7 Business Failure Stories that Turned into Success Stories


Behind every man’s success is his greatest failure in life. No one can take away one from another because these are intertwined with fate already. Imagine if Michael Jordan wasn’t rejected in his high school basketball team, do you think he’ll strive harder and become the greatest sportsman of all time?

There are a lot of success stories that we’ve read or listened to everywhere. Some famous stories include J.K. Rowling’s several attempts to publish the Harry Potter series, the 10,000 tries of Thomas Edison to create a light bulb, and when Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple. To think, their stories would be 5boring without those failures because there won’t be any stories to share after all.

But having failures isn’t about adding spice to your story; it is about the learning process to make you wiser. The same is true with these 7 failures that will make you change your perception to failures:

warren-buffett1. Warren Buffett

He is undeniably the most successful investor in the world who sits as the Chairman of the Board for Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate listed as the fifth-largest public company by Forbes Global 2000.

A self-confessed coke lover, stock investors highly regard his advice about what stocks to buy and his views about the economy. But before emerging as one of the best financial advisors, he too had experienced failures that taught him to become better and wiser in making decisions.

At a young age of eleven, he is already into buying stocks. He bought shares at a price of $38 dollar per share and sold them when it reached $40 per share.

But how this became a failure?

Well, nothing’s more hurtful than seeing the stock you bought skyrocketing up to $200 per share after selling your shares. Ouch!

On the other hand, Buffett thinks that buying Berkshire Hathaway was his worst dumbest investment.

He was given a tender offer price by Seabury Stanton, former owner of Berkshire, only to find out later on that he was cheated by an eighth of a point lower than their agreement. To cut the story short, he bought more shares so he can have the power to fire Stanton. He said that had he invested his whopping $200B to insurance, his gains could have doubled instead.

Yet, it turns out that his biggest mistake will make him and Berkshire Hathaway prestigious. With these experiences he had, he won’t be as great as he is right now.

reed-hastings2. Reed Hastings

The ball is indeed round for Reed Hastings and the success story of Netflix.

Everybody knows what Netflix is but for the benefit of those who don’t, Netflix provides movies and TV shows through streaming. Some of the popular shows are Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards. It rose to popularity until its name already became an adjective.

All thanks to Blockbuster for denying the acquisition of Netflix back in 2000 when Hastings was starting to lose profit.

Blockbuster once had 7,700 stores opened by the time Hastings was willing to sell most of his company’s stake for $50M. Yet, the David in this story didn’t lose hope after being turned down by Goliath. Hastings sold 5.5 million of common shares at a price of $15 per share despite incurring losses at the beginning. Fast forward 10 years later, Netflix has become a household name while the other continues to struggle to get back on track.

Now that’s a blessing in disguise!

Related: Top 7 Successful Businesses in the Philippines that Will Inspire You

milton-hershey3. Milton Hershey

It is believed that Hershey’s Kisses is named after the sound or motion of its manufacturing process. But that is only a theory that still needs to be proven. Nevertheless, there’s more interesting story than the origin of its name. It is none other than the story of Milton Hershey, the founder of our favorite chocolate Hershey’s.

Three is a charm for Milton as he attempted thrice before succeeding. But his journey was never as sweet as his famous chocolate. It required him to have two failure businesses where he devoted a lot of his time for them to survive. An ordinary person who was haunted by too many failures would give up easily; what more when your relatives refused to help you after failing twice.

Yet, Hershey – who was already a candy-maker at 15 – was full of determination because he was extraordinary. With the help of his friend and a former employee, they established Lancaster Caramel Co. He tested different variations of sweets using fresh milk until he found the right formula that would sell millions later on.

If Mr. Hershey gave up when the world seemed to go against him, there won’t be any Hershey’s that we all love today.

arianna-huffington4. Arianna Huffington

Does her surname sound familiar? You might have read it when you’re browsing your news feed or elsewhere. That is because Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and the editor-in-chief of the online news platform The Huffington Post or simply HuffPost.

Prior to the success of HuffPost, she is an author and a political candidate in California last 2003. Despite the success of her first book, she had 36 rejections on her second book. But instead of losing hope, those rejections became her strength.

