Here are the top 20 inspiring people in business who came from very poor and modest background and made a dent in the past!
George Soros, Investor
George Soros (born August 12, 1930) is a Hungarian-American[a] investor, business magnate, philanthropist, and author. Soros is considered by some to be one of the most successful investors in the world. As of May 2017, Soros has a net worth of $25.2 billion making him one of the 30 richest people in the world.
George Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary after his father paid a government employee, whose Jewish wife he had helped hide in the countryside, to let him pose as his godson. In 1947, he escaped the country, which had come under communist rule after the war, to stay with relatives in London. Soros put himself through the London School of Economics by working as a waiter and railway porter.
After graduating, Soros sold goods at a souvenir shop, writing countless letters to managing directors at merchant banks in London until he finally got a job. That was the beginning of a long and enormously successful career in finance, including his famous bet against the British pound in 1992, which earned him more than a billion dollars in profit in one swoop.
Larry Ellison, Oracle
Lawrence Joseph Ellison (born August 17, 1944) is an American businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who is co-founder of Oracle Corporation and was CEO from its founding until September 2014. He is the executive chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle. He was listed by Forbes magazine as the fifth-wealthiest person in America and as the seventh-wealthiest in the world, with a fortune of $55 billion.
Larry Ellison was born in New York City, to an unwed Jewish mother. His biological father was an Italian American United States Army Air Corps pilot. After Ellison contracted pneumonia at the age of nine months, his mother gave him to her aunt and uncle for adoption. He did not meet his biological mother again until he was 48.
Ellison dropped out of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign after his second year, not taking his final exams, because his adoptive mother had just died. After spending a summer in Northern California, he attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer design. In 1966, aged 22, he moved to Northern California. In 1977, he co-founded a database management company called Software Development Laboratories. They changed the name to Relational Software in 1979, and in 1982, it became Oracle.
John Paul DeJoria, Paul Mitchell
John Paul Jones DeJoria (born April 13, 1944) is an American entrepreneur, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist best known as a co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company.
John Paul Jones DeJoria was born the second son of an Italian immigrant father and a Greek immigrant mother on April 13, 1944 in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. His parents divorced by the time he was two years old, and at nine he began selling Christmas cards and newspapers with his older brother to support his family.
As a youth, DeJoria was a member of a street gang, but he decided to change his life after being told by his high school math teacher that he would “never succeed at anything in life”. After trying his hand as an employee for Redken Laboratories, he took a $700 dollar loan and created John Paul Mitchell Systems. He hawked the company’s shampoo door-to-door, living out of his car while doing so. But the quality of the product could not be denied, and now JPM Systems has annual revenues of nearly $1 billion.e.
Do Won Chang, Forever 21
Do Won Chang (born March 20, 1954) is a Korean-born American businessman. He founded the clothing retail store Forever 21. Do Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook, moved to America from Korea in 1981. When they first arrived, Do Won was forced to work three jobs at the same time to support them, as a janitor, a gas station attendant, and in a coffee shop. Eventually, they were able to open their first clothing store in 1984.
They opened a clothing store then named Fashion 21 in 1984 in Highland Park, Los Angeles. The store took off, and as they expanded to other locations the store’s name was changed to Forever 21. The number of stores grew to 457 by 2010. The company has remained a family operation. Forbes in 2012 estimated Chang and his wife’s net worth to be $4 billion.
Ursula Burns, Xerox
Ursula M. Burns (born September 20, 1958) serves as Chairwoman (since May 2010) of Xerox and was the CEO of the company from July 2009 to December 2016. As such, she was the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. In 2014, Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.
Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project. Both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants. Her mother ran a daycare center out of her home and ironed shirts so that she could afford to send Ursula to Catholic school. She went to NYU, and from there became an intern at Xerox. The rest is history.
Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Howard Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman. He is executive chairman of Starbucks In 2016, Forbes magazine ranked Schultz as the 595th richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $2.9 Billion.
As Schultz’s family was poor, he saw an escape in sports such as baseball, football, and basketball, as well as the Boys and Girls Club. He went to Canarsie High School, from which he graduated in 1971. In high school, Schultz excelled at sports and was awarded an athletic scholarship to Northern Michigan University.
After graduating with a degree in communications, Schultz went to work for Xerox before discovering a small coffee shop called Starbucks. Enamored with the coffee, he left Xerox to become the company’s chief executive in 1987. After beginning with 60 shops, Starbucks now has more than 21,000 stores in 65 countries, and Schultz has a net worth of $3.1 billion.
