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5 Entrepreneurs Who Started 5 Famous Fortune 100 Companies

Many entrepreneurs strive to achieve the goal; however a relatively fortunate few actually attain the status of having their companies included amongst the Fortune 100 list.

The Fortune 100 list represents the first 100 companies in Fortune magazine’s annual Fortune 500 list. The Fortune 500 list ranks United States companies that are publicly traded by revenue, with the company having the largest revenue at the top of the list. Each business entrepreneur who started these companies began with an idea and entrepreneurial spirit.

#1: Exxon Mobil | John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler

Topping the list in 2006 is Exxon Mobil at #1. Exxon Mobil is involved in oil and gas exploration, production, transportation, and marketing. This successful company is the result of the initial efforts of John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler, who began their new venture in 1870 with the incorporation of a company then known as The Standard Oil Company. Since then, name changes, acquisitions, and mergers have led up to the company we now know as Exxon Mobil. As a young man, John’s employers were impressed by his diligence and honest nature. Public speaking was something that came easily to John and served him well in his future endeavors as a social and business entrepreneur. Henry Flagler was the son of a poor minister. He only had the opportunity to complete an eighth grade education before leaving home at 14 to work in his cousin's store, but carried with him plenty of determination and optimism. John and Henry met through the grain and distillery business and formulated a plan to take the then chaotic state of the oil industry and transform it from several large, medium, and small businesses into a few, or even just one, large vertically integrated firm.

“The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.”

John D. Rockefeller

#2: Federal Express | Frederick W. Smith

Federal Express, #70 on the 2006 Fortune 100 list, is the result of an idea originating from a young entrepreneur named Frederick W. Smith and was incorporated in 1971. Federal Express, an air courier service specializing in overnight delivery of high priority packages and documents, was the pioneer company of the overnight air express industry. Frederick was born into an affluent family and well educated at Yale University. During his time at Yale, he expressed his vision of the Federal Express Company in a paper he was required to write for his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. After serving in Vietnam and receiving an honorable discharge from the US Marines, full of energy, determination and courage, Frederick took the idea first presented in his term paper and risked his entire inheritance and savings to start the company.

#3: Pepsico, Inc. | Caleb D. Bradham

The founder of Pepsico, Inc., #61 on the 2006 Fortune 100 List, was a pharmacist named Caleb D. Bradham, who began selling a cola beverage he called Pepsi-Cola in 1898. His initial idea was to attract more customers to his pharmacy by making it a gathering place that provided a refreshing new cold drink to quench their thirst during the hot and humid summers in North Carolina. The drink, which he created out of a combination of kola nut extract, vanilla and rare oils, spices, syrups, and juices, was so popular that Caleb took his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to the products’ success and launched the Pepsi-Cola Company from the back of his pharmacy. This company, with its humble beginnings, is now known as Pepsico Inc.

#4: State Farm Insurance | George Mecherle

Ranked #22 on the Fortune 500 list, State Farm Insurance was the idea of an entrepreneur named George Mecherle and established in 1922. George was a modest, yet progressive, and scientific-minded farmer from Illinois. He related well to those in the farming industry and recognized their need for low cost auto insurance. George was also a very honorable man and was intent on creating an insurance company based on honest values to assist the farming industry. His innovative idea of basing insurance rates on risk level made George Mecherle one of our most famous entrepreneurs.

#5: Walmart | Samuel Walton and his brother J.L. (Bud) Walton

Walmart Stores, #2 on the Fortune 100 list, is the result of two business entrepreneurs named Samuel Walton and his brother J.L. (Bud) Walton, who opened their first Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Natural leaders and driven to achieve goals, Sam and Bud acknowledged the need for a large retail store that provided consumers with a wide variety of products, the lowest prices, and customer service excellence. Beginning with only four employees and one single shop, this concept has created enduring success, resulting in more than 3,900 stores in the U.S. alone.

The most common characteristic of these entrepreneurs is that they all had a unique idea to fill a consumer’s need. They had the courage to take the risk, share their idea with others, and pursue their dream. Their determination, optimism, and spirit are inspirational and made them the famous entrepreneurs they are today.