3 Famous Millionaires Who Failed at First

There is no such thing as a true overnight success.

We take the success of some famous rich people for granted as if they were born into success or had it handed to them.

But some truly self-made success stories spent years or decades learning from their mistakes before becoming rich.

Here are three well-known successes who failed before they succeeded in life.

Walt Disney

Disney was a powerhouse entertainment company long before the 21st century. But Disney acquired Marvel and the Star Wars IP in 2009 and 2012 respectively, it gained new fans and became one of the most financially and culturally successful film companies in history.

None of that would have happened if Walt Disney was a pessimist.

Disney launched an animation studio called Laugh-O-Gram in 1920 that went bankrupt. He then went to Hollywood to become an actor but failed.

Disney then created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the prototype for Mickey Mouse, but had the IP stolen from him by a ruthless business partner. 

While racking up debt and surviving on a diet of beans, Disney created Mickey Mouse in 1928. Still, Disney was rejected over 300 times by financiers before his animation studio and theme park became a reality.

While the Disney animation studio was launched in 1923, the company didn’t have any success until “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” was released in 1937.

Disney died in 1966, long before he could see how wildly popular his business vision became.

J.K. Rowling

While some millionaires make up their “rags to riches” success story, billionaire fantasy writer J.K. Rowling’s story is the real deal.

Rowling was a single mother in her 20s in the early 1990s. She was poverty-stricken, shuttling back and forth between England and Scotland with a child, looking for opportunity and living off of government benefits. Rowling said she was depressed and even considering suicide at this stage of her life.

Rowling persevered by creating Harry Potter but still had more obstacles to overcome. She was rejected dozens of times by publishers before her book was published. Rowling even submitted her book under a male pen name and was rejected as well.

The Harry Potter books have sold over 450 million copies since 1997 and have been licensed into several successful films.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen

In the 1970s, city and state municipalities would statistically measure traffic patterns by laying pressure-sensitive rubber cables at certain roadways. The methods to collect this data were inefficient and time exhaustive.

High school students Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the future creators of Microsoft, created an update of this system called Traf-O-Data. While Gates and Allen perfected the existing traffic-collecting software, there was no existing computer hardware infrastructure to support it. 

Additionally, they had no business plan or networking connections to local politicians.

While Traf-O-Data was a failure, Gates and Allen learned from their mistakes. They later launched Microsoft.