Li Ka-shing, Investor
Sir Ka-shing Li, (born 29 July 1928 in Chaozhou, China) is a Hong Kong business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. According to Forbes, as of June 2017 Li is the 2nd richest person in Asia, and 18th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$32.7 billion. He is currently the chairman of the board for CK Hutchison Holdings; through it, he is the world’s leading port investor, developer, and operator, and the largest health and beauty retailer in Asia and Europe.
Li’s father died of tuberculosis when he was just 15. Quitting school to work to support his family, Li made plastics and later plastic flowers for US export. By 1950 Li was able to start his own company, Cheung Kong Industries. While at first manufacturing plastics, the company later moved into real estate. He employs more than 270,000 people in 52 countries, according to Forbes.
Francois Pinault, Investor
François Pinault (born 21 August 1936) is a French businessman and art collector. He is the majority shareholder and honorary chairman of the retail conglomerate Kering.
Pinault quit high school in 1947 after being teased for his poor background. He joined his family’s timber trading business and in the 1970s began buying up smaller firms. His ruthless business tactics — including slashing jobs and selling his timber company only to buy it back at a fraction of the cost when the market crashed — gave him a reputation as a “predator.” He had similar tactics in the real estate business, and did well buying French junk bonds and taking government money to save businesses from bankruptcy.
His self-made worth helped him start Kering (formerly PPR), a luxury goods group that sells brands like Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Yves St. Laurent. At one point the richest man in France, Pinault and his family are now worth an estimated $13.2 billion.
Leonardo Del Vecchio, Luxottica
Leonardo Del Vecchio (born 22 May 1935) is an Italian businessman, founder and chairman of Luxottica Group. The group is the world’s largest producer and seller of glasses and lenses, with a total of 77,734 employees and over 7,000 stores. According to Forbes magazine, he is the second richest man in Italy with a net worth of $19.9 billion, making him the 74th richest person in the world.
Leonardo Del Vecchio was born in 1935 in Milan, Italy, to an impoverished family. His father died five months prior to his birth. He was given to an orphanage by his mother because she was unable to support him financially. He began his career as an apprentice to a tool and die maker in Milan, but decided to turn his metalworking skills to make spectacle parts. So in 1961 he moved to Agordo in the province of Belluno, which is home to most of the Italian eyewear industry. The new company was Luxottica s.a.s., a limited partnership. In 1967 he started selling complete eyeglass frames under the Luxottica brand, which proved successful enough that by 1971 he entered the contract manufacturing business.
Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Hotels
Sheldon Gary Adelson (pronounced /ˈædəlsən/; born August 4, 1933) is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and is the parent company of Venetian Macao Limited, which operates The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born into a low-income family and grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Sarah and Arthur Adelson. His father’s family was of Ukrainian and Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. His mother immigrated from England, and one of his grandfathers was a Welsh coalminer. His father drove a taxi, and his mother ran a knitting shop.
He started his business career at the age of 12, when he borrowed $200 from his uncle (or $2,640 in 2015 dollars) and purchased a license to sell newspapers in Boston. At age 16 in 1948, he then borrowed $10,000 (or $98,500 in 2015 dollars) from his uncle to start a candy-vending-machine business.
Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA
Ingvar Feodor Kamprad (born 30 March 1926) is a Swedish business magnate. He is the founder of IKEA, a Swedish retail company specialising in furniture.
Kamprad was born in Pjätteryd (now part of Älmhult Municipality), Sweden. He was raised on a farm called Elmtaryd (presently standardized Älmtaryd) near the small village of Agunnaryd in Ljungby Municipality in the province of Småland. His paternal grandfather was from Germany, but moved the family to Sweden.
Kamprad began to develop a business as a young boy, selling matches to neighbors from his bicycle. He found that he could buy matches in bulk very cheaply from Stockholm, sell them individually at a low price, and still make a good profit. From matches, he expanded to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, and later ballpoint pens and pencils. When Kamprad was 17, his father gave him a cash reward for succeeding in his studies.
Roman Abramovich, Chelsea F.C.
Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich (born 24 October 1966) is a Russian billionaire businessman, investor, and politician. He is the primary owner of the private investment company, Millhouse LLC and is best known outside Russia as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, a Premier League football club. According to Forbes 2016 billionaire list, Abramovich’s net worth was US$7.6 billion, making him the 13th richest person in Russia, and the 151st richest person in the world. The same year, The Sunday Times estimated his net worth at ₤6.40 billion.
