Some of the richest people in the world were born into their wealth. But many of them started with nothing, and through hard work, talent, grit, and a bit of luck, managed to rise to the very top.

There is no disadvantage these personalities did not suffer on their journey from birth to where they stand today – but sheer tenacity, confidence and hard work led them to the inspiring figures they are today. These stories remind us that it’s possible to overcome just about anything, from parents passing away, to extreme poverty, and more.

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Here are the 10 most inspirational rags-to-riches entrepreneurs of all time,

1. Steve Jobs

This Apple founder is now a household name. Jobs was given away for adoption by his biological parents and he became interested in electronics after his foster dad showed him the joys of technical tinkering in their garage. He had to drop out of college, because his education was costing his foster parents a lot. He used to return Coke bottles for money and live on free meals at the Hare Krishna temple. A hippie who used to trip on LSD, Jobs went from a technician in Atari, Inc. to becoming the CEO of Apple Inc.

2. Richard Branson

Branson went from being a dyslexic kid who performed badly in school to a British business magnate with a net worth of 4.6 billion. There was a time when Richard Branson started his record business from the crypt of a church – and now he is the fourth richest citizen of the UK. This entrepreneur is an example of how one can be eccentric and yet rake in the moolah. He had his finger in many pies – record label, airways and telecom.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Born to a housemaid and a coalminer, Oprah Winfred definitely did not grow in the lap of luxury. Living the life of poverty, where she used to have to wear dresses made out of potato sacks and was molested by relatives. She entered the world of media after getting the job of a news-reader in a local black radio station. After she got her first talk-show in Chicago, there was no looking back for this TV personality.

4. J.K. Rowling

Born in a lowly English family, Rowling battled depression, suicidal tendencies and poverty to become one of the most loved British authors in the world for her hugely popular Harry Potter series. Highly imaginative as a kid who thrived on stories, she drew from her surroundings and the people in her life as inspirations for the books which have now become one of the biggest movie franchises. From her humble beginnings, she has gone on to become one of the most powerful women in the United Kingdom.

5. Chris Gardner

This is the man whose life has inspired the Will Smith-starrer ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. Physically abused by his stepfather as a child and placed in a foster home, Gardner’s woes did not leave him even as he grew up to marry and be a father. As shown in the movie, Gardner struggled with homelessness while raising his kid. It was the strength of the lessons he learnt from his mother that he went from rags to riches by tenaciously building himself to be the CEO

6. Walt Disney

Our childhood would have been dreary without this genius of a man. Walt Disney was also another boy brought up in a farm – and used to draw pictures for his neighbours for money. He used to be the cartoonist for the school newspaper, Disney went through the jobless phase where no one hired him, and his brother had to help him out with his job search. He went from rags to riches by starting out with advertisements and going on to animating his own cartoons.

7. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison was born on the Lower East Side of New York City. After he contracted pneumonia as a baby, his mother was unable to care for him, and instead sent him to live with her aunt and uncle on the South Side of Chicago. He has never met his birth father, and didn’t even know he was adopted until much later in life. In 1977, he co-founded a database management company and today, Oracle has annual revenues of around $38 billion, and Ellison has an estimated net worth of $46.2 billion.

8. Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz grew up in the Bayview projects of Canarsie, Brooklyn. He always wanted to climb “over the fence” and go beyond the lifestyle provided by his truck-driving father. He excelled at sports and eventually earned a football scholarship to the University of Northern Michigan. After graduating with a degree in communications, Schultz went to work for Xerox before discovering a small coffee shop called Starbucks. Starbucks now has more than 21,000 stores in 65 countries, and Schultz has a net worth of $3.1 billion.

9. John Paul DeJoria

Born to Italian and Greek immigrant parents, this billionaire had to sell newspapers when he was nine to support his family. He has lived in a foster home, been part of a street gang and jumped through a number of jobs. With a loan of $700, he began what is now known the world over as the Paul Mitchell line of hair products. He went on to own 70% of The Patron Spirits Company, the world’s ultra-premium tequila brand. If this is not a rags-to-riches story, we do not know what is.

10. Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani was born on Chorwad, Gujarat. His father was a school teacher. Dhirubhai Ambani started his entrepreneurial career by selling “bhajias” to pilgrims in Mount Girnar over the weekends. At the age of 16 he moved to Yemen and worked as a gas-station attendant, and as a clerk in an oil company. He returned to India in 1958 with Rs 50,000 and set up a textile trading company. He moved on to start Reliance which became the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

About Author

Biplab Ghosh

Biplab lives his life around technology and is particularly keen to explore the intersection of technology and human behaviour. Always looking for new ideas, and ways that can make things simpler. He is a geek with the flair for travel and has great passion for music and theatres.

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