Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon is worth more than $90 billion surpassing Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, according to Forbes. However, Bezos hasn’t always been the billionaire he is today. He was born on January 12, 1964, as Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen, to 18-year-old Ted Jorgensen and 16-year-old Jacklyn Gise in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bezos’ biological dad, Jorgensen, was a part of a unicycle troupe and worked at a retail store making $1.25 an hour.
In 1968, after Bezos’ mother separated from Jorgensen, she remarried Miguel Bezos who arrived in Miami in 1962 from Cuba only knowing one word of English: “hamburger”. Bezos was adopted by Miguel at the age of 4 which is why they both have the same last name, even though Miguel is not his biological father. Being born to Cuban parents myself, I understand Miguel Bezos’s struggle and my parent’s struggle alike in a country where English is most people’s first language. Like Miguel, my parents, and many immigrants that come to this country seeking a better life and job, it is difficult to provide for yourself let alone a wife and a child. However, Miguel Bezos was there for Jeff when his biological father couldn’t be.
Growing up, Bezos spent summers with his grandparents in Texas helping fix windmills, vaccinate cattle, and do other chores, he said during a commencement speech at Princeton in 2010. Bezos also showed an early interest in how things work, turning his parents’ garage into a laboratory and rigging electrical contraptions around his house. He invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn’t work out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms.
Despite his parent’s financial struggle and move to Miami, Florida, Bezos focused on the things he loved and still managed to get straight As at Palmetto Senior High School and was accepted early admission to Princeton, later graduating summa cum laude in 1986.
After graduation, Bezos Finance career kicked off and was extremely lucrative, however, he chose to make a risky move into the nascent world of e-commerce. In 1994, he quit his job and moved to Seattle where he targeted the untapped potential of the internet market by opening an online bookstore. However, not everyone around Bezos thought Amazon was a good idea. His boss at the time urged him to rethink his choice of leaving his already successful career to take a shot in the dark.
“After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I’m proud of that choice,” he said.
When Amazon first started, Bezos would drive the packages to the post office himself in his 1987 Chevy Blazer.
"I thought maybe one day we would be able to afford a forklift," Bezos tells Charlie Rose in a wide-ranging interview in 2016.
Starting Amazon was as difficult as Bezos expected. In 1997, he began growing Amazon and competing with Barnes & Noble. Bezos said Barnes & Noble was giant in comparison to Amazon which ultimately threatened the business. Amazon had 125 employees and $60 million a year in annual sales, while Barnes & Noble had 3,000 employees and about $3 billion in sales, Bezos said.
“It's OK to be afraid, but don't be afraid of our competitors because they're never going to send us any money. Be afraid of our customers. And if we just stay focused on them, instead of obsessing over this big competitor that we just got, we'll be fine," Bezos advised his employees.
Even though Bezos went through a lawsuit for misuse of a book, he still persevered and Bezos’ push for his dreams is something that we should all be able to mirror. He decided to take a risk with the potential of failure because it is what he loved to do. Bezos didn’t allow his stepfather's language barriers or his parent’s financial struggle decide his future for him. He created the future he encountered. Bezos should be looked as a role model to children of immigrants, immigrants, and impoverished families. Your past or present don’t determine your future, your ideas, goals, and ambitions determine your future. Be the next Jeff Bezos in your family even if you have to start small.
Nicole Avila, Reporter