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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, better known simply as Beyoncé, is famous as a singer and actress, one of the most recognized figures in the entertainment industry. What many don’t realize though is that the self-proclaimed feminist also has an entrepreneurial streak, introducing a fashion line for women called House of Deréon in 2005 named after her grandmother, Agnez Deréon. She also established Beyond Productions with her mother to handle brand management and licensing for House of Deréon and the junior collection Deréon.

Beyoncé has also since then launched another label for junior apparel, Sasha Fierce for Deréon, which is available in specialty shops, like Against All Odds and Jimmy Jazz, and department stores, like Dillard’s and Macy’s. In 2010, she teamed up with C&A, a clothing store, to bring Deréon by Beyoncé to their branches in Brazil. Aside from clothing, Beyoncé has also ventured into launching her own fragrance line called Heat, which went on to become one of the world’s best-selling fragrance lines from celebrities with sales of more than $400 million.

Melinda Gates is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, best known for co-founding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill. Born in Dallas, Texas, in 1964, Melinda is the second of four children born to an engineer and a homemaker. She was at the top of her class in high school and graduated a valedictorian from the Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Gates went to Duke University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics and an MBA from the university’s Fuqua School of Business. Shortly after leaving Duke, she joined Microsoft in 1987 and aided in the development of many multimedia products for the company, including Expedia, Publisher, Encarta, and Microsoft Bob.

Gates left Microsoft soon after she got married, raising three children in a house along Lake Washington. She isn’t the type to just stay at home though, becoming a member of the board of trustees of Duke University from 1996 to 2003 and holding a seat on the Washington Post’s board of directors. She retired from Drugstore.com’s board in 2006 to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As of 2009, it was estimated that the Gates have donated over $24 billion to the Foundation.

In 2002, Melinda received recognition with her husband through the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged and the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their work in Mexico in 2006. The Gates were also named Persons of the Year by Time, sharing the spot with Bono in 2005. On her own, Melinda was honored for her work in improving the lives of children in the US and all over the world when ambulatory care building in Seattle’s Children was named after her. She was also part of Forbes’ list of 100 Most Powerful Women, ranking third in 2013.

Ajay Bam has 12 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur so he is more than qualified to join the faculty the University of California—Berkeley as professor to the undergraduate course Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Bam also brings more to the table because of his previous work in the corporate world, serving stints at Lehman Brothers and Nokia.

Aside from co-founding Modiv Media which offers mobile commerce and retail solutions for supermarkets, Bam is also on the advisory board of two funded startups, Padlocs Inc. and eCurv. Modiv Media is actually another company called Vayusa, Inc, also a mobile commerce service provider, merged with Cuesol in 2007. Conceived through a project for the Entrepreneurship Intensive Track program of Babson College, Vayusa is an in-store mobile payment system. Through the help of a Babson professor, Vayusa was able to raise $2.2 million worth of funding from venture capitalists to properly launch in 2003.

Peter Andreas Thiel is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, and venture capitalist. He is best known for co-founding PayPal with Max Levchin, as well as serving the company as CEO. He also co-founded and chaired Palantir and went on to become president to global macro hedge fund company Clarium Capital which boasts of $700 million assets under management. Adding to his list of accomplishments is Founders Fund, a venture capital fund managing $2 billion in assets in which Thiel is a managing partner, and Mithril Capital Management which he also co-founded. He is also Facebook’s first outside investor with a 10.2% stake in the company and sits as a member of its Board of Directors. As of May 2014, Thiel is estimated to have a net worth of $2.2 billion.

Thiel has proven to be successful in his many pursuits and he endeavors the same for many through the aid of Founders Fund or his personal support. Some of the companies that Thiel has invested in include: LinkedIn, Booktrack, Slide, Rapleaf, Yammer, Geni.com, Yelp, Inc., Practice Fusion, Powerset, Vator, MetaMed, IronPort, Asana, Votizen, Big Think, Quora, Caplinked, TransferWise, Rypple, Stripe, and Legendary Entertainment. According to Fortune Magazine, it is estimated that Thiel’s investments in startups and his own ventures have a collective value of about $30 billion. Because of this, Thiel is known in Silicon Valley circles as the “Don of the PayPal Mafia.”

Thiel also set up a non-profit organization known as the Thiel Foundation through which his philanthropic activities are carried out. Staying true to his roots and interests, Thiel focuses where potential breakthroughs in technologies are found, organizing a conference in 2010 to showcase eight non-profits that he believed were on the right path to radical innovations in technology, human, and government affairs. He also supports the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Methuselah Foundation, and the Human Rights Foundation.

Gordon Segal is an American entrepreneur noted for founding Crate & Barrell, which he started with his wife. The story goes that Gordon and Carol Segal had just gotten back from their honeymoon in Europe and they had taken back with them their amazement at the how many well-designed yet affordable things they were able to procure for their Chicago home. The Segals realized that the Midwest didn’t have a store that could offer the same things so they set out to bring their idea to life in Chicago.

