Being an entrepreneur means having many opportunities. You have to opportunity to be your own boss. You also have the opportunity to create a life of freedom as well as the opportunity to contribute to society. However, some entrepreneurs have the opportunity to change the world forever. Those entrepreneurs who take that opportunity and capitalize on it are among a select few. In this article, we’ll just name some of the entrepreneurs that have changed the world for the better.
Steve Jobs- Changed the World of Smartphones and Digital Music
Apple, one of the most successful companies of all time, has changed the world in many ways with its supremely popular products such as the iPod and iPhone. One of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs, played a significant role in its success. Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in 1976 in Jobs’ family’s garage with the primary goal of developing computers. By 1981, Apple went public and became a Fortune 500 company.
In 1987, Jobs was forced out of the company he founded, but he returned ten years later and led Apple to new heights. He co-created products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and the first Apple stores. Jobs wanted to focus on design and simplicity, which along with brilliant marketing, helped Apple surpass many of its competitors. Apple became the first company to surpass a market cap of $1 trillion on Aug. 2, 2018, thanks to the innovations created by Jobs.
Madam C.J. Walker- Changed Black Hair Care
The global Black hair care market size is estimated to be around $9.56 billion in 2023. However, most people don’t know that the industry was sparked by one woman. Madam C.J. Walker, was born Sarah Breedlove. Although she was born in poverty to former enslaved parents, she would go on to become a self-made millionaire. She is best known for revolutionizing the haircare industry for African American women.
During her life, she faced extreme poverty and discrimination. After years of experimentation and research, she developed a line of haircare products specifically designed for black women. Her most popular was a product called “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower”.
Initially, she sold the product door-to-door. But eventually, she trained a network of sales agents, mostly black women, to sell her products and become financially independent. Walker’s success not only transformed the haircare industry but also paved the way for black women in business and entrepreneurship. She was one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States and used her wealth to support black colleges and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Jeff Bezos-Changed How We Shop Online
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1964, Bezos graduated from Princeton University with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. After working on Wall Street for a few years, Bezos started Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore.
However, Bezos decided to think bigger. Much bigger. The company quickly expanded to include a wide variety of products and services. Now, Amazon is much more than an e-commerce site. The company has a variety of products, including streaming video and music, cloud computing, and more.
Bezos’ focus on customer satisfaction and company innovation has made Amazon what it is today. Amazon has also turned its reputation around when it comes to employee workplace issues. In 2022, the company was awarded “The Best Place to Work” by LinkedIn.
Ray Kroc -Changed the Restaurant Industry
Fast food has been a staple in the American diet for over 60 years. However, that was not always the case. Not until Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, pursued his vision. Kroc worked as a salesman before becoming interested in the fast-food industry. He purchased the first McDonald’s franchise in 1955 and went on to develop the company into a major player in the food industry.
Not only did he revolutionize the fast-food industry, but he also introduced the concept of modern franchising. He established a business model where individual entrepreneurs could own and operate their own McDonald’s locations while adhering to corporate standards and guidelines. This approach enabled rapid expansion and created a global network of McDonald’s restaurants. Ray Kroc inspired other fast-food chains to adopt similar business models, which led to the rapid growth of the fast-food industry. Many fast-food chains, such as Burger King, KFC, and Subway, expanded their operations globally using franchising models similar to McDonald’s.
The success of McDonald’s is not without its controversy. Critics point to the fact that fast-food chains typically offer a menu filled with high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. However, many chains have worked with public health agencies to provide healthier options for their customers.
Bill Gates- Changed the Way We Work
Born in Seattle in 1955, Gates developed an early interest in computers and programming. He co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen and launched the first version of Windows in 1985. By the mid-1990s, Windows could be found on every computer that had an office. As home personal computers gained popularity, customers began using Windows OS in their homes.
Gates is known for his legendary ability to problem solve, determination to find solutions, and willingness to spend hours writing code, which helped Microsoft become the software behemoth it is today. He is one of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet. Microsoft continued to innovate by launching the Xbox gaming console, and Gates also became a philanthropist, using his wealth to support global health initiatives through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
On June 15, 2006, Gates began his transition out of his day-to-day role as CEO of Microsoft to dedicate more time to philanthropic work.
Mark Zuckerberg- Changed How We Stay Connected
There were social media sites like Friendster and Myspace before Facebook. However, Facebook defined what a social media platform was and could be. Facebook changed the way the world connects, interacts, and communicates with friends and strangers. The social media giant we all know today is thanks to Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, one of the world’s largest social media platforms. Born in New York in 1984, Zuckerberg started programming at a young age and attended Harvard University. He launched Facebook in 2004 as a social network for college students, but it quickly grew to include users of all ages around the world.