Two years later after her withdrawal from her political ambition, she launched HuffPost together with Ken Lerer using the funds they raised for the campaign. With her passion in writing and political interest, the site emerged as one of the best online news sites particularly in terms of US politics.

Her mother is her greatest influencer to her positive-thinking. She shares with Success on her interview:

“My mother instilled in me that failure was not something to be afraid of, that it was not the opposite of success. It was a steppingstone to success. So I had no fear of failure. Perseverance is everything. I don’t give up. Everybody has failures, but successful people keep on going…. She was my life mentor.” – Arianna Huffington

fred-smith5. Fred Smith

Only a few knows who this man is, but everybody knows what FedEx does.

Who would believe that FedEx was only a requirement when Fred Smith studied economics at Yale University? His term paper was about an overnight delivery that had computerized information. However, his professor thought that it wasn’t feasible enough – though it was still interesting. We couldn’t blame him for, at that time, technology wasn’t as improved as it is today.

Smith held onto this concept until it became the first overnight delivery in the world several years after graduating.

But the challenge wasn’t on his “must-be-feasible” term paper. The company suffered million dollar losses per month in its first few years. To any businessman, this is too much to handle. Or, if you are an investor you would want to back out like what his investors did. Smith’s investors disagreed to provide more funding when the company was losing more than million dollars.

So how was he able to fund his almost dying company?

The answer: Blackjack.

Yes, it was the game blackjack that gave him another chance. With $27,000 cash on hand, he was able to raise $11M to keep his company up and running. And the rest is history.

mary-kay-ash6. Mary Kay Ash

Her name may sound familiar to you especially if you’re a woman.

Yes, Mary Kay Ash was the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics – a billion dollar company that promotes women empowerment. And this has something to do with Mary Kay’s personal life.

Mary Kay was successful in her career as a seller of home care products. The problem was she was not given the right recognition for her hard work, let alone praising her for a job well done. What made it more painful was when the man that she trained was given a salary raise and a promotion.

She devoted her time writing a book on how women can go along with the alpha males of the business world. This book would soon become her road map to her successful business that changed her life and others as well.

She began Mary Kay Cosmetics, a direct selling business, with an initial capital of $5,000. It had nine beauty consultants in the beginning. Fast forward to the present, it now has thousands of beauty consultants worldwide.

col-harland-sanders7. Col. Harland Sanders

We all love KFC’s gravy that we drown our rice in it!

Prior to the popularity of our favorite gravy and the tasty chicken of KFC, Col. Harland Sanders went through a lot of struggles like going from one restaurant to another to give free tastes of his recipe.

First of all, his honor wasn’t from his service with US Army. He was awarded the honor of Kentucky colonel – the highest honor title given by the Commonwealth of Kentucky – for his notable work. He began working at the age of 10 doing various jobs. At the age of 40, he was running a service station that fed hungry travelers.

It was in the early 40s when he finally discovered the “11 herbs and spices” that is kept as a secret until now.

Everything was going smooth not until he had to shut down his business due to the new interstate that reduced the customer traffic. At that time, the colonel was in his early 60s and could have just retired instead. But he was persistent to achieve success and not wealth; he drove across the country with his wife in hopes of franchising his business.

With his perseverance, more than 600 restaurants were selling Kentucky Fried Chicken until John Y. Brown and Jack Massey, a lawyer and a venture capitalist respectively, got interested in buying the franchise rights. Col. Sanders finally sold the rights for $2 million after few weeks of persuasion. It was agreed that he would have a lifetime monthly salary of $40,000.

It may have hurt him to see the fruit of his hard work go to someone else’s hands. But he thought that it might be a better idea to watch it grow instead.

Related: Top 10 Successful Entrepreneurs in the Philippines Story

Failures are positive after all

That is if we embrace it with arms wide open. But remember that it isn’t all the time necessary to embrace our own. We can embrace others too; which is a wiser thing to do depending on the situation we are involved with.

Failures are not negative circumstances; they are opportunities to learn and achieve our goals. Sometimes, it redirects us to the path we are supposed to be in. No matter what it is, do not be afraid to experience failure! Instead, appreciate what it can offer you in the future.

Wrapping things up, here is a quote I’d like to share with everyone:

“It is smart to learn from your mistakes. It is wise to learn from others.”

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