Last week I was given some feedback that suggested one or two of my posts were on the slightly negative side. I’d like to think they were on the realistic, my head isn’t in the clouds kind of posts, but without any real doom and gloom. And so today I’m writing a piece that will give some of you some inspiration and others an introduction to some unfamiliar, successful names. Rags-to-riches stories aren’t circulated simply to generate publicity for the people involved: They have the power to help inspire entrepreneurs around the world. Entrepreneurs like you. So here goes…
Such stories can also help you discover how people in your industry, or any industry, became successes, and how you, like them, need not start out with all the advantages in life.
Here, then, are some of the biggest rags-to-riches stories.
1. George Soros escaped the Nazis to become one of the world’s most successful investors.
George Soros is the type to invest in a franchise and make it into success. His humble beginnings were in Hungary, where he survived that nation’s Nazi occupation. Soros’ father, in fact, was instrumental in saving his son’s life by paying off a government employee. After the war, in 1947, Soros escaped his Iron Curtain and Cold War life and made it to London.
He subsequently managed to earn a degree from the London School of Economics.
But that’s hardly the end of the story. Even after graduation, Soros was still living a modest life, working at a souvenir shop. Only later did he got rich and become part of a merchant bank that sparked his career as one of the most famous investors on the planet.
2. Larry Ellison came from the slums to co-found Oracle.
Larry Ellison was born on the Lower East Side of New York during World War II, back when that district was still poor and teeming with immigrants striving to survive. At an early age, Ellison contracted pneumonia and was sent to the South Side of Chicago to live with relatives. Despite these obstacles, he was able to educate himself and join Software Development Laboratories, in 1977.
This was a crucial move, because in 1982 the company became Oracle. This is a company that brings in $38 billion a year and along the way, Ellison — who stepped down as CEO in 2014 — managed to accumulate over $46.2 billion in net worth.
3. John Paul DeJoria ran his business from his car.
DeJoria was born in Los Angeles, a first-generation American. He started out his business life selling Christmas cards and newspapers before he even turned 10. He also spent time in a gang. The path ahead looked like a disastrous one for DeJoria.
But, instead, he later created John Paul Mitchell Systems using a $700 loan. He lived out of his car and sold shampoo door to door. Later, he would diversify into diamonds, mobile phones and alcohol. But first it took him a long time to escape living out of his car.
4. Do Won Chang worked three jobs to survive.
Do Won Chang is the famous face behind Forever 21, who much earlier immigrated to the United States from South Korea, in 1981. Before he founded Forever 21, he worked three jobs simultaneously, as a gas station clerk, a janitor and a coffee shop employee. That period lasted for three years before he founded the company and opened its first clothing store, in 1984.
This family business grew quickly by taking advantage of the benefits of “fast fashion.” Forever 21 is now multi-national and has 480 locations across the world. It has also managed to bring in $3 billion per year. And the next generation has been taken into the company, as Chang has brought his two daughters on board.
5. Zdenek Bakala flees Communist Czechoslovakia with $50.
Zdenek Bakala happens to be one of the leading coal entrepreneurs in the United States. Originally from Czechoslovakia, he fled that country when he was just 19. He arrived in Lake Tahoe with just $50 in his pocket. Once there, he got a job washing dishes at Harrah’s casino.
Fast-forward a few years: Bakala attended the prestigious University of California-Berkeley and acquired his undergraduate degree. That higher education credential gained him entry into the banking world. And returning to his homeland, in 1994 he opened the Credit Suisse office in Prague.
Due to his enormous wealth, Bakala has managed to acquire huge shares in both coal and iron ore, which he still holds to this day.
Last word: You can do it.
These rags-to-riches stories are extreme examples of entrepreneurs starting from nothing and working their way up to the top. This is something you can do too if you really want to. Make sure you have the hunger to manage the path before you, and don’t be afraid to take a risk.
How will you make your fortune?
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