The top 1% of Earners Are Entrepreneurs — But Not the Ones You See On TV

Pro Tip: If you want to earn a good living on your terms, first master a rare and valuable skill.

Alexander Lewis
5 min readJun 1, 2022
Source: Stencil

The entrepreneurs you see in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal are not representative of most top-earning business owners.

A recent study called Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century used IRS data to break down exactly how entrepreneurs in the top 1% to .1% earn their living. According to the study, almost none of these entrepreneurs look like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or your favorite Shark Tank personality.

In many ways, the top 1% of earners among entrepreneurs are much more, well, ordinary. Their success is subtle, underplayed. They run the businesses you see around town. They are seldom in the news. They don’t spend most of their week day-trading cryptocurrencies and stocks. Their companies aren’t among the Fortune 500.

So, who are they?

What it takes to be in the top 1% income earners

According to the study, the top 1% income means that these business owners earn at least $390K per year. There are about 1.1 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. who fall into this 1% category.



Alexander Lewis

Finding focus in the age of distraction | Freelance writer with bylines in Adweek, The Next Web, Foundr, and Built In