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11+ Successful Entrepreneurs From Poor to Rich

11+ Successful Entrepreneurs From Poor to Rich

According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are about 582 million entrepreneurs worldwide. 

 

There are stories among them of those who journeyed from having little to becoming rich through their hard work and innovative ideas. 

 

In this article, we’ll discover 11+ successful entrepreneurs who started with very little and climbed their way to wealth. 

 

Let’s dive in!

What are Successful Entrepreneurs From Poor to Rich

1. Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker, originally named Sarah Breedlove, was born on December 23, 1867, in Delta, Louisiana. She had a tough start in life, growing up in poverty as the daughter of former slaves. 

 

Despite being orphaned at seven and facing many hardships, including working as a domestic servant from a young age, she didn’t give up. 

 

Walker transformed her life and became the first female self-made millionaire in America, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

 

Walker’s big break came when she started experiencing hair loss and decided to create her own hair care products for black women. 

 



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She initially sold products for another entrepreneur but soon made her own. 

 

In 1905, she took a bold step by moving to Denver, Colorado, with her daughter to start the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. 

 

Beyond business, Walker was a big-hearted philanthropist and activist

 

She supported the NAACP and the arts, making her estate a cultural hub for the African-American community. 

 

When she passed away in 1919, she was celebrated for her business success and for her contributions to society. 

 

Madam C. J. Walker’s life teaches us that no matter where you start, with resilience, creativity, and a desire to help others, you can achieve great things.

2. Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was born into a poor family in Scotland in 1835, Carnegie moved to Pennsylvania, USA, with his family in search of a better life when he was just a boy. 

 

He started a job in a cotton mill making only $1.20 a week, Carnegie’s hard work and smarts soon stood out. 

 



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He became a telegraph messenger and then a telegraph operator because of his knack for remembering names and decoding messages just by listening.

 

His big chance came when he got a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad. His boss there, Thomas A. Scott saw potential in him and helped him start investing. 

 

Andrew didn’t just stick to one thing; he put his money in railroads, bridges, and especially in the steel industry.

 

By the 1860s, Carnegie had started investing in oil wells, bridges, and more railroads, but it was steel that made him super rich. 

 

He created the Carnegie Steel Company, which by the late 1800s, was the top steel company in America. 

 

He also was the first in America to use the Bessemer process, a new way to make steel that was faster and cheaper.

 

In 1901, Carnegie sold his steel company for a huge $303 million to J.P. Morgan and became the richest man in the world. 

 

Carnegie believed in giving back, so he spent the rest of his life donating most of his wealth to good causes, like education, peace, and building public libraries. 

 

Andrew Carnegie’s story shows us that with hard work, smart investing, and a belief in the power of education.

3. J. K. Rowling

  1. K. Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, in England, she always loved books. Even though she had a tough life, including losing her mom and going through a hard divorce that left her a single mom with very little money, she kept writing. 

 

The idea for Harry Potter came to her on a train in 1990. 

 

It took seven years and lots of rejections before her first book,Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published in 1997. 

 

This book and the ones that followed made her super famous and very rich. In fact, by 2008, she was the highest-paid author in the world. 

 

Today, the Harry Potter books have sold over 600 million copies, are available in 84 languages, and even became a huge movie series. 

 

Despite everything, she believed in Harry Potter’s world and wrote wherever she could, often with her daughter beside her. 

 

What’s cool is she also gives lots of money to help kids read and to fight the disease that took her mom.

 

Rowling’s journey shows us that with hard work and belief in yourself, you can overcome big challenges and achieve your dreams.

4. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey was born into a very poor family in Mississippi. Her mom was a teenager, and they didn’t have much money. 

 

As a little girl, Oprah even wore dresses made out of potato sacks because they couldn’t afford clothes. 

 

However, her grandma taught her to read before she was three, which sparked her love for books and learning.

 

Sadly, Oprah had a really tough time growing up. She moved to Milwaukee to live with her mom, where life got even harder. 

 

After a series of difficult events, including becoming a mom at 14 and losing her baby, Oprah went to live with her dad in Nashville. 

 

This change was good for her. Her dad was strict but supportive, pushing her to do well in school and believe in herself. 

 

Thanks to him, Oprah became a great student and even won a beauty contest that led her to her first media job.

 

Oprah’s big break came when she became the first black female news anchor in Nashville. 

 

Her natural way of reporting news with emotion made her popular, and soon she got into daytime TV talk shows. 

 

She moved to Chicago, took over a struggling show, and turned it into “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” This show was a huge hit and made Oprah famous worldwide.

 

Moreover, she created Harpo Productions, making her the first woman to own and run her own TV show. 

 

Her empire grew to include magazines, radio, and her own TV network, OWN. She used her success to help others and various charities. 

 

Oprah Winfrey’s story from poverty to being a billionaire shows how believing in yourself, hard work, and education can change your life and help others.

5. Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren was born in 1939 in New York to immigrant parents, he didn’t grow up wealthy. His dad was an artist and house painter. 