Crate & Barrel started humbly with its first store in an old elevator factory but Segal and his wife were able to turn it all around and grow the company to become a retail chain with more than 170 stores across the US. Despite their success, Segal and his wife didn’t forget to give back to the community, donating millions of dollars to finance research on various diseases such as osteoarthritis and breast cancer.

Cyrus Hall McCormick was an inventor and entrepreneur best known for founding the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. Born in 1809, McCormick grew up in Virginia, the eldest of 8 children. His father was the first one to see potential in a mechanical reaper for harvesting grain having used a horse-drawn one for 28 years. McCormick took it upon himself to complete the project with the help of Jo Anderson, a slave in the McCormick plantation during the time. His first works were based off designs made by Patrick Bell, a Scottish inventor, and were demonstrated in 1831 in Steeles Tavern, Virginia. He finalized his designs within the next 18 months and was granted a patent for his mechanical reaper in 1834.

Unfortunately for McCormick, his mechanical reaper didn’t do so well right off the bat, not selling anything until 1840 and even then just one unit was sold. He further improved upon his designs and received a second patent in 1845. Word started to spread about McCormick’s mechanical reaper so orders started coming in. in 1847, McCormick and his brother Leander moved to Chicago to establish a factory for their machines. From there, the McCormick mechanical reaper started to sell, allowing the brothers’ company to grow through the years. There were ups and downs of course but the obstacles did not deter McCormick from succeeding with his mechanical reaper. In 1879, the company was renamed to become the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company to acknowledge the contributions of other members of the family to the success of the company.

McCormick’s mechanical reaper went on to be recognized for its contributions to agricultural industrialization which reduced the need for human labor in farms while boosting levels of productivity. This allowed for diversified work, which brought down the number of farmers in the US from 90% in 1831 to a mere 2% today.

W. Clement Stone is a philanthropist, businessman, and author to self-help book New Thought. Born in Chicago, Stone started working as a newspaper boy at the age of six to help his family get by. By the time he was 13, he had his very own newsstand. At 16, he started helping in his mother’s insurance agency, going from office to office to make cold calls for casualty insurance. Soon enough, he was making $100 a week. He dropped out of school to focus on selling insurance, though he eventually went back to finish high school and receive a diploma. He also attended a few courses at the Northwestern University and the Detroit College of Law.

In 1919, he founded the Combined Insurance company of America, growing the company big enough that he had more than a thousand agents working for him across the country by 1930. In every sense of the term, Stone was a classic example of a rags-to-riches story.

Wallace Amos, Jr. is an American entrepreneur, TV personality, and author from Florida, best known for founding the chocolate chip cookie brand Famous Amos. Born in 1936, Wally Amos started working for William Morris Agency before becoming the first black talent agent in the history of the agency. During his stint as an agent, he headed the agency’s rock ‘n’ roll department, signed on Simon & Garfunkel, and worked with Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross. His first Famous Amos store was opened in 1975, the founding of which was heavily influenced by his Aunt Della who often made homemade cookies for him.

Amos also spent time in the US Air Force, returning in 1957 to New York. In 1967, he left William Morris to move to Los Angeles and set up his own management company. This business failed and Amos sought comfort in baking the chocolate chip cookies that his Aunt Della made for him when he was growing up. With a modified version of his Aunt Della’s recipe in tow, he planned to open a freestanding cooking store. With support from singers like Marvin Gaye, he had a gala grand opening for the Famous Amos cookie store in Los Angeles. Within months, two more franchises opened, with Bloomingdale in New York selling the gourmet cookies in their department store. And since then, the Famous Amos name became a staple for anyone who appreciates a good chocolate chip cookie.

Outside of being an entrepreneur, Amos is also a motivational speaker and an advocate for ending illiteracy in the US, working with organizations such as the YMCA and Read to Me International to further his cause. He’s also written 10 books, including an inspirational print called Watermelon Credo: The Book. According to him, he has his Aunt Della to thank for his success, not only because it was her recipe that gave life to Famous Amos but that her recipes for life also did a lot to sustain him up to this day.

Bre Pettis is an American entrepreneur, multi-artist, and video blogger, best known for his MAKE DIY video podcasts and the History Hacker pilot shown on the History Channel. He’s also the founder of I Make Things and NYCResistor and co-founder to Makerbot and Thingiverse.com. Aside from producing video podcasts and being a TV host, Pettis has also made new media for Etsy and has been a puppeteer, artist, and school teacher.

Pettis grew up in Ithaca, New York before moving to Seattle at 13 years old. He graduated from the Bellevue High School and later on attended The Evergreen State College where he graduated in 1995. In college, Pettis studied performing arts, mythology, and psychology. He also went to the Pacific Oaks College for his teaching certificate. He got his start in production by working as a camera assistant and floor runner in Prague for feature films, as well as a being an assistant for the London wing of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.