Facebook would go on to an IPO in May of 2012. As of 2023, Facebook reported revenue of $85.6 billion at a market capitalization of approximately $546 billion, and Mark Zuckerberg is now worth approximately $76 billion.
What is amazing about Zuckerberg is the fact that, at such a young age, he was able to maintain his role as CEO of Facebook as well as the majority of voting shares. His focus on
testing Facebook and social media innovation enabled Facebook to be the dominant social platform on the planet. Zuckerberg’s decision to purchase other platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp has solidified his legacy as a world-changing entrepreneur.
Henry Ford- Changed How We Get Around
Many people often mistake Henry Ford for the inventor of the automobile. To be clear, he did not invent the car. However, he revolutionized the world with his innovative approach to automobile manufacturing. His ingenuity, combined with his business acumen, led to the development of the Model T. With the Model T, Ford showed his commitment to making cars affordable for the average person. Developed in 1908, the vehicle was one of the first mass-produced automobiles.
Ford revolutionized the way cars were made by introducing the assembly line production method. He implemented this method of breaking down the process of manufacturing cars into smaller, specialized tasks. By doing this, he increased productivity, reduced labor costs, and lowered the price of automobiles. This made cars accessible to the middle class, which forever changed the way people lived, worked, and traveled.
Because of the success of the Model T, the Ford Company was able to create millions of jobs. He was able to disrupt the entire job market by introducing the $5 per day wage ($140 today) in 1914. This more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. This created a better standard of living for many workers in Detroit, where the cars were manufactured because competitors were forced to raise wages or lose their workers to the Ford Company.
The success of Ford also spurred the growth of related industries such as steel, rubber, and glass. With more cars available to the masses, this led to the development of infrastructure like highways and gas stations.
Reed Hastings- Changed How We Consume Entertainment
Although Netflix didn’t invent online streaming, it did revolutionize the way we do it. Netflix’s founder, Reed Hastings, initially wanted to create a video rental service where late fees were eliminated and customers could get movies sent to their homes. Born in Boston in 1960, Hastings worked in the software industry before launching Netflix.
The company struggled during its early days. Hastings even tried to sell the company to Blockbuster Video, the dominant video service at the time. Years later, reports emerged that Blockbuster executives laughed at the Netflix founders when they presented the asking price of $50 million for the growing company. However, the two entrepreneurs would get the last laugh.
Over the years, the company shifted its focus to streaming video, and the game changed. As of the time of this writing, Netflix has over 230 million paid subscribers. Even though there have been many newer streaming services, such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime, Netflix is still considered the King of Streaming. Hastings has been known for his innovative approaches to management and his focus on user experience.
Sam Walton -Changed the Retail Industry
Sam Walton, born in Oklahoma in 1918, served in the military before starting his career in retail. He opened the first Walmart store in Arkansas in 1962, and the company grew rapidly over the next few decades. Walton was known for his focus on customer service and his innovative approaches to retail management, including the use of technology and data analysis.
Walmart has changed the way the world understands retail stores. No longer do retail stores seek to stick to a specific niche, such as grocery, hardware, or clothing. Walmart sought to do it all, and with prices that were much lower than its competitors.
When e-commerce giant Amazon began to show the value of shopping online, many experts predicted the death of stores like Walmart. However, a sign of the company’s staying power is how well it adjusted to user shopping behavior. Walmart seamlessly launched Walmart.com with the ability to purchase products, pick them up from the store, or have them delivered.
Its commitment to serving its customer base has led to Walmart generating $611 billion in revenue annually.
What Sam Walton did for retail shopping, Jeff Bezos did for online shopping. The former “Richest Man in the World” now focuses his time on space exploration. However, Bezos launched Amazon.com in 1994, the entrepreneur who changed the way the world shops online. He is considered to be one the greatest retail entrepreneur of all time.
Oprah Winfrey- Changed the Media Industry
Winfrey is one of the most influential women in the world today and in history. Her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons, helped launch her media empire. During the 1990s, Winfrey became the most well-known host on television, surpassing the popularity of people such as Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donahue. The show was produced by Winfrey’s company Harpo Productions. She later started her television company called the “Oprah Winfrey Network” (OWN). She one of the few billionaires in the world that started with nothing.