 

Facing bullying, Ralph and his brother even changed their last name to Lauren. Although he dropped out of college, Ralph’s ambition never faded.

 

After serving in the Army, Ralph stepped into fashion by selling ties. 

 

At 28, he started his own tie line with his employer’s support, creating the Ralph Lauren Corporation in 1967

 

In 1968, Ralph launched his first menswear line called ‘Polo’, influenced by his love for sports. 

 

Starting with just a small office, he worked hard, even personally delivering designs to stores. 

 

By 1969, his line was exclusively sold in Bloomingdale’s, a big achievement for Ralph.

 

His brand grew quickly, adding a women’s line in 1971 and introducing the iconic Polo shirt in 1972. 

 

Ralph Lauren’s style became synonymous with the preppy look. He also made waves by designing for movies like “The Great Gatsby” and “Annie Hall“.

 

In 1997, his company went public and allowed for even more growth. He didn’t just stick to fashion; he expanded into restaurants and home furnishings.

 

Ralph Lauren’s journey shows what you can achieve with creativity, innovation, and hard work.

6. Leonardo Del Vecchio

Leonardo Del Vecchio was born in Milan, Italy, on May 22, 1935, and had a really tough start. 

 

He never knew his dad, who died before he was born, and his mom had to place him in an orphanage because she couldn’t afford to take care of him and his siblings. 

 

He started working young, learning how to make tools and dies, which are used to cut or shape metal.

 

That job taught him a lot and set him up for his future success. Then switched from metalwork to making parts for glasses.

 

He then moved to Agordo, a place known for its eyewear industry, to chase this dream.

 

In 1961, he started Luxottica, which was just a little workshop at first. Just six years later, his company began making and selling its own glasses. 

 

Del Vecchio made some smart moves, like making glasses for other brands and buying other companies. 

 

By 1981, Luxottica went international by opening a branch in Germany. A big boost came in 1988 when he got a deal with designer Giorgio Armani.

 

The company went public in New York in 1990 and Milan in 2000 and bought other brands like Ray-Ban and Sunglass Hut

 

In 2007, Luxottica also bought Oakley for a huge $2.1 billion.

 

When Leonardo Del Vecchio passed away on June 27, 2022, he left behind a giant business.

 

Luxottica was the biggest name in glasses, with over 77,734 people working there and more than 8,000 stores all over the world. 

 

He had an incredible $24.1 billion to his name, making him the second-richest person in Italy and the 54th richest globally.

7. Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz was born into a poor family in Brooklyn, New York, on July 19, 1953, Howard didn’t let his humble beginnings stop him. 

 

Growing up in a public housing project, he saw his dad work hard as a truck driver. Howard dreamt of a better life and worked towards it.

 

Howard’s big break came when he joined a small Seattle coffee bean store called Starbucks in 1982

 

A trip to Italy opened his eyes to the potential of coffee culture in the US. Although the original Starbucks owners weren’t on board with his vision, he didn’t give up. 

 

He started his own coffee shop, Il Giornale, in 1985, needing $400,000 to kickstart his dream. 

 

Despite being turned down by most investors, Howard managed to raise the funds, interestingly with Starbucks itself investing $150,000.

 

In 1987, Howard bought Starbucks for $3.8 million, merging it with Il Giornale. 

 

Taking Starbucks public in 1992 helped the company grow even more. 

 

Howard stepped down as CEO in 2000 but came back in 2008 to guide Starbucks through the financial crisis. 

 

His leadership helped Starbucks bounce back and continue expanding, especially into markets like China.

 

Moreover, he wrote four books on business and leadership and actively worked on social issues through the Schultz Family Foundation

8. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison was born in New York City in 1944 to an unmarried Jewish mom, he faced tough times from the start. 

 

At just nine months old, after getting really sick, he was adopted by his aunt and uncle. 

 

Larry grew up in a regular neighborhood in Chicago, in a home that followed Jewish traditions.

 

Larry was super smart in school and even got named the top science student at the University of Illinois. 

 

But when his adoptive mom passed away, he left college without finishing his exams. 

 

In 1977, with just $2,000, Larry started his own company in California. 

 

This small start would grow into Oracle, a giant name in database software, thanks to Larry’s never-give-up attitude even when times got really tough.

 

As the big boss at Oracle, Larry made huge decisions that paid off, like buying Sun Microsystems in 2010. 

 

He led the company as CEO until 2014 and now serves as CTO and executive chairman, showing he’s still important to Oracle and the tech world.

 

As of March 2024, his $130 billion fortune exemplifies the American dream, achieved through hard work, smart ideas, and perseverance.

 

9. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco in 1955 and adopted into a middle-class family, Jobs didn’t let his humble start stop him. 

 

He dropped out of college but kept chasing his love for electronics. In 1976, he and his friend Steve Wozniak started Apple in Jobs’s parents’ garage. 

 

They had a dream: to make computers for everyone. To start their dream, Jobs sold his van and Wozniak sold his calculator. 

