From “rags-to-riches” saying may be a cliché, but it’s one that’s definitely grounded in reality for some famous self made billionaires.

Through extraordinary bravery and perseverance, individuals across the globe have beat the odds and achieved their own rags-to-riches stories. These self made billionaires are definitely inspiring.

Here are 10 people who started off life poor and went on to become billionaires later in life:

1.Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, grew up in a housing complex for the poor.

Net worth: $2.9 billion.

In an interview with the Mirror, Schultz said: “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.

He’s since stepped down from his role as the coffee giant’s CEO, and also resigned as executive chairman in 2018.

2. Born into poverty, Oprah Winfrey became the first African-American TV correspondent in Tennessee.

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 that would later be called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

3.Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang worked as a janitor, as a gas station attendant, and in a coffee shop when he first moved to the U.S.

Net worth: $ 6.5 billion

Husband and wife Do Won Chang and Jin Sook, the team behind Forever 21, didn’t always have it so easy. After moving to the U.S. from Korea in 1981, Do Won had to work 3 jobs at the same time to make ends meet. The couple opened their first clothing store in 1984.

Forever 21 is now an international, 480-store empire that earns around $3 billion a year making him once of the self made billionaires in the world.

4. J.K.Rowling

Net Worth: $1 billion

J.K Rowling  is one of the most successful authors of all time. Her name is literally synonymous with Harry Potter and has $1 billion. It is almost impossible to believe that only 20 years ago, Joanne Rowling was so poor that she and her child relied on government welfare to survive. After getting a meager meal, Joanne would put her child to sleep and work voraciously on her first novel, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. Once this book was published, the world loved her work so much that it was developed into a series of blockbuster movies. J.K. Rowling’s life turned around for the better and she is a legitimate one of the famous self made billionaires.

5. Kenny Troutt

Net Worth: $1.7 billion

 Kenny had to work for every single dollar in his fortune. His father didn’t make much money. So after high school, Kenny sold life insurance so as to pay for his tuition at the Southern Illinois University. After graduation, he founded a phone company known as Excel Communications in 1988 and he had it listed in the stock exchange in 1996. In 1998, Kenny’s company merged with another in a deal worth $3.5 billion. Currently retired and a racehorse enthusiast, Kenny Troutt  his billions from scratch to billions.

6. John Paul DeJoria

Net Worth: $3.1 billion

His business career began when he was only 10 years old. John sold cards during Christmas and also newspapers for the purpose of supporting his family. Eventually, his parents could not support him and he was sent off to live with a foster family. He felt unsettled and joined a gang before going to the military. There, he acquired a $700 loan and established the John Paul Shampoo which he sold door to door. During this time, he lived in his car. Later on, he founded the Patron business and paved his way to billions. Today he is one of famous self made billionaires

7. Kenneth Langone

Net Worth: US$4.0 billion (November 2019)

He is an astute investor and business owner today. Having built two companies (one of which is Home Depot) and then taken them public, Ken can be considered a business genius. He knows the rough side of life because he grew up poor. His parents were a plumber and a cafeteria worker. They mortgaged their house and combined the money with savings from Ken’s odd jobs to pay for tuition at the Bucknell University. After graduation, Ken worked for these companies, took them over, made them highly successful and made a tidy sum for himself.

8. Shahid Khan

At one time, businessman Shahid Khan washed dishes for US$ 1.20 an hour. 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.


9. Jan Koum

Net worth $9 billion (£7.02bn)

Instant messaging whizz Jan Koum is worth $9 billion (£7.02bn). In April 2018, Koum announced his impending departure from Facebook HQ in California, however he continues to work one day a month and banks close to half a billion dollars every financial quarter, stalling until his remaining stock options vest.

When Jan Koum moved to California from the Ukraine as a teen his family struggled to stay above the poverty line. Koum relied on food stamps and swept floors to make ends meet. Despite his tough upbringing, Koum worked hard at school. By the age of 18 Koum became interested in programming and enrolled at San Jose State University.

In 1997, Koum was hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer where he worked for nearly nine years before leaving aged 30 with enough cash to launch his own business. In 2009 Koum co-founded real-time messaging app WhatsApp. The app was so successful Facebook bought it for a massive $19 billion (£14.82bn) and Koum was invited to sit on the Facebook board.

10. Stephen Bisciotti:

Net worth $4.2 billion (£3.3bn)

Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Bisciotti was the youngest of three children to parents Bernard and Patricia. The family moved to Baltimore when he was one. Tragedy struck when Bisciotti’s father died of leukemia when Stephen was eight, leaving Patricia to raise three kids on her own. Ever the grafter, Bisciotti had part-time jobs mowing lawns, babysitting and and pumping gas throughout his

teens before going off to college at nearby Salisbury State University.

Aged 23, he started Aerotek in a basement office with his cousin and they raked in $1.5 million in the first year. The Allegis Group, which Aerotak is part of, is now a $10.8 billion (£8.5bn) company, with nearly 500 offices worldwide. Always an avid sports fan, in 2000 Bisciotti bought 49% ownership of the Baltimore Ravens.

Stephen Bisciotti has a net worth of $4.2 billion (£3.3bn). He is the co-founder of Allegis Group, the world’s largest private staffing firm, although these days he is more well-known for being the majority owner of American football team the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL. The business mogul had to work hard to get where he is today though.

 Important Take Away

Each of these billionaires mentioned above made it from very humble backgrounds. Their stories are of hard work, dedication and grit. Which of these billionaire’s stories inspired you the most?


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