As John Taylor Gatto devotees already know, some of the most successful and famous businessman in the world never received a formal education. They were home schooled or left school early and learned the ins and outs of business on their own. All it takes is ambition, dedication and persistence to leave traditional school environments in the dust. These ten business leaders are all a testament to the potential of forging your own path in life.
In 1961, a traveling multi-mixer milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc purchased the McDonald’s company from the McDonald brothers. He turned a small number of restaurants into the largest fast food franchise in America and eventually the world. Kroc was raised in Oak Park, Illinois and left high school at 15 to become an ambulance driver during WWI. He was known as a smart businessman and described salesmanship as “the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way.”
Harland David “Colonel” Sanders was the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain. His face is now an icon of the restaurant. Sanders dropped out of school in the seventh grade and was home schooled where he grew up in Henryville, Indiana. His famous secret recipe for chicken was developed over a 9 year period when he cooked at his own restaurant in Kentucky.
Dave Thomas, as everyone knows from the ubiquitous television ads, was the founder and CEO of the Wendy’s fast food chain. He dropped out of high school to work full time at a restaurant in Indiana, which he later considered the biggest mistake of his life. He officially graduated high school at age 61 in 1993 when he earned his GED after studying from home.
Andrew Carnegie was a wealthy industrialist who led the massive expansion of the steel industry in America in the late 1800s. He was born in Scotland and was introduced to books and writings by his uncle. He moved to America and made his fortune in the steel industry and eventually owned more iron and steel operations than any other individual. He became a philanthropist after retirement.
Amadeo Giannini was the founder of Bank of America. He was home schooled in San Francisco, California before attending college. He opened a bank for hard-working immigrants called Bank of Italy in 1904. After a time he had obtained over 500 branches in California. He approached the president of Bank of America and they merged and kept the name. Giannini is known as the inventor of many modern banking ideas and was one of the first to offer banking services to the middle class instead of only to the wealthy.
In 1896, at age 38, Adolph Ochs purchased The New York Times, an ailing paper in New York that was losing money and had many competitors. It is now the largest local metropolitan newspaper, the largest online newspaper in America, and has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. It has long been considered the paper of record in the United States of America. Ochs went back and forth between home schooling and public schools throughout his childhood.
Speaking of the Pulitzer; the prize was founded by Joseph Pulitzer, another home schooler. His father was a businessman who moved the family to Budapest where he hired private tutors for his children. Their education included learning French and German. Pulitzer was a crusader against corruption throughout his journalism career. After his death a school for journalism and the Pulitzer Prize was established according to his wishes.
Fast food and journalism must go together. Horace Greeley was the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, the most influential newspaper from the 1840s through the 1870s. At age 14, Greeley declined a scholarship and dropped out of school. He became a printer’s apprentice in Vermont before moving to New York City. He became an editor and published the Tribune for the rest of his life.
Gloria Steinem was the founder and editor of Ms. Magazine. From ages 10 through 17 she attended school on a sporadic basis. She was busy most of the time caring for her emotionally disturbed mother. Steinem was a writer and feminist throughout her career. She became a spokeswoman for the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s.
One of the only non-American home schoolers on the list, Soichiro Honda was the founder of Honda. He spent his childhood helping his father repair bicycles and had no formal education. He moved to Tokyo, Japan at age 15 to look for a job. At age 39 he founded the Honda Motor Company and just two years later was producing complete motorcycles. Now Honda sells more motorcycles than any other company in the world and is a top automobile manufacturer.