-known MS-DOS system and initiated the success. Gates’ company would go on to produce some of the most popular computer software of the century.

Ever the entrepreneur, Bill Gates is devoted to reinvesting his fortune. Some he donates to philanthropic efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he created in 2000. Some in invests in other profitable businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries.  He has also authored two books:

  • The Road Ahead in 1995 (Co-authored by Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson)
  • Business @ The Speed of Thought in 1999

Bill Gates began his slow transition from full-time tech entrepreneur to full-time philanthropist in 2006. He remained as Chairman of Microsoft until 2014. Today, Bill Gates currently serves as a technology advisor to CEO Satya Nadella.

Aaron Sansoni - Think Light Spotlight Steve Jobs Header

Think Like Spotlight: Steve Jobs

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

This month’s Think Like Spotlight covers the entrepreneurial basics of one of the greatest tech entrepreneurs of our time: Steve Jobs. The California native successfully leveraged relationships, technology, and business to create an empire that is a relevant part of the modern world to this day.

Claim To Fame: Apple Inc., Pixar

Entrepreneurial History:

Many recognize Steve Jobs as co-founder of Apple Inc., but few actually realize how long the company has been in business. Prior to iPhones and modern MacBooks, Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak joined forces to sell the first Apple I computer. The year was 1976.

Unlike many of the entrepreneurial success stories featured in Think Like, Steve Jobs did not begin his career as an entrepreneur very early on. In fact, he spent most of his earlier years traveling the globe and experimenting with various cultural beliefs and practices. It wasn’t until 1974, when Steve Jobs returned from his travels, that he began to leverage his friendship with Wozniak for employable reasons.

The two intellects worked together behind-the-scenes while Jobs maintained a position at Atari, utilizing Wozniak’s expertise in exchange for compensation when necessary. When Wozniak invented the Apple I computer in 1976, it was Jobs’ idea to sell it— his first real entrepreneurial pursuit at the age of 21. With innovation, technology, and a lot of investment solicitation on Jobs’ part, the entrepreneur was worth roughly $1 million dollars by the time he was 23. Apple would continue to grow and expand, as would the entrepreneurial ventures of Steve Jobs.

In 1985, Steve set out to establish NeXT Inc., a technology-based computer/software company. NeXT would struggle on and off for several years before the release of NeXTSTEP/Intel in 1993. Eventually, the software company would create enough innovative waves to solicit the attention of none other than Apple Inc. Apple acquired NeXT in 1997, a move that returned Jobs to Apple Inc. where he would remain until 2011.  

During his time at NeXT, Steve also spent a good deal of time nurturing the artistic side he had developed during his early years. He provided a computer graphics division of Lucasfilm $10 million in funding to initiate a “spinout” in 1986— half for capital and half for technology rights. The group would eventually partner with Disney to create their very first film. The film was released in 1995. It credited Steve Jobs as the executive producer and became an instant classic in the industry. The film’s name? Toy Story.

Steve Jobs would continue to nurture the relationship with Disney over the next decade until a contract expiration served as the catalyst for a falling-out in 2004. Jobs took Pixar elsewhere for a brief span of time but rekindled the partnership when the Disney chief executive was replaced. In 2006, Jobs struck a deal that would give him control of 7% of Disney shares in an “all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion.” The transaction would result in Disney’s purchase of Pixar.

Aaron Sansoni - Think Like Spotlight Richard Branson Blog Header

Think Like Spotlight: Richard Branson

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

When you read Think Like you are not just reading another self-help book. You are reading over 20 different roadmaps to success. Perhaps one of the most non-traditional roadmaps in the book is that of a well-known entrepreneur from England: Sir Richard Branson.

Claim To Fame: Virgin Group

Entrepreneurial History

Like many other entrepreneurs, Richard Branson developed an early interest in entrepreneurship. In fact, he was just 16 years old when he embarked on his first business venture in 1966: a magazine called Student. With the magazine as his medium, Branson was able to interview and interact with some of the most influential musical names at the time. He also utilized the magazine to sell discounted versions of popular records. It was this success that sparked his first brick and mortar business — Virgin Record Stores.

Virgin started out simple enough. Richard and his business partners were merely selling records after all. But the money was good and the interest was there so, in 1972, Richard Branson launched the very first Virgin Records label. Virgin Records would remain a part of Branson’s repertoire until 1992 when he sold it for £500 million to assist in maintaining another of his more prominent business ventures: Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The airline company was formed in 1984 after a flight Richard was scheduled to be on was canceled. Rather than change his plans, the entrepreneur decided to charter his own plane and offer a ride to the rest of the would-be passengers for a reasonable sum. The company received enough public support and attention to worry other key industry players like British Airways.

Later, Richard would expand his travel interests, which already included air (Virgin Atlantic) and earth (Virgin Trains), to space with the creation of Virgin Galactic. This particular subset of the Virgin group is preparing to offer space tours to the general public.

