15 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Need College

How many times were you told to make sure you worked hard in high school so you could
go to college and get a good career job? Okay, maybe not all of you got nagged about it,
but probably a good portion of today’s generation of adults did.

It’s natural to wonder whether college is really necessary. A college degree, as many have
found, is no guarantee of a good career. On the flipside, there are way too many successful
entrepreneurs who didn’t need their college education and become millionaires anyway.
Here are fifteen of them, both contemporary and from the past, in alphabetical order.

Mary Kay Ash.
The founder of Mary Kay Inc. started a cosmetics business. While she didn’t have a college education or any training, she successfully created a brand known throughout the world.
To date, nearly half a million women have started Mary Kay businesses, selling cosmetics.
Their appreciation for Mary Kay Ash is unwavering.

Richard Branson
Richard Branson is best known for his thrill seeking spirit and outrageous business tactics.
He dropped out at the age of 16 and started his first successful business venture, Student Magazine. He is the owner of the Virgin brand and its 360 companies. His companies include
Virgin Megastore and Virgin Atlantic Airway.

Coco Chanel
An orphan for many years, Gabrielle Coco Chanel trained as a seamstress. Determined to
invent herself, she threw out the ideas that the fashion world deemed feminine, boldly using
fabric and styles normally reserved for men. A perfume bearing her name, Chanel No. 5 kept
her name famous.

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell started in a mailroom for a music publishing company. He has since become
an Artist and Repertoire (A&R) executive for Sony BMG in the UK, and a television producer
and judge for major television talent contests including American Idol.

Michael Dell
With $1,000, dedication and desire, Michael Dell dropped out of college at age 19 to start
PC’s Limited, later named Dell, Inc. Dell became the most profitable PC manufacturer in the
world. In 1996, The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation offered a $50 million grant to The
University of Texas at Austin to be used for children’s health and education in the city.

Barry Diller
Fox Broadcasting Company was started by a college dropout, Barry Diller. Diller is now
chairman of Expedia, and CEO of of IAC/InterActiveCorp which includes Home Shopping
Network and Ticketmaster.

Walt Disney
Having dropped out of high school at 16, Walt Disney’s career and accomplishments are
astounding. The most influential animator, Disney holds the record for the most awards
and nominations. Disney’s imagination included cartoons and theme parks. The Walt Disney Company now has annual revenue of $30 billion.

Debbi Fields
As a young, 20 year old housewife with no business experience, Debbi Fields started
Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery. With a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, this young
woman became the most successful cookie company owner. She later renamed,
franchised, then sold Mrs. Field’s Cookies.

Henry Ford
At 16, Henry Ford left home to apprentice as a machinist. He later started Ford Motor
Company to manufacture automobiles. Ford’s first major success, the Model T, allowed
Ford to open a large factory and later start the assembly line production, revolutionalizing
the auto-making industry.

Bill Gates

Ranked as the world’s richest person from 1995-2006, Bill Gates was a college drop out.
He started the largest computer software company, Microsoft Corporation. Gates and his
wife are philanthropists, starting The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a focus on
global health and learning.

Milton Hershey
With only a fourth grade education, Milton Hershey started his own chocolate company.
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate became the first nationally marketed chocolate. Hershey also
focused on building a wonderful community for workers, known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Steve Jobs
After attending one semester of college, Steve Jobs worked for Atari before co-founding
Apple Computers. Now without the “Computers” in their name, Apple includes innovative
products such as the iPod, iTunes, and most recently the iPhone. Steve Jobs was also the
CEO and co-founder of Pixar before it merged with Walt Disney.

Rachael Ray
Despite having no formal training in culinary arts, Rachel Ray has made a name for herself
in the food industry. With numerous shows on the Food Network, a talk show and cookbooks,
high-energy Rachael doesn’t slow down. She has also appeared in magazines as well has
having her own magazine debut in 2006. She knew she was a success when a website
dedicated to bashing her was created.

Ty Warner
Sole owner, CEO, and Chairman of Ty, Inc., Ty Warner is a savvy, yet private business man.
Ty, Inc., made $700 million in a single year with the Beanie Babies craze without spending
money on advertising! He has since expanded to include Ty Girlz dolls, directly competing
with Bratz dolls.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Having never attended high school, Frank Lloyd Wright surpassed all odds when he became
the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Wright designed more than 1,100
projects with about half actually being built. His designs have inspired numerous architects
to look at the beauty around them and add to it. Of course, just because these people made
it does not of course mean that most people can do without a college degree. If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit, the degree is just a backup.


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