5 Business Owners Who Made It Without A College Degree

A college degree is important, but not always vital

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College is great for a lot of things, like making friends, moving to a new place, mastering adulthood, and learning everything there is to know about a specific area of study. While the end goal is to obtain a degree and then land a job in that respective field, that isn’t always everyone's path. Some people drop out, and some never go, but that doesn’t necessarily limit their chances of being successful. We’re all familiar with Michael Dell’s story of inventing a Dell computer in his college dorm, but his story isn’t so unheard of. Actually, some of the top business owners of our time dropped out of college or never attended, and we’ve picked our favorite five just to prove it.


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With a net worth of $1 billion, Jay-Z is the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire, and he did it all without ever pursuing a college degree. But being a musician isn’t the only profession that fuels the Brooklyn-born rappers bank account, he’s also a producer, business owner, investor, and record executive. Holding several roles like cofounder of Rocawear, co-owner of the 40/40 Club, and co-brand director for Budweiser Select, there isn’t an industry that the entrepreneur hasn’t tapped into. And with investments and ownership in Barclay’s Center, Carol’s Daughters, and the Brooklyn Nets, he’s proven a business degree isn’t the only way to master success in the field.

Russel Simmons

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Before Russel Simmons became a famous entrepreneur from launching Rush Communications Firm, he founded Def Jam Recordings along with Rick Rubin. The record label, which first opened in 1984, quickly became a leading name in the hip hop industry, and still holds weight today under Universal Music Group. But Simmons didn’t get his music business background through a degree from City College of New York, but instead through promoting local musicians after deciding to drop out. Today he is known as a designer, writer, film producer, record exec, and more.

Jack Dorsey

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It seems there might be a trend with the founders of today’s largest social networking platforms. Jack Dorsey, the CEO and cofounder of Twitter, dropped out of NYU in 1999. In 2006, along with Ev Williams, Noah Glass, and Biz Stone, Dorsey launched Twitter, leading to his current net worth of $4.2 billion. But Dorsey’s path is a bit different than the other successful founders who also dropped out. At the time of leaving NYU, Twitter wasn’t on the entrepreneur’s radar. Instead, he tried working as a masseur and fashion designer before the social networking platform was ever blueprinted.

Dr. Dre

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Most famously known for being a co-owner of Death Row Records, Dr. Dre is a prime example of a successful degree-less business entrepreneur. Never having attended college, the record producer and executive has a resume full of business triumphs. Founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, Dr. Dre became the richest man in hip hop in 2014 (Jay-Z recently surpassed him) after Apple purchased Beats for $3 billion. Marked as one of Apple’s largest purchases yet, the deal pushed Dr. Dre right above Diddy. Additionally, earlier in 2009, Hewlett-Packard collaborated with Beats By Dr. Dre and packaged the headphones with a series of HP laptops and headsets, adding to the prestige of the highly-acclaimed headphones that are still most popular today.

Kanye West

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Anyone who claims to be a fan of Kanye knows the Chicago-born artist is a college dropout; he literally titled an album after the decision. But Ye’s choice to quit college in YEAR provides just another example of a successful business owner who didn’t get a shiny plaque from a university. However, in 2015, Kanye went back to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received an honorary doctorate degree. Aside from working as a musician, Kanye is a record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer, owning his own clothing line, Yeezy which is expected to accumulate $1.5 billion by the end of 2019.

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