4 Famous Entrepreneurs Who Can Teach You A Lot About Failure

J.K. Rowling may be one of the most successful and wealthy authors in the world, but she wasn’t always the creator of Harry Potter. In a speech given to Harvard’s graduating class, she acknowledged that at one point in her life she had become “the biggest failure that she knew“, but that this gave her the ability to focus on her book and rely on her own abilities.

For J.K. Rowling, “failure taught [her] things about [her]self that [she] could have learned no other way“. So what can other famous business leaders teach us about failure to help us grow as an entrepreneur?

Trying a New Innovation: Henry Heinz, Inventor of Heinz Ketchup

Ketchup is a staple of the American table, but it wasn’t always that way. Henry J. Heinz was a small-town horseradish peddler until he decided to innovate an old product: he sold horseradish sauce in clear bottles so his customers could see what they were buying.

When Henry lost everything in the stock market crash of 1873, he decided to revive the business using just his previous bestseller- the innovated horseradish sauce. By concentrating on one product and bringing a new innovation to the table, Henry was able to grow as an entrepreneur and made his product a household name.

Forgetting to Plan Ahead: Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ

In the modern era, things can still go wrong for entrepreneurs. Rand Fishkin admits that one of the biggest mistakes he made while building MOZ, was creating too many “big bang” projects that had a lot of time and money put into development, but not enough research into long-term goals. When he didn’t set tangible goals and conduct market research beforehand, the expensive ventures collapsed, taking all that time and energy with it.

His advice? “Don’t be like us – use agile development, have lots of visibility into progress, and keep your team accountable to each other.”

Finding Success By Working as a Team: Shane Snow, Co-Founder of Contently

Shane Snow is the co-founder of Contently, which now designs marketing strategies for some of the biggest brands in the world, like IBM, Walmart, General Electric and Dow Jones. However, it took him a few attempts to get a start-up off the ground, after making the mistake of believing he didn’t need to build a community of support.

Snow admits now that “partners whose skills complement yours and whom you trust completely make the difference between big success and small, or between success and failure.” Building a community is a key aspect of helping you grow as an entrepreneur.

Putting a Skill to Better Use- Bill Gates

Before Microsoft was a household name and a global powerhouse, classmates Bill Gates and Paul Allen designed a microprocessor designed to analyze traffic data in Seattle, called Traf-O-Data. The idea flopped, but Gates and Allen took the software-writing skills they had just learned and used them to create a little startup called Microsoft.

In 2011, Paul Allen told Newsweek that Traf-O-data was his most valuable mistake “because it confirmed to me that every failure contains the seeds of your next success.” Even when business ventures fail, Gates and Allen are proof that valuable skills were still learned along the way.


Failure is part of doing business, but learning from our own mistakes and the mistakes for others can help you grow as an entrepreneur. Iris Content can help you through rough patches with a dedicated team of marketing strategists who have helped many small businesses. When it comes to building a business, success is in your hands!