Outside of the industry, not many have heard of the term solopreneur, and yet statistics show that these types of businesses are on the rise. Though subtle, there is a clear distinction between solopreneur and entrepreneur.
By definition, an entrepreneur organizes and operates a business by themselves.
A solo entrepreneur does the same but has no intention of hiring employees. Solo entrepreneurs, or solopreneurs, seek to collaborate with other companies to achieve the desired result without losing their autonomy.
All of the following examples started as solopreneurs, even if they didn’t end up that way:
Marie Forleo, Business Coach
As per her tagline, if you want to create a business and life you love, contact Marie Forleo. The self-coined multi-passionate entrepreneur has taken her unique approach to life and converted it into a multi-million dollar business.
Forleo currently provides an extensive amount of free content, which includes mini-training on audio found directly on her website. She also regularly sends out newsletters filled with viable information for her subscribers and posts video tidbits answering viewers’ questions. In addition to that, Forleo also manages to broadcast an award-winning weekly web-show called MarieTV, where she interviews prominent thinkers in the business or personal development industry.
However, the majority of her earnings come from her online business programs. One such program is called the Copy Cure, where she teaches participants ways to improve their writing skills to attract more business. Her more lucrative program, however, is B-School. This 8-week online course teaches effective marketing strategies to entrepreneurs that want to increase their revenue. Students can sign up at any stage of their career because she provides the fundamental tools needed to begin, grow, or expand a business. The course is only available once per year, which makes the selection process competitive. However, once a person has completed B-School training, they have the opportunity to retake the program without additional costs.
Most recently, Forleo released a New York Times’ best-selling book, called Everything Is Figureoutable, and has begun a book tour throughout the US.
At present, Forleo is valued at approximately $14 million.
Erika Leonard, Author
Erika Leonard is better known by her pen name E.L. James. To date, the British-born writer is one of the richest authors in the world. Yet, she never set out to be.
Her estimated worth of $148 million is due to her highly successful Fifty Shades franchise, which includes numerous books and movies of the same name. These novels have sold more than 125 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Her first installment, Fifty Shades of Grey, made UK history for two reasons. First, it was regarded as the fastest-selling paperback ever. Second, it caused a shortage of silver ink in the country. In the middle of reprinting two million copies for distribution, Random House had to seek silver ink from Germany to finish printing the book’s cover. This comes after the fact that the novel took only 11 weeks to reach $1 million in sales. Within a couple of years, Leonard made it to the Forbes list of Top-Earning Authors 2013 with an impressive $95 million.
Leonard herself was shocked at the overnight success of her erotic fiction because this all began as a hobby. After watching the movie Twilight, Leonard became consumed with the books on which the movie was based and decided to write her own fan fiction story. Yet, to avoid copyright infringement, she altered the names of her characters. Much to her surprise, the e-book went viral.
What sets Leonard apart from the likes of J.K. Rowling is that Leonard originally self-published the story on a fanfiction website. The novel caught the attention of a publishing house after it had already gone viral, whereas Rowling was actively submitting her manuscript to publishers.
Sara Blakely, Spanx
Even though Blakely enters the Forbes Billionaires 2019 list at #1941, she is ranked #23 for their American’s Self-Made Women 2019 list. The Spanx creator, whose net worth is estimated to be $1.1 billion, turned an inconvenience into a money-making industry-changing idea.
It all began when she started selling fax machines door-to-door in her home state of Atlanta. Fortunately, the mounting rejections she received regularly gave her the thick skin she needed to venture out on her own. The young entrepreneur had no idea that this job would be the stepping stone to her lucrative career.
One day while getting ready to attend a professional event, Blakely decided to cut the feet off her pantyhose. She hated having the seam show when she wore open-toed shoes, yet loved the control-top support the pantyhose provided. Though cutting the feet off was not the most comfortable thing to do, since the pantyhose would roll up her legs, it did give her an idea.
Two years and $5000 later, she was once again knocking on doors. Though this time, she was looking for manufacturing companies that could bring her concept into real life. One out of the many mills she visited decided to take a chance on her.
Soon after, Blakely was meeting representatives of the Neiman Marcus Group, where she gave them a live demonstration of the product. As a result, her merchandise was placed in seven stores throughout the country, including Bloomingdale’s and Saks.