Few people in the world can match Winfrey’s influence. The term “The Oprah Effect” began being used to describe the impact of a product or industry that was endorsed or mentioned by Winfrey. Products, books, or people that were featured on her show would receive massive exposure and increased sales after being mentioned by Winfrey. Winfrey has opened doors for many people and continues to influence and change the world of media and entertainment.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin- Changed How We Use the Internet
Google, which changed the way we find information on the internet, was created by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1996. The PageRank technology that defined Google was originally nicknamed “BackRub”. Brin and Page founded Google while they were getting their PhDs at Stanford, with the goal of creating a place where anyone could find anything. Instead of using the number of times a search term appeared on a page as a primary method like most search engines of the day, Brin and Page focused on a better system that analyzed the relationships between websites.
Page and Brin’s innovation changed the world forever. If not for Google, it is possible things like Google Maps, Android OS, and Gmail would not exist. From YouTube to Gmail, Google has changed the world by changing the way we use the internet. These two are undoubtedly two of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time.
Estée Lauder- Changed the Beauty Industry
Estée Lauder brought about significant changes in the cosmetics industry with her innovative products, marketing strategies, and emphasis on providing a personalized beauty experience. She was the first to introduce the “gift with purchase” strategy. This is a type of sales campaign where brands incentivize customers to make a purchase by offering them a free gift. Lauder came up with this strategy herself because she didn’t have the money to market and advertise in major magazines.
This strategy is still used by her company and many other companies today. Lauder revolutionized the cosmetics industry. While her impact may be most visible in the beauty and business sectors, her influence extends beyond business. Lauder was known for her philanthropic efforts, particularly in the areas of health, education, and women’s causes.
Ted Turner- Changed How We Get the News
Today, if you want to learn about what is going on in the world, you can do so at any time. However, there was a time in recent history when that was not the case. In order to have access to the news, you would need to wait for the newspaper or wait until the news was televised. Ted Turner changed all of that.
Turner is best known for founding CNN, the first 24-hour news network. Born in Ohio in 1938, Turner started his career in media by managing his father’s billboard advertising company. He went on to purchase several television stations and eventually launched CNN in 1980. Turner has been known for his innovative approaches to media and his dedication to philanthropy, including his support of environmental causes.
Once the public got a taste of what it was like to have access to news 24/7, many other networks emerged. Financial News Network, FOX News, CNBC, and MSNBC were all launched to compete for the attention of the news-seeking public. The reason why the world now has access to news at any time can be traced back to Turner’s decision to launch an all-news network.
Phil Knight- Changed How We View Athletics and Athletic Apparel
Nike is one of the most recognized brands on the planet. The company holds a 38.23% total market share and enjoys annual revenues of around $50 billion. All of this is a result of the vision of its co-founder, Phil Knight. Born in Oregon in 1938, Knight was a track athlete in college and went on to study business at Stanford University. He founded Nike in 1964 as a distributor of Japanese-made sneakers. The company grew rapidly over the next few decades.
Known for its slogan “Just Do It,” the company has signed some of the world’s greatest athletes as spokespeople. From Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods to Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, the brand has sponsored some of the biggest names in sports.
Phil Knight changed the way we view athletic apparel. What was once considered functional for fitness, wearing Nike apparel became a fashion statement. In 1993, Knight was dubbed by The Sporting News as the most powerful man in sports. He had not earned the vote by being an athlete or a team manager, but rather by dressing the feet of athletic legends with his iconic brand.
Elon Musk -Changed the World of Electronic Vehicles
Elon Musk is an entrepreneur and inventor best known for his work in developing electric cars and space travel. Born in South Africa in 1971, Musk immigrated to the United States and founded several companies over the course of his career, including Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal.
The companies built by Elon Musk aim to provide solutions to the pressing problems to human existence and survival. His progress in moving closer to his goal of providing affordable spaceflight to Mars was made possible by selling the first two companies he started. Tesla has been credited with advancing the market for electric vehicles. 2021, Elon Musk made headlines as he topped the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $185 billion, replacing Jeff Bezos of Amazon as the previously hailed richest man in the world. In October 2022, Elon Musk purchased Twitter for roughly $44 billion. The platform officially became one of the many companies owned by Elon Musk.
Musk has become a polarizing figure in the 2020s. Despite this, it is clear that he has influenced the way the world currently works with the innovations that he has been a part of.
Walt Disney -Changed the World of Entertainment
Walt Disney was an animator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist best known for creating some of the most beloved characters in the history of animation. Born in Illinois in 1901, Disney started his career as an artist and animator in the 1920s. He went on to create many iconic characters, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Snow White. Disney also founded several companies, including Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and his legacy continues to shape the entertainment industry to this day.
