Do you have an exciting idea but don’t have the money to finance it? Many people have faced this situation, including Walt Disney, and I’d like to tell you how he overcame it.
Disney was born in 1901, in a family of four brothers and a sister. His mother was a loving and dedicated homemaker. His father often had money problems and treated his children so harshly, that each one left home as soon as they could. Walt never finished high school.
At the age of 16, Disney joined the Red Cross during World War 1 and became an ambulance driver in France. After the War, he started a tiny animation studio near the family home in Kansas City but his business failed.
His brother Roy was living in Hollywood and Disney joined him in 1923. Walt arrived with just $40, some drawing materials and a film he’d made. Roy believed in Walt’s potential and invested $250 to start a film company with him. The brothers borrowed $500, and rented space in the back of a real estate office. From this modest start, one of the great studios was born.
By 1953, the Walt Disney Co. was a huge success with such animated classics as “Bambi,” “Dumbo and “Fantasia.” Given that success, you might think financing a new idea would be easy. It wasn’t. Walt had a vision for Disneyland but Disneyland was a new concept and investors were highly skeptical and rejected it as a silly fantasy. He said, “I could never convince financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.”
So how did Disney finance Disneyland? At the age of 52, he borrowed against everything he and his wife owned. He said, “About seventeen million (dollars) it took. And we had everything mortgaged including my personal insurance.” If Disneyland failed, they were broke.
But even that didn’t raise $17 million. He appealed to the TV networks for financing and was turned down. Then just when it appeared he couldn’t get the funds, ABC suddenly reversed itself. In order to do a TV show with Disney, they decided to guarantee loans of up to $4.5 million for 35% ownership of Disneyland (Disney bought out ABC in 1960). Disney finally had the money! He built Disneyland which opened in 1955 and it became a colossal success.
The lesson to us is to have the courage to act on our ideas. Ideas often fail not from lack of merit but from lack of persistence or lack of funding. If you have an idea you really believe in and don’t have the funds, and can’t raise them, don’t give-up. Start small and develop the concept. As it begins to make money, you may not need anyone else’s investment, and like Disney, your idea might one day captivate the world.
In the next KazanToday: How a “semi-literate tomato farmer” became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.