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Horst Rechelbacher: Aveda

If you had not demonstrated academic gifts by the age of 12, teachers in the Austrian school system in the 1950s asked you to become an apprentice and learn a trade.

Horst Rechelbacher, who admits to being an indifferent student, had an eye for art, drawing, painting, and a passion for aesthetics, and he became an apprentice hair stylist at a salon across the narrow street from his house.

He also worked at the adjacent deli after school before he started work in the evenings in the hair salon. On weekends he accompanied his herbalist mother to the mountains to pick herbs.

Pursuing his passion for beauty and customer service, combined with his fear of losing, Horst became a champion hair stylist in Europe by the age of 14 and was asked to style hair for the leading cosmetics companies and magazines in Europe.

He came to the United States for a magazine photo shoot and ended up in a car crash and a hospital in the Midwest. To pay his bills, he started working as a hair stylist in a Minneapolis salon. He was so successful as a stylist that a banker-customer encouraged him to take over a bankrupt shop with a $4,000 loan, and he opened his first salon.

To create the leading hair-styling salon in the city, he started training his hairdressers to replicate his skills at hair dressing. When he found that other salons were stealing his employees, he decided to start a school to train hair stylists and make a profit from training. Being dissatisfied with the products he was using, he developed a line of products based on his herbal skills and started selling those in the school.

In the process, he developed a new way of selling his products and services to quality-conscious consumers. By the time he sold Aveda to Estee Lauder for $300 million, he had revolutionized his industry.

This is how he did it.

This introduction is excerpted from Bootstrap to Billions: Proven Rules from Entrepreneurs who Built Great Companies from Scratch by Dr. Dileep Rao. Copying or reproduction in any format or medium without the prior express, written consent of the author is strictly prohibited.

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