From $1,000 to $10 Billion: 8 More Examples of Transformational Entrepreneurial Investments

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Title: The Greatest Returns: 9 Entrepreneurs Who Turned Small Investments Into Fortunes


Every successful business starts with an idea and enough capital to make it happen. But the stories of how some of the biggest companies in the world began rarely mention what their founders did to get their initial investments. Many of these stories are as inspiring as they are interesting.

Apple Computers

In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple with an initial investment of $800. This money was supplemented by funds from the sale of Jobs' Volkswagen bus and Wozniak's scientific calculator. Fast forward to today, and Apple is the most valuable consumer tech company in the world with a market capitalization of over $2.5 trillion. And while Jobs only owned 11% of the company when it went public, his equity would be worth a staggering $250 billion+ today.

Subway Sandwiches

In 1965, Fred DeLuca started Subway with an initial investment of $1,000. This was before the idea of a custom-made sandwich shop had really taken off, but today Subway has over 40,000 locations worldwide. The DeLuca family has earned around $2.6 billion in royalties from the company, and the chain was recently sold for around $10 billion to a private investor.


In 1964, Phil Knight and his track coach Bill Bowerman each invested $500 to start a company called Blue Ribbon Sports, which would eventually become Nike. The company has grown into the most famous sports brand in the world, and Knight and his family still own 20% of it. This amounts to a net worth of approximately $51 billion, due to the massive appreciation in the stock price over the years.

Starbucks Coffee

In 1971, Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl each invested $1,350 to open the first Starbucks store in Seattle. They slowly grew the brand, and by 1980 it was the largest coffee roaster in Washington. The company was sold to Howard Schultz and other investors in 1987 for $3.8 million, and the three founders each made around $1 million from the sale. They have made many millions more by holding Starbucks stock over the years.

Dell Technologies

Michael Dell was a 19-year-old pre-med student when he dropped out of college to start Dell Technologies with $1,000 of his own money. The company grew quickly, and was worth $6 million by 1985. Dell personally made $70 million by the end of that year, and the company is now worth $90 billion. He took the money he made from Dell and invested it in other businesses, including Four Seasons Maui, Applebees, and IHOP. These investments have outperformed the company, and Dell's net worth is now approximately $95 billion.

Under Armour

Kevin Plank started Under Armour with approximately $15,000 and some locally purchased fabric. The company has grown into a major player in the sportswear industry, with a market capitalization of nearly $3 billion today. Plank has personally amassed a fortune of approximately $400 million.


Sara Blakely was 27 years old when she came up with the idea for Spanx in 1998. With just $5,000 of her own money, she turned the idea into a business and began selling her products across the country. The idea caught on quickly, and today Spanx is a billion-dollar brand. Blakely has personally become a billionaire.


Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were electrical engineering graduates when they came up with the idea for HP in 1935. Each invested $538, which is the equivalent of a little over $11,000 today. They used the money to rent a garage in Palo Alto, which is widely considered to be the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Their big break came when they invented an oscillator to test sound equipment, which Walt Disney Company used to prepare movie theaters for the release of Fantasia. HP has grown into one of the most recognizable technology brands in the world, with a market cap of around $27.5 billion.

Papa John's Pizza

John Schnatter started Papa John's with just $1,600, which he used to buy used restaurant equipment. The company has since grown into one of the largest pizza chains in the world, with a market cap of over $2 billion. Schnatter has personally amassed a fortune of approximately $400 million.


These stories show that you don't have to be Warren Buffett to make a life-changing investment. Rather, you just need a good idea, a little capital, and the dedication to bring your big idea to life.

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