Top 10 Successful Founder Spokespeople

While a company’s founder is almost always the soul of his or her business, it’s not as often that he or she is the face of the brand, as well. But a few businesspeople have transcended their place as company founder to become their own spokesperson: from Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Walt Disney, to Richard Branson, Hugh Hefner and Steve Jobs, these are the people whose faces are as recognizable as the brands they created. In honor of the founding of Wendy’s by Dave Thomas on November 15th, 1969 in Columbus, Ohio, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 most recognizable company founders.
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Top 10 Recognizable Company Founders


They are the souls – and faces – of their companies. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most recognizable company founders.

#10 – Martha Stewart: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Kicking off our list is a model-turned-caterer-turned-media powerhouse. Stewart became the face of her brand by hosting multiple shows on home décor, baking and everything in between. But, her talents as a homemaker were second only to her shrewd business skills, as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia became a publishing, broadcasting, merchandising, and electronic commerce empire.

#9 – Henry Ford: Ford Motor Company

Ford’s name and face were recognized the world over due to his contributions to American industry. While he wasn’t credited with inventing the automobile, he did pioneer its mass production with the assembly line, and his Model T car prompted a revolution. He helped usher in a new era of consumerism by doubling his staff’s wages, which may be the most lasting piece of his legacy.

#8 – Dave Thomas: Wendy’s

Since this former KFC exec named his burger chain after his daughter, Wendy’s has been associated with family values. Thomas helped sell this message and increase brand awareness for his burger chain by appearing in over 800 commercials between 1989 and his death in 2002. His charming, relaxed and hardworking Midwestern attitude made him a household name, and made Wendy’s the number three burger joint in the U.S.

#7 – Russell Simmons: Rush Communications

Simmons made his fortune with Def Jam, by launching the careers of acts like the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. But, the record label he co-founded with Rick Rubin was only one pillar of his Rush Communications empire, in addition to such brands as Phat Farm. Simmons brought rap music and culture to the mainstream, which made him one of the richest and most well-respected figures in hip hop.

#6 – Mary Kay Ash: Mary Kay Cosmetics

Mary Kay’s sales skills bloomed early, but she quit her job when yet another less-qualified man was promoted ahead of her. She then used her marketing skills, business acumen and a $5 thousand investment to start her cosmetics company. Ash became the face of her brand and a role model for working women by employing unique incentive techniques and stressing balance with her mantra “God first, family second, career third.”

#5 – Steve Jobs: Apple Inc.

When you think of black turtlenecks, jeans and sneakers, you think of one man. Jobs was a leader in the personal computing revolution, and he helped rejuvenate Apple’s dismal product line with items like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Not only that, his keynote speeches meant that his image and that of his company were inextricably linked, which made him Apple’s most valuable – and effective – salesman.

#4 – Hugh Hefner: Playboy Enterprises

Hef left his job as an Esquire magazine copywriter after being refused a $5 raise, and used his know-how to raise investment money for his own venture. When Marilyn Monroe’s nude figure hit newsstands in the first ever issue of Playboy in 1953, it spawned a global brand. From the parties at the Playboy Mansion, to the bunnies, the housecoat and the pipe, Hef’s trademarks made him an icon.

#3 – Walt Disney: The Walt Disney Company

Mickey Mouse may be more recognizable than his creator, but Walt Disney was hardly an obscure public figure: after co-founding Walt Disney Productions with his brother, he asserted himself as a creative and business force and won more Academy Awards than anyone in history. And while Disney’s voice was memorialized as Mickey, it was his signature that became one of the world’s most identifiable.

#2 – Oprah Winfrey: Harpo Productions, Oprah Winfrey Network

Oprah emerged from more-than-humble beginnings in rural Mississippi to become a talented TV host, a powerhouse interviewer and one of the world’s most recognizable faces. She then built her queendom around an award-winning, nationally syndicated talk show, forever changed television and became the wealthiest African-American of the twentieth century. The lackluster launch of OWN did little to affect her status as one of the most influential women in the world.

# 1 – Richard Branson: Virgin Group

Taking the top spot on our list is the quintessential entrepreneur slash billionaire thrill-seeker. Sir Richard’s charm and gift for relating to people helped him build an empire that includes over 400 companies, starting with record stores and growing to include ventures in air and space travel. His humanitarian efforts, movie and TV cameos, and world record attempts have made him an identifiable character, and earned him rock star status among his fellow entrepreneurs.

Who do you think is the most recognizable company founder? For more top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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