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The Entrepreneur Factor

Monthly Archives: December 2011

From home furnishings to sports, Arthur Blank has managed to come out on top. He has always been an achiever, especially during his younger years. Completing college in only three years, Blank graduated from Babson College with degrees in Business Administration and Accounting. Later, he would translate his academic excellence to a successful career.

Blank’s time as an entrepreneur began in 1978, when he met future business partner Bernie Marcus at Handy Dan, a home center chain where they both worked as officers. But their careers at the chain store were cut short when corporate raider Sanford S. Sigoloff fired them. Frustrated and without jobs, the “do-it-yourself” best friends started their own store, using a system they had experimented with at Handy Dan.

Home Depot, a nationwide chain of warehouse stores, was opened in 1979. Blank and Bernie filled their stores with a variety of products sold at extremely low prices by trained associates. They believed their company had the perfect formula for success; however, during opening day, their spirits were crushed by a lack of sales. It was an overwhelming disappointment that lasted for several days, until a customer returned to their store to give a token of appreciation – an okra. Blank took it as a positive sign, and he was right to do so. Word-of-mouth advertising soon made the store a success.

As the co-founder, Blank is proud that Home Depot was able to improve the lives of others, create jobs for over 157,000 people, permeate the global community, and reinvest wealth in the community through philanthropy.

In addition to the home-improvement chain, Blank is also the owner of the Atlanta Falcons franchise in the National Football League. He is also chairman of the Arthur Blank Family Foundation.

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Darwin Deason has come a long way from his family’s farm in Arkansas. Today, he owns an expansive Palm Desert, California compound, a 14,000-square-foot Dallas penthouse, and a 205-foot yacht in Monte Carlo’s harbor. He became a success in the business world offering a much-needed service to other companies: cheap labor.

How did the farm boy who never attended college reach the billion-dollar mark?

Ironically, Deason acquired his wealth and success by helping other companies and government factions save money. His company, Affiliated Computer Services, was established in 1988 with this particular goal in mind. Under his leadership, the company became a pioneer in outsourcing. He provided clients options for cheaper labor by shipping office work, like payroll processing, to countries such as Mexico and Guatemala – where production costs were inexpensive.

Since companies want to decrease their production expenditures, Deason found himself handling an increasing number of clients. As their costs went down, his profits shot up. The farm boy had become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America.

According to Deason, the secret to his success was a combination of hustle and discipline. These traits carried over to his employees at ACS, who came in to work early and stayed later.

Deason sold ACS to Xerox in February 2010 and is still a highly-regarded figure in the business industry. Thanks to his strong work ethics,  Darwin Deason became a self-made billionaire.

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Lorenzo Fertitta has made entrepreneurship both lucrative and entertaining. As the co-founder/principal shareholder of Station Casinos Inc. and the majority owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Fertitta has made a business out of amusement. But he wasn’t always involved with this kind of business. Like many other conservative entrepreneurs, he initially settled for low-risk ventures like real-estate property.

So how did the traditional entrepreneur enter the world of casinos and mixed martial arts?

It started in 1991, when he co-founded Station Casinos with his older brother. He initially served as a member of the board of directors before becoming president in 2000. His real-estate experience proved to be useful in this venture as he led the company to dominate the local casino market in Las Vegas, purchasing several sites that were entitled for gaming. After almost two decades in the casino business, he decided to pursue other interests and step down from his position. Within a year of his resignation, Station Casinos filed for bankruptcy.

For Fertitta, however, it was just the beginning.

With the encouragement of childhood friend, Dana White, who was at that time a martial arts trainer, Fertitta purchased a huge stake of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In a rare interview, he admitted that this decision was the kind that “people with a lot of money are not supposed to have.” Back then, UFC was just a fringe sport with a small following – with even smaller returns.

Despite this, Fertitta saw an opportunity. He believed that UFC could be big, providing it had the right direction and leadership. He founded Zuffa, a sports promotion company, which is responsible for introducing mixed martial arts as a sport to the public. With this venture, Fertitta landed on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.

 

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For a certain fee, advertisers rent billboards to promote their product or service. The business produces easy money for billboard owners, but not every aspiring entrepreneur can afford to put up a billboard. Jason Sadler realized this early on but decided to pursue the business anyway — with a twist. The twenty-eight-year-old founded IWearYourShirt.com so he can get paid to wear shirts that act as billboards.

Don’t be fooled; wearing t-shirts for a living takes a lot more work than one would think. Every day, Sadler has to wear a different shirt printed with a different company logo. The hard part is getting companies to pay him to wear their brand. Sadler has to prove his marketing ability to numerous companies to get a deal. He then has to promote the heck out of what he is wearing through various social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Sadler got his first client, UStream.tv, in 2009. He was paid a dollar to wear their branded shirt. The following day, he charged his second client two dollars. He continued this pattern until the end of the year — and earned seventy thousand dollars in the process.

The human billboard gets his clients through word of mouth, a testament of his effectiveness as a viral marketer. Sadler increased his prices in 2010 — from an initial two dollars up to five dollars at the beginning of the year — as his number of clients grew. He also had to hire four more people to wear t-shirts. Employees were selected through a video resume, which people then voted for on YouTube.

With IWearYourShirt.com, Sadler expects to earn at least half a million dollars this year. His ingenious business concept —which can be described as a modern-day sandwich board — is far from a new phenomenon, but it certainly brought forth a novel kind of advertising.

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