Stories of Famous Entrepreneurs

Known as Vietnam’s first billionaire, Pham Nhat Vuong bears testimony to empowerment through enterprise by having many entrepreneurial ventures under his belt.

The secret to his success: A never-say-die attitude and willingness to be a trailblazer who takes risks. Having grown up during tumultuous times in Vietnam as a result of the war, he did not harbor big dreams. All he wanted to do was to support his family.

His first entrepreneurial venture took place in Ukraine where he opened a Vietnamese restaurant and introduced the concept of instant noodles which was previously unheard of. Instant noodles were well-received by the Ukrainians who were starving, languishing in poverty and desperately in need of a viable alternative to fulfill their subsistence needs. By being able to identify an opportunity, Pham exemplified the entrepreneurial mindset by seeking ways to add value to society in novel ways. Instead for settling with a small noodle shop,he also took risks such as borrowing money at high interest rates to expand his production of flavoured instant noodles but it all paid off. Satisfying the target market’s needs enabled Pham’s noodle company, Technocom to emerge highly successful with revenues of 100 million dollars by 2010 when he sold it to Nestle.

Pham followed the mantra of thinking big and starting small which accounted for his success in translating his idea into a lucrative business venture.

After targeting Ukraine, he decided to engage in local projects. His enterprising spirit led him to transform an undeveloped island into a luxury resort known as Vinpearl Resort NhaTrang which is now a popular tourist destination. He was able to do this against the backdrop of the Asian Financial Crisis which did not affect Vietnam as adversely as other Asian countries. Again Pham was able to capitalize on opportunities made available to him and project opulence by establishing high-end townships and luxurious resorts in Vietnam.

While his company Vingroup focuses on real estate development, Pham’s enterprising spirit and entrepreneurial drive has allowed his business ventures to be largely successful. As such, Pham NhatVuong is an exemplary entrepreneur.

Lessons learnt:

  • Always seek and seize opportunities
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks
  • Think big, start small
  • Perseverance in light of adversity

Renzo Rosso, the mastermind behind Diesel, started engaging in entrepreneurship from a young age on his parents’ farm in Italy. He initiated a breeding business for pocket money when he discovered that a rabbit given to him by a schoolmate was pregnant. Rosso made his first pair of jeans as a teenager and began charging his friends a few dollars per pair of jeans he made for them.

With the entrepreneurial drive and passion from young, Rosso sought ways to enhance the quality of his jeans. He was one of the pioneers who used a technique which involved rubbing stiff denim on concrete to soften it. While entering the US market was challenging, Rosso remained undeterred and maximized opportunities made available to him.

In 1996 when there was insufficient Diesel merchandise to fill the store space, Rosso built a bar and DJ booth to throw parties after closing hours. His ability to think out of the box enabled Diesel to become a leading brand with sleek design and unique marketing and advertising. Rosso success is largely attributed to his understanding of the grassroots. He was able to distinguish between runway fashion and what would be commercially popular.

Understanding the customer is the mantra Rosso adopted which enabled him to take on many fashion brands under his belt by helping them to diversify their business to cover a wider range of products.

Lessons learnt:

  • Always seek to add value to society. This can come in many ways. In Diesel’s case it involved enhancing an existing product.
  • Think out of the box and be innovative to capitalize on the opportunity
  • Know your customers thoroughly. Differentiate your products for different customer segments if the need arises
Starting off with Virgin Records, Richard Branson has expanded the Virgin brand to many business sectors. The Virgin group has now been expanded to airlines telecommunications, financial services, leisure, music and health and wellness. Like many great entrepreneurs, Richard Branson was a high school dropout but his entrepreneurial spirit was not stifled by his lack of academic qualifications. He started small but harboured big dreams for the Virgin Brand.Despite facing setbacks, Branson was resilient.

Branson’s words: “Screw it, let’s just do it,” bears testament to his fighting spirit.

He is a key example of an entrepreneur who is fearless and passionate in what he does.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Passion is key in sustaining entrepreneurship. It is the passion which enables entrepreneurs to see the big picture and overcome all obstacles in their path.
  • Start small but think big. It is good to be ambitious but be practical at the same time.
  • Resilience is the secret to success. It is the fighting spirit that enables entrepreneurs to beat the odds

The Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings did not have a smooth sailing entrepreneurial journey. Before he founded Banyan Tree Holdings, he faced tumultuous times which included being arrested, living in impoverished conditions and difficulties in the business arena.

When a hotel they built in Phuket was underperforming due to the lack of a beach front, it presented an opportunity to Ho to do something unique. Through this adversity, Ho was able to conceive hotel spas as Banyan Tree’s feature attraction which gave his idea and entrepreneurial venture a new lease of life.

Today, Banyan Tree resorts are making their mark all over the world. Ho’s experience with adversity has taught him to view every challenge in a positive light. Every adversity leads to a solution and Ho’s entrepreneurial mindset has empowered him to remain resilient and seek solutions to even the most perplexing problems.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Adversity should be viewed in a positive light. Every adversity presents an opportunity.
  • Be innovative and think out of the box to overcome constraints
  • Remain headstrong and never give up