Home Success 41 Successful People Who Failed Miserably Before Making It Big

41 Successful People Who Failed Miserably Before Making It Big

Trista August 29, 2019
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Sean Carter, aka Jay-Z, is married to Beyonce.

31. Jay-Z Sold CDs Out of the Trunk of His Car

Jay-Z grew up in utter poverty in the housing projects of Brooklyn, New York. His family life was unstable, growing up with a single mother after his father abandoned the family, and for a time, he resorted to selling drugs. During that time, though, he developed an interest in music.

Unable to get a record deal, Jay-Z sold CDs out of his trunk before forming his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records. His career finally took off when his debut album soared up to number 23 on the Billboard 200 before going platinum.

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The Virgin brand almost didn’t survive.

32. Richard Branson Nearly Lost His Shirt in Business

The creator of the Virgin Group, which began as Virgin Records, began his company while he was in college by distributing a magazine that sold discounted records. When he opened his own record shop in 1971, he ended up having to pay so many fines and penalties to the government that his mother had to remortgage the house.

Virgin Records became a huge success, and Branson went on to create the Virgin Atlantic airline. But in order to keep the airline solvent, he had to sell the record label, a heartbreaking loss for someone whose first success was in the record business.

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Oprah Winfrey has her own television network, book club, magazine, and more.

33. Oprah Was Considered Unfit for Television

Oprah Winfrey was born into dire poverty, growing up with her teenage mother and her grandmother. She was sexually abused by family and friends, and when she was 14, gave birth to a baby who died shortly after. She had to overcome tremendous odds to become the icon of television that she is today.

After college, she co-anchored a news show in Baltimore, but the producer removed her, stating that she was unfit for television. She went on to host a show called AM Chicago and was so good at it that it became The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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Today, Hershey’s is synonymous with chocolate success.

34. Milton Hershey’s First Business Failed

The man whose name is synonymous with chocolate was fired from his first job when he was 14. He later went to work for a candy maker and decided to start his own business, but that business failed. After traveling the country and not finding any opportunities, he moved back to the family farm in Pennsylvania.

There, he learned how to make chocolate out of condensed milk and created the Lancaster Caramel Company. It succeeded, and he sold it for one million dollars to create the Hershey’s Chocolate Company. It is one of the most famous brands in the world.

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Sylvester Stallone is an actor, starring in numerous action films.

35. 1500 Talent Agents Rejected Sylvester Stallone

The man who would be immortalized as Rocky Balboa in the hit Rocky films was so destitute after moving to New York City that he had to sell his dog for $25 in order to pay his electric bill. He sat in 1500 offices of talent agents, scouts, and recruiters, all of which rejected him. He became homeless and spent three weeks sleeping in a bus station.

After writing the script for Rocky, he was offered $350,000 on the grounds that he did not act on the film. He rejected the offer and eventually got a deal for $35,000 plus a percentage of sales, with him as the star. The film grossed $200 million at the box office.

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Steve Jobs created Apple.

36. Steve Jobs Dropped Out of College

Steve Jobs’ early life was so filled with failure that he dropped out of college to travel the world and study Zen Buddhism. After he and Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computers in 1976, he hired a CEO who was not up to the job. Unable to fire the CEO, Jobs left Apple Computers to form a new company, NeXT.

NeXT became a successful company, but Apple struggled. Apple eventually acquired NeXT in 1997, bringing Jobs back to the company that he had founded. He went on to design products that would revolutionize computing and make it a part of our daily lives, but only after failing numerous times.

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Stephen King is notorious for his horror books, which turn into films like It.

37. Stephen King Kept Tabs of His Rejection Letters

By the time he was 14 years old, Stephen King had received so many rejection letters that the nail he had put in his wall to display them could no longer bear their weight. He continued writing after college but couldn’t seem to land a job. When he began his breakout hit, Carrie, he became so discouraged that he threw it in the trash.

His wife retrieved the manuscript and urged him to complete it. It was rejected by 30 publishers before Doubleday offered him a $2500 advance. He soon sold the rights for it for $200,00, and he has since become one of the most famous authors in history.

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Steven Spielberg is one of the most famous directors of all time.

38. Steven Spielberg’s 1941 Was a Flop

Spielberg applied to attend college at the University of Southern California, but his application was rejected due to poor grades. After graduating from California State University at Long Beach, he produced the blockbuster Jaws, which propelled him to instant fame and success.

However, riding on the success of Jaws couldn’t prevent his next movie, 1941, from being a flop. It lost so much money that his career nearly ended. He had to push through and persevere before being able to continue making his blockbuster films, which included ET and The Color Purple.

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Today, Honda is an iconic car brand.

39. Soichiro Honda Had to Pawn His Wife’s Wedding Ring

The man who would build the Honda car company, after apprenticing at a mechanic shop, set out to open his own automotive shop. He tried to create piston rings for the Toyota company, but he was so poor that he had to pawn his wife’s wedding ring. Ultimately, the rings he designed were deemed unsuitable.

After going back to school and getting back to the drawing board, he created rings that Toyota accepted. However, the factory that he built to construct those rings were destroyed in World War II. The next factory was destroyed by an earthquake. Undeterred, Honda went on to build the motorcycle that would become the Honda Motorbike.

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The Beatles were an iconic British band.

40. The Beatles Were Told They Would Never Succeed

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison drove through a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve in 1961 to record some tracks at the Decca Recording Studio. The sound tech there, Dick Rowe, said that they would never succeed and that “guitar groups were on their way out.” They didn’t give up.

After five months, The Beatles signed on with Parlophone Records and released the first of many hits that year, “Love Me Do.” Today, they remain one of the most iconic guitar bands in all of history and a cultural symbol of the 1960s.

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Harrison Ford is a famous actor.

41. Studio Executives Told Harrison Ford He Would Never Succeed in Show Business

When Harrison Ford was 22, he moved to LA to try to break into show business. He failed his first auditions for voice-overs but, two years later, landed an uncredited role as an extra in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round. However, the executives at the studio told him that he would never make it in the business.

Ford didn’t give up and, nine years later, was cast by George Lucas in American Graffiti. Lucas and Ford became a dynamic duo, with Ford playing some of the main characters in the highly successful movies that Lucas produced, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. Today, he is one of the most famous actors in history.