Financing and Cash Advances

The Top 10 Best Borrowed Sums in Business History

A tiny and blessed number of entrepreneurs launch their businesses with wads of money already strapped to their chests. But for rest of us, cash borrowed from successful friends or an opportunistic uncle has gotten the ball rolling. In fact, some of the world’s most successful Big Deals began by first asking other people to borrow some cash.

Walt Disney (The Walt Disney Company)
Like so many successful entrepreneurs, Walt Disney was extremely proud of his humble beginnings. He worked on political caricatures and comic strips before launching his first major project -- Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, with the mission to make animated commercials. He first had to cajole a friend into letting him borrow a camera to even get started. Success is the happiest place on earth!

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
Just because he grew up the son of successful dentist in White Plains doesn't mean Mister Zuckerberg comes from cavities filled with money. At least not a lot of capital relative to the sum needed to launch The Facebook. He toiled from his Harvard dormitory, screwed over the Winkelvii, borrowed some money from his friends and created a site that than a billion people use.

Richard Branson (Virgin)
Richard Branson, the flirty CEO of Virgin Group, borrowed money from his mother in 1971 to keep his fledging London record shop afloat. Thanks mum! Branson now lords over more than 400 companies including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records, and Virgin Megastores. He’s also on Forbes list of billionaires, and the producer of a reality television series that very few people watched.

Sergey Brin, Larry Page (Google)
A holy trinity of Stanford faculty members, friends, and family provided Sergey and Larry enough cash to buy some servers and rent a garage in Silicon Valley to launch their new-fangled search engine. Next, Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim became so impressed by their technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that he cut them a check for $100,000. Without even a bank to deposit the check, Google was founded. And SEO was born!

Berry Gordy (Motown)
Who's Berry Gordy the youngsters ask? Well he just happened to launch the careers of some of the best-known musical artists of all time like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and even the special Gloved One, Michael Jackson. But Berry wasn’t always rubbing elbows with the royal likes of Quincy Jones; he had to borrow $800 from his family just to get his first record off the ground. That small, inside investment helped create more than $345 million in net worth for Berry. I hope he re-paid his family with some platinum fillings.    

John Mackey (Whole Foods)
John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods began his foray into salubrious living with a health food store in Austin established in 1978. He borrowed $10,000 to start the store which was originally named SaferWay. That store grew into a small chain that eventually merged with a larger natural grocer. This merger helped create Whole Foods Market which is now estimated to be worth around $16 billion.

Sir James Dyson (Dyson Company)
As an industrial designer, Dyson was long on ideas, and short on cash. He relied on his wife to help fund his first cyclonic vacuum cleaner design back in the late 1970s. Her generosity and belief in his designs helped grow a $4.2 billion dollar business. She definitely deserves to sleep in next time the kids wake up early.

Li Ka-Shing (Hutchinson Whampoa Limited & Cheung Kong Holdings)
From extremely humble beginnings, Li Ka-Shing became one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Often referred to as Asia’s most powerful man, helabored 16 hours a day in a plastics trading company before starting his own company that was funded by loans from friends and family. He is now estimated to be worth more than $25 billion.

Phil Knight (Nike)
As a budding entrepreneur and sports lover, Phil Knight began his entrepreneurial journey on a quest to find a high-quality, low-cost running shoe. After finding such a shoe being manufactured in Kobe, Japan, he borrowed money from his father to pay for the samples. Knight then approached his old track coach from the University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman, with the business opportunity. Bowerman was so impressed that he not only invested in Phil’s idea, he became his business partner. And together they shook hands in 1964 and formed Blue Ribbon Sports, which was the forerunner to Nike.

Steve Ells (Chipotle)
Ells witnessed first-hand the popularity of the taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District while working for famed chef Jeremiah Towers atStars restaurant. He whiffed the big opportunity of good guac, and launched the first Chipotle in Denver in 1993 with the help of an $85,000 loan from his father who calculated that his son would have to sell 107 burritos per day to turn a profit. Chipotle is now valued at more than $1.245 billion.