College Students Turned Successful Entrepreneurs

I read this book once called The Student Success Manifesto (The Guide to Creating a Life of Passion Purpose, and Prosperity) written by Michael Simmons and I thought I should share this particular chapter with you. This book is about how you can become a successful business person while in school. This particular chapter I share with you is about college students turned successful entrepreneurs and how you too may become one.


Here we go:

Successful Extreme Entrepreneurs are made not born. Anybody can become one. If you think you are too young or not educated enough to achieve your wildest dream, then think again. Considering the following excerpt from a study on the founders of Inc. 500 companies (, America’s fastest growing private companies:

Forty percent of the Inc. 500 founders had no experience in the industry they were entering…Over one-third of Inc. 500 founders were out of work when they started their companies, many others had just a few years on the job. These entrepreneurs have few if any contacts in the field they are going to enter…It is their personality, adaptability, and their willingness to provide specialized products or services that wins the day, rather than traditional industry expertise they bring.


I’ve met dozens of students who are Extreme Entrepreneurs, and doing well in school is definitely not a prerequisite of success (although it can certainly help). If you think that just because you did not get into a highly ranked school, or just because you have been getting lower average grades, you won’t succeed, think again. Being a successful Extreme Entrepreneur is based on a different set of standards that school does not necessarily teach or measure. If entrepreneurs had to be book smart, then people who were still in college would not be able to create more successful businesses than people 20 years older. Yet they can.

College Students Turned Successful Entrepreneurs 2


Some examples of businesses started by young people either in school, or just out, are:



Bill Gates (with Paul Allen) after leaving Harvard as junior.



Michael Dell, while attending the University of Texas.



Hershey Foods Corporation

Milton Hershey opened his first candy shop in 1876 at 18 years of age. It failed six years later, but he hit gold ten years after that when he founded the Lancaster Caramel Company. The Hershey Food Company later became a subsidiary.


Ryan Allis

During his senior year of high school, Ryan was able to take a pharmaceutical product to over $1 million in sales with creative web marketing.


Federal Express

Fred Smith was attending Yale. He wrote a business plan for Federal Express and was given a “C” by his professor.


Nantucket Nectars

Tom First and Tom Scott, after graduating Brown. In 2001, Nantucket Nectars had $66 million in revenue.



Steve Jobs (with Stephen Wozniak), after leaving Reed University.

Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizleman attracted a $20 million investment while attending Cornell. The company later went public.


Vivendi Universal

Barry Diller, after dropping out of the University of California at Los Angeles, became the unofficial head of programming for ABC by the time he was 23. He is now the CEO of Vivendi Universal.



Richard Branson dropped out of high school, started a magazine, and then later went on to start the Virgin “empire.”


Lillian Vernon

Lillian Vernon started her mail order business with a $2,000 wedding gift. At the time, she was 21, pregnant, and a housewife. In 2001, revenue was $287 million.


Barnes & Noble

Len Riggio, while attending New York University, started a book store that later turned into Barnes & Noble.


Rolling Stone Magazine

Jann Wenner, a University of California at Berkeley drop-out, founded his magazine at 21.


Def Jam

Rick Rubin, while attending NYU. He collaborated with Russell Simmons and produced such artists as Run D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and L.L. Cool J. and became a millionaire.



Jerry Yang, while attending Stanford.



Howard Jonas, after dropping out of Harvard, founded IDT, which had a market capitalization over $1 billion as of late 2002.

Jeff Taylor, who went to UMass for six years, but never graduated. While in college he started and ran five businesses.


Motion Picture Director of Star Wars Steven Spielberg

Dropped out of California State University, Long Beach. He finally graduated 33 years later in 2002 with a degree in film and electronic arts.



Phillip Knight, while attending Stanford.


Anthony Robbins Companies

Anthony Robbins never attended college and started a company called Achievement Enterprises, where he had 15 employees by the time he was 20. He later went on to create a self-development “empire.”


Domino’s Pizza

Tom Monaghan tried college six times but never got past his freshman year. In 1960, at 19, Tom borrowed $500 and purchased a pizza store called DomiNick’s. Four years later, he renamed the company Domino’s Pizza.



William Hewlett and David Packard, after leaving Stanford, started HP out of a garage.



Michael Bronner, while attending Boston University. He founded the company from his dorm room in order to help pay his tuition. Digitas is as of this writing a public company.


Hard Candy

Dineh Mohajer, while a pre-med student at the University of Southern California, was pushing $10 million in sales within months of starting her company in 1995. It was acquired by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey in 1999.



Fred Delucca while struggling to pay for college borrowed $1,000 from a family friend to open his first sandwich shop.


Polaroid Corporation

Edwin Land took two leaves of absence from Harvard. During the first leave of absence, he created a new kind of polarizer, which he called Polaroid. During the second leave of absence he started a laboratory with other young scientists.



Ted Turner was kicked out of Brown twice, before taking over the helm of his father’s failing billboard business when he was 24. He expanded the business into television. Turner used the profits from the company to launch CNN, the first 24-hour all-news cable channel.


Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Started training for Mr. Universe when he was 14 years old. By 20 years old, he was the competition’s youngest champion ever.



I bring up these profiles not to show that school is unimportant. On the contrary, I think it can be beneficial to many students when leveraged. My goal is to show that anybody can achieve anything. I hope that the statistics and real world examples I have brought up will give you the confidence to follow your dreams.

-The end-


Can you become one?

You have read these stories and seen that you are not too young to begin your own entrepreneurial career. It may not end up being as huge as these companies are but you can make it as big as you want it and be successful at it too. So, do you think you can become one of the few that’s ready to take your life into your hands and kick ass at it?

Then resolve today to make it happen and do not let anything or anybody stop you from reaching your goals and dreams.

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