After his parents died when he was just four, the Russian Abramovich was raised by his uncle and grandmother. Abramovich got his first break from an expensive wedding gift from his in-laws. He dropped out of college to pursue his entrepreneurial interests, which at first included selling plastic ducks out of an apartment in Moscow.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter
J. K. Rowling is a British novelist, film and television producer, screenwriter and philanthropist, best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. The books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies.
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure. Her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child. During this period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.
Sam Walton, Walmart
Samuel Moore “Sam” Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Samuel Moore Walton was born to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy Lee, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He lived there with his parents on their farm until 1923. However, farming did not provide enough money to raise a family, and Thomas Walton went into farm mortgaging. He worked for his brother’s Walton Mortgage Company, which was an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance, where he foreclosed on farms during the Great Depression.
After high school, Walton decided to attend college, hoping to find a better way to help support his family. He attended the University of Missouri as an ROTC cadet. During this time, he worked various odd jobs, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. In 1945, Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain. That was the first store of Wallmart!
Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Show
Oprah Winfrey (born Orpah Gail Winfrey; January 29, 1954) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy. Sent to live with the man she calls her father, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime talk show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.
Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon University
Andrew Carnegie was a self-made steel tycoon and one of the wealthiest businessmen of 19th century with net worth of US$309 billion in 2007 dollars, according to Forbes Magazine.
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland. After moving to the United States, he worked a series of railroad jobs. By 1889 he owned Carnegie Steel Corporation, the largest of its kind in the world. In 1901 he sold his business and dedicated his time to expanding his philanthropic work, including the establishment of Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904.
Colonel Harlan Sanders, KFC
Colonel Sanders is best known for creating a fried chicken recipe that would become the world’s fast-food chicken chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Sanders held a number of jobs in his early life, such as steam engine stoker, insurance salesman and filling station operator. He began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in Utah in 1952. The company’s rapid expansion across the United States and overseas was overwhelming for Sanders and, in 1964, he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown, Jr. and Jack C. Massey for $2 million ($15.4 million today).
Steve Madden, Steve Madden
Steve Madden (born 1958) is an American fashion designer and businessman. He is most well known as the founder and former CEO of Steven Madden, Ltd., a publicly traded footwear company.
Madden was born in Far Rockaway, Queens, and has Irish and Jewish ancestry. He grew up in adjoining Lawrence and graduated from the local high school in Nassau County, New York. The youngest of three brothers, he started the company with $1,100 in 1990 by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car.
Ray Kroc, McDonald
Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc (October 5, 1902 – January 14, 1984) was an American businessman. He joined McDonald’s in 1955 and built it into the most successful fast food corporation in the world. Kroc was included in Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century, and amassed a fortune during his lifetime.
Kroc was born on October 5, 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, near Chicago, to parents of Czech origin, Rose Mary (Hrach) and Alois “Louis” Kroc. His father was from the village of Břasy near Plzeň, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). He grew up and spent most of his life in Oak Park. During World War I, he lied about his age and became a Red Cross ambulance driver at 15, though the war ended and he was not posted overseas.
After World War II, Kroc found employment as a milk shake mixer salesman for the foodservice equipment manufacturer Prince Castle. When Prince Castle Multi-Mixer sales plummeted because of competition from lower-priced Hamilton Beach products, Kroc was impressed by Richard and Maurice McDonald who had purchased eight of his Multi-Mixers for their San Bernardino, California store, and visited them in 1955. Kroc became convinced that the concept and design of this small chain had the potential to expand across the nation.
John Willard Marriott, Marriott International
John Willard Marriott, Sr. (September 17, 1900 – August 13, 1985) was an American entrepreneur and businessman. He was the founder of the Marriott Corporation (which became Marriott International in 1993), the parent company of one of the world’s largest hospitality, hotel chains, and food services companies. The Marriott company rose from a small root beer stand in Washington D.C. in 1927 to a chain of family restaurants by 1932, to its first motel in 1957.
Having experienced the sweaty summers of Washington, D.C. as a Mormon missionary, J. Willard Marriott figured he could turn a profit by offering downtown pedestrians a cooling refreshment. In 1927, Marriott and his wife started a nine-stool root beer stand. Wintertime brought chili and sandwiches to the menu, and then after 30 years in the food business, Marriott’s stand had grown to 56 restaurants.When air travel was on the rise in 1953, Marriott embarked on a $7 million venture to build a motor hotel near the Washington National Airport. It turned out to be a good idea. Today, Marriott’s lodging and restaurant business is worth $3.5 billion.