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Even famous business leaders have cruddy first jobs, what was yours?

Even famous business leaders are not immune to the cruddy first job. Don’t believe us? Take a look at these leaders’ stories and see what you think.



mark cuban first job

We all have a first job story

Most of us have stories about our first low-level jobs–the places where we spent our summers flipping burgers, babysitting kids, washing dishes, selling coffee. It’s difficult to imagine that successful CEOs and influencers could relate to these stories; when you look at their polished and well-off images, it seems as if they began their careers with a nameplate, a desk, and a microphone. (Can you imagine Oprah being anything but…Oprah?!)

Of course this isn’t the case, many of these powerhouses have humble beginnings. The queen of media herself, Ms. Winfrey, once worked at a corner grocery store. (Side note: I bet that she had so many customers spilling their life secrets to her while she bagged their goods.)

Oprah wasn’t the only one who started out small. The following successful people, worth a collective gazillion dollars, once had to sweat to earn their pennies, too.

Marissa Ann Meyer

Like Oprah, Marissa Ann Mayer took a summer job as a grocery store clerk. The current president and CEO of Yahoo said that it was there that she saw the first-hand value of work ethic. She told Fortune, “I also learned a lot about family economics, how people make trade-offs, and how people make decisions on something fundamental, like how to eat.”

Mark Cuban

The entrepreneur, Shark Tank star, and Dallas Mavericks owner was selling garbage bags door-to-door at age 12. In order to make his first big purchase, a pair of new tennis shoes, Cuban marked up the bags and sold them for three dollars more than he paid for them. Did I mention that he is an entrepreneur?

Kat Cole

Kat Cole knows how to hustle. At age 17 she began at Hooters as a hostess, and worked there for 15 years; she was promoted to vice president by the time she was 26. She’s now the president of Cinnabon.

Michael Dell

As founder and CEO of Dell Inc., Dell is worth an estimated $18.7 billion. But before he helped make PCs mainstream, he was washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant–his first job at age 12.

Madeline Albright

Known for her badassedness, power suits, and brooches, the former Secretary of State started out selling a different kind of women’s wear: bras. After arriving in the US as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia, she got her first job at a department store in Denver.

Donald Trump

Trump, the real estate mogul and media personality/presidential candidate grew up wealthy. That said, his dad wanted him to learn the value of money, so he took him to construction sites to pick up empty soda bottles to redeem for cash. Trump told Forbes that he didn’t make much (perhaps compared to selling condos and highrises) but it taught him to work for his money, and he’s done the same with his own children.

Warren Buffett

Buffet, one of the world’s wealthiest people, is famous for making and saving money. The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway has been that way since he was a kid. At age 13, Buffet was a paperboy, spending his mornings delivering The Washington Post.

Apparently, that same year, he invested $1,200 of his earnings into 40 acres of farmland. Which might distinguish Buffett from the rest of us. He started out meager like regular people, yes, but I don’t think that most of us regulars were investing as teenagers. Unless you count time and money spent at the local mall, then yes, we invested from our grubby jobs, often and early.

What about you?

Tell us in the comments or on your favorite social network – what was your first job?


Amy Orazio received her MFA in Creative Writing at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. She lives in Portland now, where she is enjoying the cross section of finishing her poetry manuscript and writing for The American Genius.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mike McCann

    October 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Currently I am owner of my own appraisal company. First jobs were also essentially self-employed, starting about age 8 selling garden seeds and Christmas cards door to door, then on to newspaper delivery routes and mowing lawns and shoveling snow (adapting to the seasonal work), then on to working at a dry cleaner, dish-washing and selling shoes.
    Then I took harder jobs; labor on construction sites, etc….all before graduating high school.

    Granted those jobs did not pay $15/hr. or otherwise have “equality” with positions that required more education, training or years of experience, but they formed a solid foundation for adult endeavors, and proved to me that if I was willing to work I could make money. How much was related to the value of my work in the “market”.

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Business News

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.



Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.



Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?



Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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