3 entrepreneurs who refused to take no for an answer

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, never submit to failure. Do not be fobbed off with mere personal success or acceptance.”

Nicknamed the British Bulldog and known for his tenacious spirit and unrelenting bravery, it was clear that Churchill adhered to this motto in his political life. In my opinion, he demonstrated the kind of persistence and courage that entrepreneurs need if they’re going to be successful.

After decades of experience in business, I am well acquainted with the word ‘no’, but I haven’t let it stop me from pursuing my dreams. I know, however, that when you’re faced with apparent dead-ends time and again and your goals seem unattainable, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. If you’re in this position right now, you might be inspired by the experiences of these entrepreneurs.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb

Picture of Brian Chesky on an ipad
Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky initially struggled to find investors but his company is now worth $24billion. (aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com)

CEO and co-founder of peer-to-peer accommodation rental company Airbnb Brian Chesky is worth £2.9 billion today and was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama Administration in 2015. However, at the start of his career, the now 35-year-old was also familiar with the word ‘no’.

Early on, Chesky and his Airbnb co-founders were introduced to seven eminent investors in Silicon Valley and pitched them in an attempt to raise $150,000 in exchange for 10% of the business. They received rejections from five of the investors, and the other two never replied! However, Chesky and his associates were undeterred and continued to pursue their goals. Today Airbnb is valued at £24 billion and has been used by more than 60 million people.

Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen

Kavita Shukla is the founder and CEO of Fenugreen, a social enterprise tackling global food waste with her own invention, FreshPaper, which keeps food fresh. The young entrepreneur has been awarded the INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award – the world’s greatest prize for design – and has been named in TIME Magazine’s ‘5 Most Innovative Women in Food’, but her success grew from humble origins.

Shukla started out mixing spices in pond water in her garage when she was 12 years old in an attempt to reproduce the benefits of a homebrewed spice tea her grandmother gave her in India. She eventually came up with the idea of creating a spice-infused paper that prevents bacterial and fungal growth, and worked on the product all through high school and university.

Despite failing to get the interest she needed from potential donors to create a large-scale non-profit, and being told repeatedly that she “needed more experience, more degrees, more money”, she persisted.

Shukla believed in her idea and invested $150 in spices and paper-making materials to create a local non-profit. The product became a huge success and is now sold in supermarkets in more than 35 countries worldwide.

Joy Mangano, Miracle Mop

Picture of Joy Mangano
Joy Mangano created the Miracle Mop to make her own household chores easier. (Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

The story of Joy Mangano is the stuff of Hollywood movies – quite literally. Joy, a film loosely based on the American inventor and entrepreneur’s life, was released in 2015.

As a divorced mother of three struggling to make ends meet in the 1980s, Mangano found inspiration in the drudgery of household chores. Frustrated with mops that didn’t last long and required the user to bend down to wring them out, she created what would become known as the Miracle Mop.

She borrowed money to make 100 prototypes and started selling them locally. In 1992, a TV shopping channel bought 1,000 of the mops, but the executives asked her to take them all back when they failed to sell.

Believing strongly in her idea, Mangano refused to take the mops back and demanded the chance to sell them herself. In her first appearance, more than 18,000 units were sold. Within 10 years, her company was selling more than US$8 million worth of mops every year.

In 1999, she joined the Home Shopping Network, where she now generates in excess of £110 million in annual sales. Today, Mangano is said to be worth £38 million.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a diverse portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

3 ways to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur

Being your own boss certainly has its perks, but it also comes with a heavy weight of responsibility.

You can’t simply switch off and forget about your company at the end of the day. Instead, you might find yourself working long hours under considerable stress.

This means that, if you’re not careful, you risk suffering burnout. There are ways to avoid this though and, over the years, I’ve learned a range of techniques that help me to avoid reaching this point.

  1. Set aside time to really switch off

Switching off for an entire weekend, or even just an evening, might not be an option when you have your own company – at least not in its early stages. After all, you’ll no doubt want to be on hand if any problems arise. But if you don’t give yourself any time to relax, you’re storing up trouble.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of setting aside at least a little space in your schedule to completely forget about work and focus on other things. Even if it’s just an hour or two in the evening, this downtime will help you to de-stress and reboot, making you even more productive when you are in work mode.

And don’t be afraid to take holidays. Admittedly, this is one I’ve found doesn’t get any easier the longer you’ve been in business. You might be worried about the adverse effect that a break may have on your business, but it’s important to also consider the negative impact on your company if you’re too tired to work efficiently. The occasional getaway will give you the chance to re-energise and you’ll probably find you return with a renewed sense of purpose and drive.

  1. Take steps to stay healthy

When you’re prioritising your business, your health may take a back seat. For example, you might not get enough sleep, you could fall into bad eating habits and you may struggle to get the recommended amount of exercise. Trust me, I’ve been there.

All of this is bad news for your wellbeing. It will also impact on your energy levels and make the day-to-day running of your company feel like more of a challenge.

So, no matter how busy you are, try to get a decent amount of sleep and take steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to help you to stay in shape and keep your energy levels up.

It’s also important to plan your meals so that you don’t end up relying on junk food to refuel. I’ve certainly been guilty of this, but now make sure I have a healthy breakfast (I’m addicted to the yoghurt from the café near my office) and buy fruit to snack on throughout the day so I’m not tempted by the vending machine at 3pm.

  1. Delegate to lighten your workload

Even if you’re a perfectionist by nature, it’s unsustainable to attempt to micromanage all aspects of your business. This approach will almost certainly result in burnout. Instead, make sure you have a good team around you and learn to delegate tasks to lighten your workload.

It might feel uncomfortable at first, but handing responsibility to others is essential, particularly if your company is growing and your to-do list keeps getting longer.