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Limited Founder Les Wexner Reflects On 50 Years In Business

50 years ago, billionaire Columbus businessman Les Wexner founded The Limited. The single store in suburban Columbus catered to young women. It has grown into an international retail empire. Friday, Wexner reflected on the start of his success. Speaking to a Columbus Chamber audience Wexner says early on he wanted to be a business owner. "I can't say that I knew how women wanted to shop. I had the idea to open up a neighborhood clothing store that sold preppy clothes," says Wexner. With plaid skirts and dressy blouses on the sales racks, The Limited launched at an upscale mall in Upper Arlington. He checked his math and determined he needed to sell $100,000 worth of merchandise during his first year in business.

"The nightmare that I had in the weeks and months before, months, weeks, days before that store opened was that I would go broke and between the lease obligation, fixture, inventory, other stuff I figured pretty accurately that I maybe had as much as $1,000,000 of debt and no equity," says Wexner.

In fact, cash register sales at The Limited added up to $160,000 that first year. Wexner says he had no 'plan B' and was motivated mostly by fear of failure. He told businessmen and businesswomen in the audience they must have a sensible fear of failure but not be paralyzed from it. 50 years after he opened his first store, Wexner keeps his headquarters in Columbus and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Central Ohio community projects.