Some famous names are etched on our memory, and become part of the fabric of society. Andrew Carnegie is one such name – an entrepreneur and philanthropist who originated from Scotland, but who made a huge impression on lives the world over.
Others mentioned here are relative newcomers to business, but all five of these Scottish entrepreneurs became successful against the odds. Having either started very young, or after experiencing particular hardship as children, they went on to become gritty and determined business people, as well as hugely inspirational figures.
A name synonymous with wealth and philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie started life in a tiny cottage in Dunfermline, where his father was a weaver. In 1848, at the age of 13, he emigrated to America with his family, and built up huge wealth within the steel industry.
On selling his company for $480 million, Carnegie became a prolific philanthropist, setting up libraries, trusts and institutions across Europe and America, as well as in his home country.
The Carnegie Trust continues to improve lives today on a global scale. Considering his inauspicious background, it’s no wonder that Andrew Carnegie is often regarded as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time.
Michelle Mone grew up in poverty in the East End of Glasgow. Born in 1971, she left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications, becoming an entrepreneur after being made redundant from her job with a brewery.
Along with her former husband she started the company, MJM International, producing the underwear brand, Ultimo, after several years of research and development. Now one of the best known Scottish-born entrepreneurs of recent times, Michelle Mone became Baroness Mone of Mayfair in 2015.
Fraser Doherty was just 14 years old when he started his first company, SuperJam. The business was inspired by his grandmother’s recipes, which he used to create jam with no sugar or sweeteners – just 100% fruit.
Having sold the jam around his home town of Edinburgh, Fraser was accepted as a supplier for Waitrose, becoming the youngest person to supply a product to a major supermarket. SuperJam is now named as an iconic Scottish brand in the National Museum of Scotland – a huge achievement for someone so young.
Social entrepreneur, Sylvia Douglas, founded MsMissMrs to help empower women in Scotland. Having spent the majority of her early life in care following abuse at home, Sylvia used her experiences to help women thrive under challenging circumstances.
MsMissMrs sells novelty ‘Empowerment Pants,’ and was initially set up with the financial assistance of social investors, Resilient Scotland. Sylvia uses profits from her sales to fund workshops and courses for vulnerable young women.
Sir Arnold Clark
Born in Glasgow in 1927, Arnold Clark left school at the age of 14, with no qualifications. After working as a motor mechanics instructor with the Royal Air Force, he bought and restored his first vehicle, selling it on for a profit.
Having opened his first car showroom in 1954, in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, he set up a finance company nine years later, so that buyers didn’t have to approach their bank for money when they were buying one of his cars.
In 2004, Arnold Clark received a knighthood from the Queen for services to the motor industry, and was named the first billionaire car dealer by the Sunday Times in 2016.
Scotland’s long history of entrepreneurship is well illustrated by these five inspiring and influential people, who overcame personal disadvantage to succeed and thrive.
Written by John Baird – an experienced personal debt advisor and partner at Scotland Debt Solutions. John has more than 25 years’ experience advising individuals on how to overcome their financial problems and move forward towards a debt-free future.