Small Business Marketing

Making money young: How business leaders and entrepreneurs earned money in their teens

There are thousands and thousands of successful businessmen around the globe, however very few can boast the success of Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates. These highly successful entrepreneurs have all made their fortunes in different industries, however, they all have one thing in common, they all showed early signs of success and set up businesses in their teens.

We roll back the years and look at the childhoods of the top entrepreneurs to find the calling cards of a successful entrepreneurial career.

Warren Buffett – Earned $53,000 before he was 16

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful businessmen ever and is now sat at the top of business empire as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. However, it was when he was 11 years old that Buffett got his first taste of the stock market. The precocious Warren invested in Cities Services Preferred, purchasing three shares at $38 per share. Despite the initial drop in value to $27 per share, the Oracle of Omaha held on and eventually sold at $40 per share. Although this was only a $2 per share profit, his choice of the company proved correct as the shares soared to $200 per share. What Buffett learned from this still influences his decisions to buy and hold, with this strategy often touted as his top tip to investors.

Warren’s next venture was at high school and in the entertainment industry with friend Don Danley. The teens bought a used pinball machine for $25 and went to a local barbershop and offered to put the machine in the back of the shop, allowing customers to pay and play while they wait, with the profits split 50/50. The barber, Frank Erico, liked the idea and agreed and the machine proved a hit, with the profits invested in more machines. Soon all the barbershops in the area had one and it proved so successful Warren sold the business for over $1,000, less than a year after it began.

A very successful return on investment and a good payday but a new calculator show just how much he earns now. According to the data, last year Warren earned a daily pay packet of £30,410,95, that would mean he’d have to sell 30,410 pinball businesses a day to match his current daily salary.


Richard Branson – From budgerigars to Christmas trees

Richard Branson and the Virgin Group has a very broad business empire that crosses several very different industries, his childhood business ventures were no different. At the age of 11, Richard teamed up with a childhood friend, Nik Powell, and started breeding budgerigars. Although a slightly unusual business, it did well, and the young duo sold a lot of birds to the local area and to classmates. However, the birds kept multiplying at a faster rate than they could sell and when Richard went to boarding school, the upkeep got too much for his parents and they opened the aviary Richard’s father had built and let them go.

The second venture was a Christmas Tree growing. The pair went and bought 400 seeds and planted them during their Easter holidays. The duo anticipated the trees to grow to six feet for the Christmas after next, with a retail price of £2 each. Although a good idea on paper, the local wildlife had other ideas and rabbits ended up eating the seedlings. Not deterred, both Richard and Nik shot the rabbits and managed to make more than the £800 they hoped to make from the Christmas Trees, by selling the rabbits to local butchers for a shilling each.


Bill Gates – Traf-O-Data

The Microsoft founder now spends most of his time on the Foundation he and his wife started, but prior to founding one of the biggest technology companies on the planet, Bill Gates started his first venture at just 15. Working with friends Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert they founded Traf-O-Data, a company that would later be instrumental in the creation of Microsoft.

When city planners wanted to improve and amend road networks, they had to collect traffic data to prove the improvements were necessary. The data was collected mechanically by punching holes in a paper tape whenever a vehicle ran over a set of rubber hoses which were placed over the road. Seattle, Bill Gates home city, was no different and a host of private companies were paid to pick up the manual work of translating the punched holes in the paper tape into actionable reports. This is where Bill, Paul Allen, and Paul Gilbert realized there was an easier way of doing this and Traf-O-Data was born. The group designed a computer program that reads the data on the paper tape and removed the manual process of reading the data. It worked so well in Seattle that the program made $20,000 for the three founders.

So there we have it, all three of the most famous entrepreneurs started young and made serious money in their teens – a clear sign of the things to come!

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