Learning from the masters: business risks that paid off - Blog

Learning from the masters: business risks that paid off

Learning from the masters: business risks that paid off

The saying goes: “faint heart never won fair maid.” In business, this translates to: if you aren’t bold enough to take risks, you’ll never reach greatness. The following examples are of entrepreneurs who have made their mark on the world with their smart business savvy and bolstered their empires to be recognised by the global public.


However, their rise to success wasn’t without hurdles or difficult choices, which often came in the form of risks. At the time, the correct course of action is unclear and even when a decision is made, it appears insane. Here’s how these famed business legends took great risks that ultimately paid off, reminding us it’s never acceptable to consistently play it safe.


Elon Musk


Elon Musk is one of the world’s greatest recent success stories, but it took him a few obstacles to get there. In 2008, his car company, Tesla, wasn’t doing well financially due to the recession of 2008. The US economy was at its lowest and Tesla couldn’t deliver its first car. With the entire company in danger, Musk took a risk and invested the last $35 million he had. Eight years later, Tesla has become a respected car company worth $2.5 billion. Musk made history by being the first non-American to build a successful car company in America in under 50 years. He i (not complete?)


Millard “Mickey” Drexler


Today, J. Crew is a highly successful retailer, worth $2 billion and with over 300 stores. However, in 2003, the company was in danger of bankruptcy, with decreased sales and huge branding issues. Mickey Drexler, a former Gap head, was appointed CEO of J. Crew that same year. In just five years, Drexler increased J. Crew’s revenue by 170% by rebranding the business to designer quality items and giving it a new identity. The new identity was embraced by the public, most notably, Michelle Obama. In 2008, she wore a J. Crew ensemble on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno before her husband became president. 


Sarah Blakeley


People might not recognise Blakeley’s name but her product, Spanx, is known worldwide. Before she devised and owned a multibillion dollar product, Blakeley failed at numerous jobs including stand-up comedy, dressing up as Goofy at Disney World and becoming a lawyer. She came up with the idea of Spanx when she cut off the feet of her stockings and realised she could manufacture a slimming undergarment, invisible to the naked eye. Blakeley took a risk by selling fax machines by day and invested her life savings of $5000 in creating a Spanx prototype. She then started punting Spanx to companies and investors by night, only representing herself. A manufacturer eventually gave her a chance, leading to Spanx making $8 million in its first year alone. 16 years later, the company is a multibillion dollar corporation which now includes men’s products.


Risks don’t have to be huge leaps, you can explore new challenges and opportunities as a business owner to empower yourself – taking up public speaking, for example. Just remember, Taking risks is certainly the nature of the beast when it comes to business, however it’s imperative to distinguish between recklessness and calculated risk-taking.


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