Out of all of her marketing tactics, sending a gift basket filled with products to the Oprah Winfrey show proved to be the winning strategy. Shortly thereafter, Winfrey included Spanx in her list of Favorite Things, which lead to a swift increase in sales. In her first year of business, Blakely made a whopping $4 million. By her second year, profits more than doubled bringing in an estimated $10 million.
Blakely has since expanded both her company as well as her product line. The company features maternity wear, leggings, and other intimate apparel.
A key piece of advice Blakely shares with entrepreneurs just starting out is to fail. The fear of failure keeps many innovators stuck in a monotonous cycle. By taking the fear out of things you can then turn them into opportunities. This was a lesson she learned from her youth and what propelled her into the mogul she is today.
Anastasia Soare, Anastasia Beverly Hills
Anyone that has ever watched a make-up tutorial video has heard of Anastasia Soare, founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills (ABH). The make-up mogul began her career way before social media was the marketing force it is today. Yet, that doesn’t mean social media is foreign to her. The brand empire is the second most followed beauty account on Instagram, placing her ahead of Kylie Cosmetics, and she manages the account herself.
Anastasia Soare immigrated to the US in the late 1980s from her home country of Romania. Her husband, who had requested asylum from the American embassy in Italy, had emigrated a few years prior. Anastasia arrived in Los Angeles, not fully comprehending the English language and with a small child. Though she had studied art and architecture in Romania, Anastasia temporarily put her training to the side and got a job at a Hollywood beauty salon. As an aesthetician, she noticed that the client’s eyebrows weren’t getting the care they deserved. When she brought this to the attention of the salon owner, Anastasia was dismissed. According to her boss, there wasn’t a market for eyebrow shaping. Obviously, Anastasia persisted.
She began by renting out a room in which she provided eyebrow shaping along with other cosmetic procedures. Anastasia has publically stated that her first clients were supermodels Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. And her current celebrity clientele includes the whos-who of Hollywood, including Jennifer Lopez and the Kardashians.
Anastasia’s ingeniousness comes from her education in art and architecture and her keen business skills. Essentially, she utilized the Golden Ratio method to produce masterpieces on faces. The Golden Ratio is a technique used by countless artists and architects alike to form visually pleasing artwork. She customized that logic into beauty by manipulating the eyebrow shape to create symmetrical features.
To date, Anastasia Soare’s net worth is an estimated $1.2 billion with Forbes naming her #21 on America’s Self-Made Women 2019 list.
Pierre Omidyar, eBay
Unlike other entrepreneurs, Peter Omidyar amassed his fortune by total accident. What began as a way to help his then-girlfriend connect with other collectors quickly turned into Omidyar’s code to success.
Omidyar, who was born in the late 1960s, was quite fond of computers as an adolescent and took any opportunity he could to learn more about them. His first freelance job came when he wrote a computer program for his high school, which allowed the library to print catalog cards. By the late 1990s, Omidyar had already worked for a few major computer companies and had even been involved in a tech start-up. However, until then, he had only experienced moderate success in the industry. Then, his girlfriend told him about her problem.
His future wife, Pamela, was a passionate collector of Pez dispensers, and she was having trouble finding others with similar interests. So in 1995, Omidyar decided to write an auction code into his private website so that she could buy, sell, but most of all, communicate with other collectors. It had instant popularity, and soon other types of collectors were becoming part of the site.
In the beginning, this was a free service. Yet, five months later, when the number of users had grown substantially, Omidyar’s personal website couldn’t host the program any longer. He had to move it to another platform. To keep up with web-hosting costs, he began by charging a few cents per listing and collecting a small commission if the items sold. And that small commission surely added up. Only months after establishing his auction site, eBay, Omidyar was able to quit his corporate job at General Magic and dedicate himself fully to his new venture. By 1999, the site had more than two million unique users, had sold about two billion dollars worth of merchandise and earned him about $750 million in revenue.
Currently, Omidyar’s net worth is an estimated $12.4 billion. Though, he doesn’t rely solely on eBay’s profits to keep him wealthy anymore. Besides owning a portion of eBay, he also owns a portion of PayPal and is the founder of First Look Media. He is also a co-owner in resort properties in the US and Mexico.
Forbes has included him on their lists Forbes 400 2019 and Forbes Billionaires 2019 as #36 and #130, respectively.
With the growth of a successful company, at some point owners must decide whether to expand along with their business to meet client needs or remain at a level that they feel comfortable operating at. The good news is there is no wrong answer.
Just because these entrepreneurs now hold management positions that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they started their ventures as a one-person business.