If you are like most people contemplating bankruptcy, you have a certain amount of embarrassment about “failing.” Shake it off! You are not a failure! You have hit hard times — like most everyone at one point or another — and our great country has purposefully put a structure in place to get you back on your feet. Filing for bankruptcy is something many famous entities have taken part in.

It’s in the best interest of America to give people a second chance, so they can move on with their lives. If we didn’t give fresh starts to people, we wouldn’t have the following great American companies that were only able to be created after their owners’ filed bankruptcy:

  • The Walt Disney Company, Disneyland, Walt Disney World
  • WalMart
  • Hilton Hotels
  • Hershey’s Chocolates
  • Macy’s Department Stores
  • Heinz Ketchup

Here are the stories behind some of the most well-respected Americans in history, that would never have gotten the chance at success, if they first hadn’t gotten a second chance…


Before Mickey Mouse, movie studios and giant theme parks, Walt Disney was a struggling entrepreneur. He started the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in 1921 with $15,000 from investors (that’s almost $180,000 in today’s money!). However, his investors pulled out and left Walt with the bills. In 1923, Walt Disney filed bankruptcy. He got the last laugh, though, as on October 16 of that same year, he and brother Roy started again with the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. The rest is international history!


The founder of WalMart, actually started his career running another famous store: Ben Franklin. However, things didn’t work out too well. When his lease expired, the building’s owner took over his store, and left Walton penniless (but, of course, with the bills). Sam Walton filed for bankruptcy, got a fresh start, and went on to build not just the largest retail chain, but the LARGEST COMPANY IN THE WORLD. Giving him another shot was a great deal for more than just Sam Walton; with almost 2 million employees, WalMart is also the largest employer in the world!


The economy was to blame for Conrad Hilton’s bankruptcy. During the Great Depression, he couldn’t pay his bills, and so the banks took every single hotel from him, and left him with nothing. He filed bankruptcy, got back on his feet, and eventually bought back all of his properties, and added more. Things turned out pretty well for the Hiltons. Just ask Paris.


Milton Hershey was always interested in the candy business. It just took him awhile to figure out how to be successful at it. He started 4 different candy companies that all failed. After he filed bankruptcy, he got it right the fifth time. Hershey’s Food Corporation sells almost $5 billion a year. Sweet!


Roland Macy tried selling ribbons, selling provisions to miners, and even had his own general store — none of which worked out. Macy filed bankruptcy in 1855. Three years later, he opened the store R.H. Macy & Co. in New York City. The flagship Macy’s store in Herald Square is the single largest department store in the world!


Henry John Heinz ran a successful condiment business selling horseradish, pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar — until an unexpected bumper harvest that overwhelmed the company. Heinz could not meet his payroll obligations, and was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1875. Almost immediately afterwards, Heinz started over, this time introducing a new condiment to the market: tomato ketchup. Today, Heinz is a $10 billion global company, that sells 650 million bottles of ketchup every year. Our fries are thankful!


Not enough inspiration? Here’s a list of other notable folks who filed for bankruptcy protection. You are in good company!

  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Donald Trump
  • Lady Gaga
  • Billy Joel
  • Lynne Spears (Britney’s mom)
  • TLC
  • Mick Fleetwood
  • Ted Nugent
  • Natalie Cole
  • Mindy McCready
  • David Crosby
  • Toni Braxton
  • Marvin Gaye
  • MC Hammer
  • Wayne Newton
  • Willie Nelson
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Isaac Hayes
  • Tom Petty
  • Luther Campbell
  • JT Money
  • Lenny Dykstra
  • Bernie Kosar
  • Jason Caffey
  • Mike Tyson
  • Jack Clark
  • Johnny Unitas