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
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
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.