Donald and Doris Fisher

Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists

One thing a lot of self-made billionaires have in common is that they found a need for something and filled it. Donald Fisher, who started The Gap with his wife Doris, is one of these people.

After Fisher left the Navy, he worked for his father in his hometown of San Francisco, CA as a cabinet maker. Tired of the family business, he went out on his own business renovating hotels and happened to rent some space to Levi Strauss, the famous jeans maker. After trying unsuccessfully to return a pair of Levis because they were the wrong size, Fisher noticed that none of the stores that sold Levis carried the full line of jeans in every size.

He talked to Levi Strauss and told them that they should have their own, dedicated store that sold all of the styles and sizes of their jeans, and he offered to run it. They accepted, and he opened a store that he and his wife ran called “The Gap.” This was in reference to the “generation gap,” which means that kids and their parents or grandparents sometimes see things differently.

The store sold records in addition to jeans, in an effort to attract younger people. A few years later they started making their own clothing, and that line was so successful, they were eventually able to purchase other clothing companies like Banana Republic and Old Navy.

The Fishers were passionate about religion and education, and they donated large sums of money to several Jewish organizations, and education-based organizations including KIPP charter schools, Teach for America, GreatSchools.net, EdVoice, and Princeton University. They also loved art and had a huge art collection that they allowed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to display. They even paid for public art sculptures in their beloved city of San Francisco.

Donald Fisher died in 2009, but his wife, Doris, is now one of the wealthiest women in the world, with a net worth of $3.1 billion. She was also recently named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine. The Fishers’ sons are still managing their family business (The Gap).

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