South by Southwest

3 successful entrepreneurs reveal the moment they felt truly wealthy

Danisha Danielle Wrighster is the owner of a multimillion-dollar commercial real estate business. But she hasn't always been financially successful.

In her early 20's, Wrighster was single mom living on government assistance; the father of her child died of cancer ten weeks after she gave birth. Shortly thereafter, the young mom was laid off.

To her, success means no longer having to hustle to make ends meet.

"Wealth is when my passive income surpassed my expenses. So, if I get out of bed or not, my bills are paid," says Wrighster.

CNBC's Danisha Danielle Wrighster.
CNBC's Danisha Danielle Wrighster.

"The day that I ran my numbers and I was like, 'Wow, whether or not I get out of bed today, my bills are paid,' that was wealthy," says Wrighster, speaking at the SXSW Festivals and Conferences in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.

Even more than the balance in her bank account, the real estate entrepreneur says "wealth" to her was a "peace of mind that I can make my moves, that I can take a risk and it doesn't endanger me. And that, to me, is a little bit of wealth."

"The day that I ran my numbers and I was like, 'Wow, whether or not I get out of bed today, my bills are paid,' that was wealthy." -Danisha Danielle Wrighster, real estate investor

For Tilman Fertitta, the self-made billionaire, getting onto the Forbes 400 list was a sign that he had "made it." Currently, with a net worth of almost $3 billion, he is ranked 246 out of the 400 Wealthiest People in America.

"It's kind of funny because you make that first million, you have got that first million dollars, that's nice. You've got that first airplane, or that first yacht, but I will tell you all, I am really a competitive guy," says Fertitta. "When I made the Forbes 400 the first time, I realized, 'You know what, I did all right as a business guy.'"

Tilman Fertitta, entrepreneur and host of Billion Dollar Buyer.
Tilman Fertitta, entrepreneur and host of Billion Dollar Buyer.

Fertitta's food-and-casino empire is worth about $3 billion today, but he got his start peeling shrimp in the back of his father's restaurant in Galveston, Texas. He now employees 60,000 people.

"When I made the Forbes 400 the first time, I realized, 'You know what, I did all right as a business guy.'" -Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry's

"I feel like I have made it. I am on the 400," says Fertitta. "That's it!"

Meanwhile for Marcus Lemonis, self-made millionaire and the star of CNBC's "The Partner," wealth is not measured in dollars. "I don't think about wealth and money in the same sentence," says Lemonis. "My philosophy is that if I do good things, and I am mildly responsible for my investments that I make, then it will all work out in the end.

NUP_177491_0349.JPG

Lemonis started mowing lawns and working as a club promoter in college, before he got into the automobile industry. Now he is the chairman and CEO of recreational vehicle dealership Camping World, which he took public in an initial public offering that raised $251 million.

"I don't think about wealth and money in the same sentence." -Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World

"As I look at the deals that I have done and the $50 million that has gone to small businesses, I have measured my success and the wealth of those investments. Yes, I look at the numbers, no question. But I really look at the evolution of those people and the lives that have changed," says Lemonis.

"At the end of my life — you know, I don't have kids — and at the end of my life, the real question is what do I view as my legacy," the CEO says, "and that is the definition of wealth for me."

See also:

Marcus Lemonis to 20-somethings: Job-hopping is OK — if you can connect the dots

Marcus Lemonis: Working for someone else first is key to being a successful entrepreneur

Billionaire restaurateur: Trump is doing a great job