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10 Creative Entrepreneurs Who Proved Their Bosses Wrong and Built Billion-Dollar Empires

Below are 10 examples of employees who turned into very successful entrepreneurs after being unable to innovate within the company they worked for. By starting their own businesses they demonstrate the challenges that employees can face when they try to challenge the status quo and what opportunities those companies can miss. By pursuing their ideas outside of the company, they were able to bring their innovations to market and achieve great success.


These examples also illustrate the importance of encouraging innovation and creativity within a company. Leaders should strive to create a culture that values playfulness, experimentation, and learning and provides employees with the support and resources they need to pursue new ideas and ways of working. By doing so, companies can unlock new sources of value and growth, and stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive business environment.


  1. Spanx: Sara Blakely was working as a salesperson for a company selling office equipment when she came up with the idea for Spanx, a line of shapewear that became wildly successful. Blakely had initially tried to pitch the idea to the company she was working for, but they rejected it. Undeterred, she started her own business and quickly grew it into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

  2. Starbucks: Howard Schultz was working as a marketing executive for Starbucks when he came up with the idea to transform the company from a small chain of coffee shops in Seattle into a global brand. However, the company's founders were resistant to the idea, and Schultz eventually left to start his own coffee company, which became Starbucks as we know it today.

  3. Dyson: James Dyson was working as an engineer when he became frustrated with the performance of his vacuum cleaner. He came up with the idea for a new type of vacuum that used cyclonic technology to improve suction. However, the company he was working for at the time was not interested in his idea. Dyson eventually started his own company and became a billionaire thanks to the success of his innovative vacuum cleaners.

  4. 3M Post-It Notes: In 1968, Spencer Silver was working as a chemist at 3M when he came up with a new type of adhesive that was strong enough to stick to surfaces, but also easy to remove without leaving a residue. However, 3M was focused on developing strong adhesives and didn't see the potential of Silver's invention. Years later, another 3M employee named Art Fry came up with the idea of using the adhesive to create sticky notes, which became a huge success.

  5. Dropbox: Drew Houston was working as a programmer when he came up with the idea for Dropbox, a cloud-based file-sharing service. He initially pitched the idea to his employer at the time, but they weren't interested. Houston then started his own company and grew Dropbox into one of the most successful tech startups of all time.

  6. Under Armour: Kevin Plank was playing football at the University of Maryland when he became frustrated with the way cotton t-shirts absorbed sweat and became heavy and uncomfortable during games. He came up with the idea for a new type of performance fabric that would wick away sweat and keep athletes dry and comfortable. However, his idea was rejected by the major sports apparel brands at the time, so he started his own company, Under Armour, which has since become a major player in the industry.

  7. GoPro: Nick Woodman was surfing in Australia when he came up with the idea for a camera that could be attached to a person's wrist to capture action sports footage. He initially tried to sell the idea to camera companies, but they were not interested. He eventually started his own company, GoPro, which became a huge success.

  8. Zara: Amancio Ortega was working in a clothing store in Spain when he came up with the idea of selling affordable, fashionable clothing that was quickly produced and could be sold at a low cost. He pitched the idea to his employer, but they weren't interested. He eventually started his own clothing company, Zara, which is now one of the largest fashion retailers in the world.

  9. Slack: Stewart Butterfield was working on a video game called Glitch when he and his team developed a messaging system to communicate with each other. They realized that the messaging system was more interesting than the game they were working on, so they pitched the idea to their employer, but it was rejected. They eventually started their own company, Slack, which became a major player in the business communication space.

  10. Groupon: Andrew Mason was working as a software developer when he came up with the idea for Groupon, a website that offers group deals on products and services. He initially pitched the idea to his employer at the time, but they weren't interested. Mason eventually started his own company and grew Groupon into one of the most successful daily deal websites of all time.



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