These 7 Successful Aussies Didn’t Finish High School

If wagging school to play Nintendo with your mates sounded far more enticing than learning about the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975, you’re hardly alone. Standardised education just isn’t for everyone, and a recent national study by education policy think tank, Mitchell Institute, has proved that theory (again).

The study reveals that a quarter of Australian students aren’t completing year 12 or a vocational equivalent. Instead of being a cause for national alarm, findings like that could do well to prompt a re-think about our divergent paths to success.

Uncreatively regulated structure within education has been restrictive to many students since the beginning of formal education, in both the private and public sector. Obviously, leaving school isn’t an ideal situation, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a person’s education, nor does it mean you’re doomed to end up pushing shopping trolleys at a mall (unless you want to).

Here are seven successful Aussies whose journey involved leaving high school early in favour of the School of Life.

#1 Brad Smith

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Image: supplied

Motorcross head Brad dropped out of high school in year 11, and though he had little experience in business, he was always passionate about doing something big and making a difference. Like many at age 13, he began trading shares on the US market, and at 16 started braaap, a company selling high quality yet affordable competition-level motorcycles. By 18, he opened his first retail store, and today, Brad is a global entrepreneur and inspirational speaker with a multi-million dollar company. Brad is twice winner of Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year and braaap has won Australian Retail Business of the Year four times.

#3 Melanie Marris

Melanie’s brow game is as strong as her business one. At only 27, this self-taught brow stylist has gone from a one-woman show to running two boutiques across Perth and Melbourne, managing a team of eyebrow stylists and launching her own brow-focused range of tools and cosmetics. Melanie left school early and worked in a beauty salon, slowly honing her craft and building her clientele. With no capital to her name, word of mouth and the power of social media played a large part in sharing Melanie’s talents with the world, transforming her into a successful entrepreneur in four short years.

#2 Janine Allis

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Image: supplied

Boost juice is everywhere. It’s undeniably successful, and that success manifests as more than 350 stores in 17 countries. The founder, Janine, dropped out of school at 16 and took on three jobs to pay for a backpacking trip of a lifetime (during which she held a gig as a stewardess on David Bowie’s yacht in the Mediterranean). Janine was exposed to a thriving juice and smoothie culture during her work and travels in the States, but noticed a lack of such culture back home in Australia. Filling that gap has resulted in an AUD$200 million global business and countless accolades, including induction into the ‘Business Women Hall of Fame’.

#5 Engelo Rumora

Leaving school in hot pursuit of a dream of becoming a professional soccer player, Engelo succeeded with a 6-month contract in Hong Kong. But his achievements would move off the pitch and into the property market. Returning to Australia, Engelo had no place to live, no high school education and no savings, but found work as a labourer for three years. Ten-hour days and minimum pay wore thin, but reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki spurred him on a journey of personal development. He attended success seminars and devoured countless books on property investing, business and finance. Engelo bought his first property in regional Victoria with just $40,000 in savings, and over the following six months purchased seven more in Australia and the USA. This “real estate dingo” (sorry) has been involved in 300+ real estate transactions and currently runs three businesses.

#4 Luke McLeod

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Image: supplied

Luke subbed school for the Australian Army. A natural leader, he ascended the ranks quickly, but just as quickly realised his passions lay in entrepreneurship and education. For the following six years, Luke found the best in business and education to become a master in these areas, but his determination led to burn out and a subsequent soul-searching trip overseas for a break. It was on this trip that Got Soul was born, a movement for people wanting inspiration and information to make better decisions in their everyday lives. Known as the ‘Soulpreneur’, Luke now heads up the advisory team at The Entourage (one of Australia’s leading educators for entrepreneurs), invests in a number of social enterprises and is a presenter and contributor in the media.

#6 Kylie Bartlett

Kylie’s is the kind of story that makes you question your effectiveness at adulting. She owned her first business, a café, at 21, a home by 24 and made her first million by the age of 30. Did we mention that prior to these achievements she was a homeless teen and dropped out of high school? Today, Kylie is known as the Web Celeb, hugely successful in teaching small businesses, startups and corporates how to cut through on social media and become web famous.

#7 Shannon Bennett


Image: Vue de Monde

Vue de Monde’s reputation as the pinnacle of fine dining in Melbourne is made all the more impressive when you know that celebrity chef Shannon Bennett’s first job was cooking at McDonalds and he dropped out of school at 15. He did his time as an apprentice chef, and learned from some of the best in Europe before opening his first Vue de Monde in Melbourne at 24. He is at the helm of an ever-expanding restaurant empire as well as an author, and mentor on MasterChef. He’s now looking at developing a property in the Dandenongs into a world-class dining and entertainment venue.

(Lead image via Unsplash)