Luck, be a lady: How 10 business icons made the most of a lucky break

Even the most successful business leaders and creative pioneers got to where they are with a little help from Lady Luck.|Even the most successful business leaders and creative pioneers got to where they are with a little help from Lady Luck.

While talent and perseverence are unmistakable ingredients for success, there’s a lot to be said for being at the right place at the right time.

From JK Rowling to Levi Roots, luck struck for the world’s icons at ages and stages in their careers, proving you don’t need to make it at 18 to make it in life.

Levi Roots
Age when luck struck: 48
Net worth: £30 million

Levi Roots was a household name for reggae fans, but little did they know about his passion for Caribbean cuisine.

When a BBC researcher discovered Roots at a food fair in London, he was invited on to Dragon’s Den in 2007.

Since then, his popular sauces have gone national. He is now worth approximately £30 million, thanks to a chance encounter.

Lars Sorensen
Age when luck struck: 46
Net worth: Unknown

As the CEO of pharmaceuticals firm Novo Nordisk, Sorensen gained a lot of industry praise. He was voted best performing CEO of 2015 by Harvard Business Review, at which time, he credited luck as the most important factor that got him there.

As far as Sorensen is concerned, Novo Nordisk’s success as the manufacturer of insulin relied was far from guaranteed when it was new in the market.

Now the drug is saves millions of lives all over the world, turning over a tidy profit as the dominating medication in the market for insulin products.

Steve Jobs
Age when luck struck: 30
Net worth: £7 billion

The late Steve Jobs has often epitomised tech entrepreneurism. He was once quoted saying “getting fired from Apple was the greatest thing that could happen to me.”

He claims that the moment he was let go by Apple was when the pressure of being a leader eased up, giving him the freedom to be creative and innovative.

His return to Apple then led to the invention of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Enough said!

Walt Disney
Age when luck struck: 27
Net worth: £3.5 billion

When Walt Disney started his creative journey, he was working at Universal Pictures. His first animated character, Oswald the lucky rabbit, is hardly a blip in the world of cartoons now.

Since he was contractually tied to Universal Pictures at the time, his first foray into cartoons was their intellectual property.

Lucky for us, Disney left Universal Pictures and created Mickey Mouse in efforts to differentiate his character from Oswald as much as he could.

Since then, Disney has created many happy memories for children everywhere, including the Happiest Place(s) on Earth in the form of his namesake Disney theme parks all over the world. 

Ryan Graves
Age when luck struck: 26
Net worth: £1.1 billion

In 2010, the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick tweeted that he was looking for a new product manager and asked if anyone had tips.

Ryan quickly responded to say “here’s a tip, email me :)” in what may be the most successful Tweet of all time.

Since then, he has become one of the youngest billionaires in the world.

JK Rowling
Age when luck struck: 25
Net worth: £69 million

JK Rowling was a single mother living on welfare before she thought up the fantastic world of wizards and Hogwarts.

The tides of luck changed for Rowling when her train from Manchester to London faced a six-hour delay.

That was when she fleshed out the characters of Harry Potter, Hermione Grainger and Ron Weasley, which formed the cornerstone for worldwide literary phenomenon we all know and love today.

Six years from that fateful train delay, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published, and the world has never been the same since.

Richard Branson

Age when luck struck: 23
Net worth: £3.3 billion

In the early days of Virgin Records, the music company was having trouble finding success in the US with the new song of their latest signing, ‘Tubular Bells.’

Branson had given the song to the head of Atlantic Records, who happened to be playing the album in his office when movie director, William Friedkin walked in looking for some backing music for his latest film.

The movie in question was “The Exorcist”, one of the biggest box-office hits of all time, which helped propel Branson’s brand into the American market.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page
Age when luck struck: 22 
Net worth: £25.9 billion and £20.2 billion respectively

Google started as a college project for Stanford alums Brin and Page.

By creating a search engine which could rank website based on their relationships to one another, the two stumbled on to a revolutionary way to archive and disparate data at the dawn of the Internet.

If they weren’t paired together, you may not be reading this article today!

Michael Kittredge
Age when luck struck: 17
Net worth: £1.1 billion

Michael Kittredge made his first scented candle in his garage our of melted crayons.

What started as a gift for his mother became a huge household success thanks to a chance visit from a friend who couldn’t stop raving about Kittredge’s scented and coloured candles.

This encouraged him to mass produce the now famous Yankee Candle.

His business is now a global phenomenon, and when he sold it, Yankee Candle fetched him £1.1 billion. 

Hans Christian Andersen
Age when luck struck: 14
Net worth: Priceless

Andersen moved to Copenhagen at the tender age of 14 to pursue his dream of being in theatre.

As luck would have it, he failed to stand out as a performer and was sent to school by a director who took Andersen under his wing.

It was at school that Andersen bloomed as the legendary writer known to all centuries later.

This handy infographic from LottoLand charts when and where these icons were graced by a stroke of (lucky) genius.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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