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6 Overnight Successes That Took Years

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By all accounts Jason Sadler could be called an overnight success. The guy came out of NOWHERE and turned an everyday guy dilemma into a social media money-making empire. Jason took the agonizing pain of choosing a shirt to wear each day and turned it into iwearshirt.com, a social media marketing company that markets companies’ products using T-shirts and technology.

Jason, AKA Jason Headsets.com, generated more than $6 million in free advertisement when he sold his surname for a year. His one-man marketing shop is now a growing startup and in the press at least he’s a household name. But when we interviewed Jason about success in startups here’s what he had to say:

“The first and hardest thing was realizing I wouldn’t be an overnight success,” he told me. “The idea of overnight success doesn’t exist. It never happens, and hard work always pays off.”

Here’s the low down on six seemingly overnight successes that actually were years in the making:

  1. Facebook’s success, though meteoric, (there are companies that can be in business for centuries and never hit the $100 billion valuation mark), took quite a bit of time. And its success is by no means guaranteed. In fact it was three years before Facebook lept outside the college arena. It was another three years of lawsuits and fodder for Aaron Sorkin movie tripe before the company even turned a profit. Add three more years before the company went public. And that’s, well, that’s a lot of years.
  2. Google is another not overnight success story. Sergy and Larry met at Stanford in 1995. Three years later the pair receives a $100,000 investment but it wasn’t until NINE YEARS after they met before Sergy and Brin hit the IPO jackpot.
  3. Zappos is another not so quick success story.  It took nine years again before the company got its exit strategy in a buy out from Amazon.
  4. In its first 18 months in the United Kingdom the DC01 by Dyson became the biggest selling vacuum cleaner in the country. But not before its inventor James Dyson took 5,127 prototypes and 14 years to get it there. Yeah, Dyson’s big now but it certainly didn’t get there overnight.
  5. Ray Kroc is known as the genius who allowed America to eat favorite foods in quick time. McDonald’s, the company that Ray built, is one of the most profitable companies in the world. But few people ever talk about the fact that it took more 15 years before the little restaurant opened by the McDonald’s brothers  began making real money. Even when Kroc licensed franchises back in 1955 he wasn’t making a profit. It wasn’t until he figured out a revenue model that McDonald’s began with its explosive growth. And though this fast food giant serves 1% of the population every day, a lot of its revenue comes from leasing land to franchisees, or real estate and not burgers and fries.
  6. And finally the mother of all failures that lead to success, Steve Jobs and Apple. The fact that Jobs was fired from his own company and came back to rescue it is mythology at its best. But what’s truly germane to our overnight success myth theory is that Jobs and his counterpart Steve Wozinak spent nearly eight years from ideation to creation of the first Apple computer. EIGHT YEARS.

EIGHT YEARS. NINE YEARS. 10 YEARS. 18 YEARS. Do you have that kind of passion that would sustain you for multiple years on one project? You have to, because no real success comes overnight. That’s great news for you. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming and you’re day in the sun will come!


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Matt Powers

Matt Powers is an in-house Internet Marketer with Blue Soda Promo, a promotional marketing company based out of Chicago, IL. He also published a book on Everything There is to Know About Logo Design. Follow him on Twitter.

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