Top ten dyslexic entrepreneurs

Top ten dyslexic entrepreneursWednesday, October 06, 2010 by Rebecca

Dragons' Den investor Theo Paphitis is speaking at the Dyslexia Action charity appeal in London later tonight. The serial investor and entrepreneur will tell attendees how he overcame dyslexia to achieve business success.

It's hard enough starting your own business without any additional challenges. But research undertaken by Cass Business School shows that entrepreneurs are five times more likely to suffer from dyslexia. Here are Smarta's top ten dyslexic entrepreneurs who have made the big time.

Sir Richard Branson

He may be the multi-millionaire boss of the Virgin Group, but Richard Branson hasn't had it easy. Branson struggled during his school days and left the education system at 15: "They thought I was a hopeless case because I'm dyslexic, although no-one had heard of it in those days. I was always bottom of the class," he says. But, like many dyslexic entrepreneurs, Branson found his calling in business.

Branson is now the 212th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, and runs 300 companies through the Virgin Group. Far from seeing his dyslexia as a handicap, Branson says: "Being dyslexic can actually help in the outside world. I see some things clearer than other people do because I have to simplify things to help me and that has helped others."

Lord Sugar

The straight-talking entrepreneur and Apprentice star founded Amstrad in 1968. Like Sir Richard Branson, Lord Sugar left school early to pursue his business interests, starting a market stall in London's East End. Dyslexia has been no barrier to success for Sugar, who has since accumulated a personal wealth of £830m.

Sir Norman Foster

Sir Norman Foster is a British architect and founder of Foster & Partners. Sir Foster is Britain's most prolific designer and builder of landmark office buildings. He is most famous for designing the Swiss Re London headquarters at 30 St Mary Axe, also known as "The Gherkin".

Dame Anita Roddick

The late Anita Roddick was an entrepreneur, human rights campaigner and philanthropist. She opened her first Body Shop in 1976. By 1991, she had 700 stores. Roddick was dyslexic, but her learning difficulties never held her back. ""If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito," she said.

Jamie Oliver

"It was with great regret that I didn't do better at school. People just thought I was thick, it was a struggle, I never really had anyone to help that understood dyslexia and who could bring out my strengths." Jamie Oliver is the nation's most beloved celebrity chef and restaurateur. He left school at 16 without any qualifications to attend Westminster Catering College and it was there he found his calling: food. Oliver has today published 16 cookbooks and runs two London-based eateries: Jamie's Italian and Fifteen.

Theo Paphitis

Theo Paphitis battled with his dyslexia at school. Despite struggling in lessons, he demonstrated real entrepreneurial flair from a young age, running his school tuck shop. Paphitis is now boss of stationers Ryman and sold lingerie business La Senza for an estimated £100m.

Paphitis has also achieved scholastic success. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlesex University last year. He said of the honour: "Having left school at 16 with just a certificate for colouring in maps - geography - and another for swimming 10 metres, I hadn't even dreamt about a doctorate. That said, I always try for the unattainable and in this instance I've been incredibly lucky."

Ben Way

When Ben Way was seven years old, his primary school teacher told him: "Ben, you will never read or write. You will never make anything of yourself." How wrong she was. Way went on to become one of the UK's youngest self-made millionaires at 17 years old.  "I was lucky enough to be recognised as dyslexic very early in my life," he says. "I know that dyslexia in many ways gives me an edge against the competition, but only because I received the specialist equipment to enable me to work with dyslexia rather than against it."

Sir John Madejski

Sir John Madejski, founder of AutoTrader and chairman of Reading FC has business interests spanning multiple sectors and territories. His dyslexia spurred the businessman to open the John Madejski Academy in Reading, offering vocational courses and sports training to kids with learning difficulties.

Peter Stringfellow

Multi-millionaire nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow found that his dyslexia affected a number of subjects at school, but not maths. Unsurprisingly then, Stringfellow pursued his love of figures to launch a number of business interests, the first of which was a music venue called The Black Cat. Today, his eponymous strip joint is a regular haunt for wealthy businessmen and celebrities. The entrepreneur recently launched a new club, Angels, in London's Soho.

Ingvar Kamprad

The eccentric Ikea founder has revolutionised the market for affordable home furnishings. Kamprad's dyslexia has actually been a part of the entrepreneur's success: the Swedish-sounding names of the furniture that have become so popular with UK consumers only exist because Kamprad has trouble remembering numbers.