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A much used  Chinese proverb suggests that “failure is not falling down but refusing to get up”. Even the most successful of business minds suffer setbacks in their quest for success, and it’s often their dedication and perseverance that sets them apart.

Here are three people who turned notable business failures into success.

  1. Walt Disney

The mind behind The Walt Disney Company experienced a number of setbacks before he made it big. In fact, according to, Disney was rejected over 300 times by bankers who thought the idea of a giant mouse cartoon was absurd.

Establishing his first animation company in 1921, Disney struck a precarious deal with a distribution company which involved him sending finished cartoons and waiting six months for payment.

Like the fate of many SMEs that suffer from late customer payment, the lack of upfront payment meant that Disney had to dissolve the company.

This failure led to Disney setting-up his own studio signing a deal with a producer to create Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The character experienced immense success but when Disney tried to negotiate a higher wage, his appeals were rejected.  Walt then found that he didn’t own the trademark to the character and lost most of his animators to the production company.

But determination was Disney’s defining trait and off the back of another failure, he created Mickey Mouse – a character that kick-started the company’s rise to success and fortune. According to Forbes, The Walt Disney Company is now the 11th most valuable brand in the world.

  1. Kathryn Minshew

CEO and co-founder of The Muse, Kathryn Minshew, started out in business in 2011 with women’s networking site, Pretty Young Professionals (PYP).

Formed with three co-workers, Minshew initially worked as an unpaid CEO, investing her personal savings to kick-start the business. Struggling to gain traction, PYP began to fall apart when disagreements over the direction of the business emerged.

Unable to login to the website she’d created and frustrated by the lack of users, Minshew decided to start from scratch and later the same year she launched The Muse – a career-development platform.

Minshew told the Entrepreneur: “”It was painful, but being forced to start over was a unique sort of gift.”

Today, the Muse has over 3.5 million active monthly users, propelling Menshew to be named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Media and Inc.’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech polls.

  1. Henry Ford

Leaving his job as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company, Henry Ford formed the Detroit Automobile Company in 1901 with backing from investor, William H. Murphy and others. Ford attempted to perfect his designs, but – disappointed with the time production was taking – Murphy and the business’s shareholders dissolved the company just 18 months later.

Ford convinced Murphy to give him another chance and together they formed the Henry Ford Company. Pressure from investors to ready his designs for production weighed heavily on Ford and shortly after forming the company, Murphy brought-in outside help to supervise the process.

Resenting interference from people who knew little about design and quality standards, Ford left the business. With his reputation in tatters following two failed business attempts, Ford searched for a way to fund a new enterprise, without interference from financiers and in 1903 alongside Alexander Malcomson – a Detroit-based coal dealer – Ford founded the Ford Motor Company.

Over a hundred and ten years on, today Ford employs 187,000 people globally, recording annual turnover of $149.6 billion in 2015.

Funding partnerships for success

Formed in 1982, Bibby Financial Services support over 9,500 businesses worldwide through operations in Europe, Asia and The Americas. In the UK alone, we have advanced more than £26 billion to SMEs since 2010 and we work with businesses in over 300 industry sectors.

If you want to find out more about how we partner with our clients to help them succeed, take a look at our customer case studies or contact us on 0800 91 95 92.