 

They built the Apple I computer and sold 50 of them for $500 each to a local store. This was just the beginning.

 

He was inspired by the Xerox Alto’s graphical interface, which led to the creation of the Apple Lisa and the groundbreaking Macintosh in 1984

 

The Macintosh was the first widely sold computer with a GUI. But success wasn’t always easy. Jobs was forced to leave Apple in 1985

 

He also started NeXT, focusing on high-end computers, and invested in Pixar, a move that transformed animated movies with hits like “Toy Story.”

 

In a turn of events, Apple bought NeXT in 1997, and Jobs returned as CEO. 

 

He then led Apple to create the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, pulling the company away from bankruptcy to become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

10. Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson was born into a low-income family in Boston on August 4, 1933, he started small, selling newspapers at 12 with $200 borrowed from his uncle.

 

And then launching a candy vending machine business at 15 with a $10,000 loan from the same uncle. 

 

Despite not finishing college, Adelson’s knack for business led him from selling toiletry kits to becoming a millionaire with a charter tour business. 

 

However, success wasn’t straight away; he lost his fortune twice before turning 30.

 

The big break came in the late 1970s when he helped create COMDEX, a massive computer trade show, which he sold in 1995 for $862 million

 

In 1988, he dived into the casino business by buying the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $110 million and later expanded globally. 

 

These moves turned his Las Vegas Sands Corporation into a major industry player, making him incredibly wealthy.

 

Despite ups and downs, including federal investigations and the 2008 recession, Adelson’s businesses thrived. 

 

He was also a major political donor, especially to the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s campaigns.

 

Sheldon Adelson passed away on January 11, 2021, and was a self-made billionaire who proved that with ambition, resilience, and a keen business mind.

11. François Pinault

François Pinault was born into a simple timber trading family in Brittany, France, in 1936, François didn’t have an easy start. 

 

He left school at 16 and joined his family’s business. After his military service, he took a bold step by selling the family business when his father passed away.

 

In 1963, François started his own wood-trading company, laying the first stone of what would become a massive empire. 

 

His business, Pinault SA, went public in 1988, and François began his journey of strategic acquisitions. 

 

He had a sharp eye for spotting companies in trouble, buying them, and turning them around. 

 

His portfolio grew to include various specialty stores like Conforama and Fnac, leading to the creation of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) in 1993.

 

Starting with his first big art buy in 1980, he’s now collected around 10,000 art pieces. He’s turned historic sites in Venice and Paris into homes for his art collection.

 

In the late ’90s, François shifted his focus to luxury and fashion, buying a major share in the Gucci Group along with other luxury brands.

 

In 2003, he handed his business empire over to his son, François-Henri, who continued to grow the luxury group, now known as Kering.

 

François’s net worth is now in the billions, making him one of the wealthiest people on the planet. 

12. Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani was born into a simple family on December 28, 1932, in Gujarat, India, his early life was anything but fancy. 

 

He started his journey to success in Yemen, working at a petrol pump as a clerk. But his big dreams brought him back to India in 1958 to start his own venture.

 

Starting with a tiny textile trading business in a small 350 sq ft room equipped with just the basics, Ambani’s sharp business skills began to shine. 

 

His company, Reliance Commercial Corporation, soon grew into Reliance Industries, a massive empire dealing in various sectors like textiles, petrochemicals, and energy.

 

A key moment for Ambani was in 1977 when Reliance went public. 

 

It made stock investment accessible to the average Indian family, while also giving Reliance the boost it needed to grow even more. 

 

Ambani’s dream was to build a company that would play a big role in India’s progress, and he did exactly that by expanding into different areas of industry.

 

Sure, Ambani faced his share of controversies, from market manipulation accusations to tax evasion claims. 

 

Dhirubhai Ambani passed away on July 6, 2002, but his legacy is carried on by Reliance Industries, now companies, led by his sons, Mukesh and Anil Ambani

13. John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria’s life is a classic rags-to-riches story. Born to immigrant parents in Los Angeles, he faced tough times early on. 

 

After his parents split when he was just two, John and his brother lived in a foster home because their mom didn’t have enough money. 

 

At nine, he was already working, selling Christmas cards and newspapers to help out his family.

 

Before hitting it big, John did all sorts of jobs like being a janitor and selling things door to door. 

 

He started John Paul Mitchell Systems in 1980 with just $700 and a partnership with Paul Mitchell.

 

Despite being fired from an entry-level job at Redken Laboratories before that. At that time, he was even living in an old Rolls-Royce.

 

In 1989, he also helped start The Patrón Spirits Company, turning it into a top tequila brand known for its quality, even though he wasn’t a tequila expert.

 

This brand was so successful that it was sold to Bacardi in 2018 for $5.1 billion.

 

Apart from hair care and tequila, John has been involved in many other businesses like the House of Blues nightclubs and the John Paul Pet Company.

 

John’s work on feeding kids in sub-Saharan Africa supports lots of different causes. 

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