Always looking to diversify, Branson had also established media group Virgin Mobile in 1999. He owned roughly 75% of the company until 2006 when he executed a sale that would effectively merge the mobile group with a tv/broadband/telephone company called NTL: Telewest. Virgin Mobile “sold” for almost £1 billion, and Richard still owns 15% of the new, merged entity.

The Virgin Group (and Richard Branson) would go on to control more than 400 companies. Some were considered extremely successful, others less so. What’s most important is that Richard’s entrepreneurial brain never stops spinning. He is unafraid to diversify, and he is unafraid to fail. And, in true Richard fashion, he is unafraid to vocalize his thoughts on several modern-day issues like environmentalism and global warming, thereby creating the thin level of transparency valued by modern consumers.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Think Like to learn more about the mindset and practices that enabled Richard Branson to build the Virgin empire.

Aaron Sansoni - Think Like Is Different Blog Header

Why Think Like is Different

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

Self-help books have gotten a rather rotten reputation as of late. If you read them you are lame. If you write them you are crazy. Luckily these labels are generalized stereotypes and can’t be applied to all books in the genre. There are some self-help books out there that eschew the “normal” advice and provide you with the background and motivation you need to move your life in a positive direction. Think Like is one of those books.

Rather than provide you with a list of things you are doing wrong, Think Like focuses on showing you what other people have done right. You can think of it more like a non-fiction account of great successes as opposed to a generic list of advice. What’s more? The successes featured aren’t your everyday wins. No, they are tales of international achievement riddled with information on the habits and practices of the people achieving them.

So, how does this help you? Really the answer is all in how you read the book. If you’re just looking for inspiration then you can page through it much like the year’s best beach read. You’re sure to find words of wisdom. There’s bound to be pages you’ll dog-ear for a valuable takeaway or two. Plus, it’s full of fun facts about all of your favorite celebrity entrepreneurs.  

If you’re looking to make a change, however, you’ll want to make more of an effort to engage with the content. Highlight any of the habits that you practice on a daily basis. Mark the ones you want to incorporate into your routine moving forward. Take some time to really think about the attitude and mindset of each of the individuals featured in this book. How are you alike? How are you different? Can you make those differences work for you?

The best thing about Think Like is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all book. The successes of 21 different entrepreneurs are featured among the pages and I can guarantee you that not a single one of them got to the top by doing exactly what someone else did…or what someone else told them to do for that matter.  They carved their own path, but they did so with a huge breadth of knowledge and best practices tucked away for reference. This book gives you access to that knowledge and those best practices in a single, portable place.

When you get right down to it, Think Like can hardly be considered a self-help book. In fact, it’s probably more of a self-awareness book…or a self-motivation book. You’ve already got what it takes to make it to the top. You don’t really need help. You just need a little bit of motivation and a whole lot of examples. Why not get them from Think Like?

Aaron Sansoni - Elon Musk Blog Header

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Elon Musk

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

When you read Think Like you are not just reading another self-help book. You are reading over 20 different roadmaps to success. Not all entrepreneurs travel the same path to success. Each one leverages their unique skills and circumstances to carve out their own path. This business drive is never more apparent than it is with Elon Musk.

Claim to Fame: PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla

Entrepreneurial History

Musk sold his first application, the result of teaching himself programming just out of primary school, at age 12. He later dropped out of a graduate program at Stanford University to capitalize on the rise of the internet with the creation of his first company: Zip2 Corporation. Zip2 was an online version of a city guide. It was purchased by Compaq Computer Corporation in 1999 for $341 million in cash and stock options.

That same year, Elon Musk co-founded X.com and broke into the online payment sector. The company was acquired less than one year later, and PayPal was born. eBay eventually purchased PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion in stock, directly benefiting Musk who owned a casual 11% at the time.

SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is Elon Musk’s third company. It was founded in 2002 for the purpose of constructing vehicles suitable for commercial space travel and still exists today. Although they’ve had a hand in various projects, SpaceX gained celebrity status in 2008 when NASA awarded them a “contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station.”

In 2012, Musk and his company launched the very first unmanned craft into space. Falcon 9, as the rocket was called, carried 1000 lbs of supplies to astronauts already at the Space Station. Three additional Falcon 9s would also make history with the successful transport of a satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit in 2013, the mission to observe extreme solar emissions affecting power grids and communication systems in 2015, and the noteworthy test flight (and landing) of a version of the rocket made from reusable parts.

Concurrent with the foundation and operation of SpaceX, Elon Musk co-founded Tesla in 2003. He serves as the CEO and product architect for the company, which is most known for its advances in the field of electric vehicles.

Present Day Elon Musk

Today Elon Musk is consistently bringing new ideas and technology to the world of space travel and exploration. His current projects include the creation of a rocket that can carry at least 100 people. Long-term plans include cargo mission to Mars in 2022 and the eventual colonization of Mars. Musk is also returning to his entrepreneurial roots with recent permissions from the U.S. government to launch a series of internet-providing satellites into low orbit. Most recently, Musk announced plans to take Tesla private with funding already secured.

Learn more about the thought processes and success strategies of Elon Musk and other entrepreneurs in Think Like.