Disney is a great example of the never-quit mentality that business takes. Walt’s first film studio was his uncle’s garage. Walt rigged up a cartoon stand in his Uncle Robert’s garage, using dry-goods boxes and spare lumber. That same year, he moved to California, and he and his brother Roy launched what is now a global empire.
In 1928, they introduced Mickey Mouse to the world, and their storytelling skills and fun animation have continued to grow and change throughout the decades. In 1937, even after bankruptcy, he wasn’t afraid to take risks as he went over budget by 400% on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Disney is now one of the biggest companies in the world. The entertainment giant has not only dominated the theme park industry but has acquired some of the most iconic entertainment franchises in history, including Marvel Studios and Star Wars. Disney also acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019.
Thomas Edison- Changed the World Through Electricity
Thomas Edison was an inventor and entrepreneur best known for his work in developing the incandescent light bulb. However, Edison is one of history’s most prolific inventors. Although the light bulb alone changed the way people live by extending work hours, the inventor and entrepreneur accomplished many things throughout his life.
He founded several companies over the course of his career, including Edison General Electric, which would later be renamed General Electric.
Edison’s impact extended far beyond lighting, as he held over 1,000 patents in diverse fields. His work on the phonograph brought recorded sound into homes, forever altering the entertainment landscape. The motion picture camera, another of his creations, paved the way for the film industry. Edison’s development of the electric power station allowed for the widespread use of electricity, which ultimately powered countless inventions and industries.
Edison’s relentless pursuit of innovation, and his ability to commercialize inventions, have made him a lasting symbol of human progress. His work laid the foundation for the technological advancements that continue to shape our world today.
Howard Schultz -Changed the World Through Coffee
Howard Schultz is the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, one of the world’s largest coffeehouse chains. Born in New York in 1953, Schultz started his career in sales before joining Starbucks in 1982. He eventually became the CEO and led the company through a period of rapid expansion and innovation. He grew up in a housing complex for the poor. As a kid, he desperately wanted to escape poverty, and he would eventually manage to do so. He ended up winning a football scholarship which enabled him to attend college. After college, he began working for Xerox as well as a general manager for Hammarplast, a Swedish drip coffee maker manufacturer.
Schultz decided to visit a small coffee shop in Seattle called Starbucks Coffee Company. He was impressed by the company and later joined them as the Director of Marketing. In 1986, he opened his own coffee shop called Il Giornale. Later, the co-founders of Starbucks decided to sell the company to Schultz. He then executed his plan to aggressively grow the company nationwide. Now there are about 35,000 Starbucks locations worldwide.
In the U.S. especially, Starbucks has changed society. Many people cannot imagine starting their day without going to Starbucks or another Starbucks-inspired coffee shop. Starbucks’ growth has influenced the creation of numerous coffee shops and cafes, and it has set a standard for quality and customer experience. Schultz’s vision and leadership have left a lasting impact on the global coffee culture, shaping the way people interact with and enjoy their daily cup of coffee.
Jack Dorsey- Changed How We Communicate Online
Jack Dorsey is best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter. Born in Missouri in 1976, Dorsey was interested in programming from a young age and attended New York University before dropping out to start his own company. He launched Twitter in 2006 as a way for people to communicate short messages with each other.
Without Twitter, the news feed may not have existed. The platform gained popularity as a micro-blogging site that allowed users to scroll through a news feed of information. Other social media sites like Facebook quickly added the feature to their platforms.
What made Twitter so special was that anybody could connect with powerful politicians, celebrities, and world leaders by just sending a tweet. But Dorsey wasn’t done innovating.
In 2009, he founded Square, Inc, which eventually IPO’d in 2015. Square is a payment processing company that allows small businesses to accept payments securely while only paying a small merchant fee. Dorsey is still the CEO of Square and is also a Board Member of The Walt Disney Company.
The success of Twitter and Square has made Dorsey one of the most influential entrepreneurs of our time. After Twitter was acquired by Elon Musk, Dorsey planned on starting a Twitter alternative called BlueSky. Dorsey is hoping lightning strikes twice, as Twitter was not without its controversies under Musk’s leadership.
Throughout history, these entrepreneurs have demonstrated the power of innovation, hard work, and determination in achieving their goals and making a lasting impact on the world. From revolutionizing industries and creating iconic brands to advocating for social justice and supporting charitable causes, their legacies continue to inspire and motivate people around the globe.