Some of the world’s wealthiest people started out dirt poor. Wealth tends to create more wealth, but a rich background is not the only way to the top. These 11 people not only climbed to the top of their industries but also became some of the richest person in the world.
Here are 11 rags-to-riches stories that remind us through determination, grit, and a bit of luck anyone can overcome their circumstances and achieve extraordinary success.
1. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor.
Net worth: $3 Billion
In an interview with British tabloid Mirror, Schultz says: “Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, and happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like.”
Schultz ended up winning a football scholarship to the University of Northern Michigan and went to work for Xerox after graduation. Shortly after, he took over a coffee shop called Starbucks, which at the time had only 60 shops. Schultz became the company’s CEO in 1987 and grew the coffee chain to more than 16,000 outlets worldwide.
2. Jan Koum, the CEO and cofounder of WhatsApp, once lived on food stamps before Facebook made him a billionaire.
Net worth: $7.7 Billion
Jan Koum came to the US from Ukraine when he was 16 years old. His family, struggling to make ends meet, lived on food stamps that they picked up a couple blocks away from Koum’s future WhatsApp offices in Mountain View, California.
In 2009, he and cofounder Brian Acton launched the real-time messaging app with an aim to connect people around the world. It essentially replaces text messaging. WhatsApp, which now has over 600 million global users agreed to a $19 billion buyout from Facebook earlier this year. The deal made Koum a multibillionaire.
3. Born into poverty, Oprah Winfrey became the first African American TV correspondent in Nashville.
Net worth: $3 Billion
Winfrey was born into a poor family in Mississippi, but this didn’t stop her from winning a scholarship to Tennessee State University and becoming the first African American TV correspondent in the state at the age of 19.
In 1983, Winfrey moved to Chicago to work for an AM talk show, which would later be called “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
4. Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang worked as a janitor, gas station attendant, and in a coffee shop when he first moved to America.
Net worth: $4.8 Billion
The husband and wife team Do Won Chang and Jin Sook behind Forever 21 didn’t always have it so easy. After moving to America from Korea in 1981, Do Won had to work three jobs at the same time to make ends meet. They opened their first clothing store in 1984.
Forever 21 is now an international, 480 Stores Empire that rakes in around $3 billion in sales a year.
5. Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal came from modest beginnings in India.
Net worth: $13.6 Billion
A 2009 BBC article says the ArcelorMittal’s CEO and chairman, who was born in 1950 to a poor family in the Indian state of Rajasthan, “established the foundations of his fortune over two decades by doing much of his business in the steel industry equivalent of a discount warehouse.”
Today Mittal runs the world’s largest steel making company and is a multibillionaire.
6. Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison dropped out of college after his adoptive mother died, and he held odd jobs for eight years.
Net worth: $47.4 Billion
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to a single mother, Ellison was raised by his aunt and uncle in Chicago. After his aunt died, Ellison dropped out of college and moved to California to work odd jobs for the next eight years. He founded software development company Oracle in 1977, which is now one of the largest technology companies in the world. This September he announced his plans to step down as Oracle’s CEO.
7. Kenny Troutt, the founder of Excel Communications, paid his way through college by selling life insurance.
Net worth: $1.45 Billion
Troutt grew up with a bartender dad and paid for his own tuition at Southern Illinois University by selling life insurance. He made most of his money from phone company Excel Communications, which he founded in 1988 and took public in 1996. Two years later, Troutt merged his company with Teleglobe in a $3.5 billion deal. He’s now retired and invests heavily in racehorses.
8. John Paul DeJoria, the man behind a hair-care empire and Patron Tequila, once lived in a foster home and his car.
Net worth: $3 Billion
Before the age of 10, DeJoria, a first generation American, sold Christmas cards and newspapers to help support his family. He was eventually sent to live in a foster home and even spent some time in a gang before joining the military.
With a $700 dollar loan, DeJoria created John Paul Mitchell Systems and sold the shampoo door-to-door while living in his car. He later started Patron Tequila, and now invests in other industries.
9. At one time, businessman Shahid Khan washed dishes for $1.20 an hour.
Net worth: $5.8 Billion
He’s now one of the richest people in the world, but when Khan came to the U.S. from Pakistan, he worked as a dishwasher while attending the University of Illinois. Khan now owns Flex-N-Gate, one of the largest private companies in the U.S., the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and Premier League soccer club Fulham.
10. Jack Ma taught English before founding Alibaba in 1999.
Net worth: $21.8 Billion
Born in Hangzhou, China, Ma grew up in poverty. He couldn’t get a job at the local KFC. He failed the national college entrance exams twice before finally graduating and starting his career as an English teacher.
Then, in 1995, he had his first visit to the US. He saw the internet for the first time.
Recognizing that there was little in the way of Chinese content online, he started China Pages, a directory that was arguably the very first Chinese web startup. It promptly failed.
In 1999, he founded Alibaba. Today, the online retailer handles double the merchandise of Amazon. With September’s IPO, Ma became China’s richest person.
11. Leonardo Del Vecchio grew up in an orphanage and later worked in a factory where he lost part of his finger.
Del Vecchio was one of five children who was eventually sent to an orphanage because his widow mother couldn’t care for him. He would later work in a factory making molds of auto parts and eyeglass frames.
At the age of 23, Del Vecchio opened his own molding shop, which expanded to become the world’s largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eyewear with brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley.[su_box title=”More From DSIM:-” box_color=”#c7c7c7″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]1) How ZO Rooms is growing in the budget chain hotel industry?
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