Risky Business

I read the other day in the Wall Street Journal that one out of every 125 Americans is a millionaire.

That’s insane.

In this day and age, anyone can become a millionaire. You learn, growing up, that hard work is the key to success, but sometimes it seems as though a little more luck than hard work causes people to become millionaires.

In 1994, D’Anne Schjerning left her secure administrative assistant job with Silicon Graphics Inc. to help her boss start a new company called Mosaic Communications.

There would be no pay raise with the change-just the same $53,000 salary. But her boss would throw in $10,000 in stock options that would allow her to buy Mosaic shares at half-a-penny each.

Little did she know, but on Nov. 28, 1994, Mosaic changed its name to Netscape Communications Inc., and on the day of the company’s initial public offering, Schjerning made 20 years’ pay.

Obviously Schjerning’s luck is out of the norm. It’s not like my stock options at The Daily Utah Chronicle are going to get me anywhere.

But not all millionaires make their money through lucky stocks. Many create a great idea and act on it.

Like the 13-year-old girl who invented the tool that cooks bacon in the microwave standing up rather than lying down, so the grease drains off more easily.

The item became the number one selling product at Wal-Mart.

Instant millionaire.

And then there were the three sophomores at Harvard who designed Facebook.com in February of 2004 so fellow students could get to know those living in other dorms.

The site became so popular the trio made it available to students at Columbia, Stanford and Yale within a month.

The Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners put in $13 million last year, causing two of the creators to drop out of school and run the business full-time.

But even closer to home is the story of former U student Shawn D. Nelson. In the summer of 1995, he created the first LoveSac in his garage. He stuffed it with anything he could find, from packing peanuts to pillows to foam.

He sewed his first five Sacs on his mother’s sewing machine, and in October of 1998, LoveSac was born.

At age 23, while still attending the U, Nelson completed his company’s first order of 12,000 Sacs. Since then, his company has opened over 60 stores across the country.

If only that had been me.

The U provides all students with the chance to turn a good idea into reality with business competitions like Opportunity Quest and the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.

I think we all should realize that you don’t need a million to make a million. You just need an idea and the desire to move forward with it.