When people are born into poverty, they will do everything in their power to change their living conditions. They have no choice but to start working at a young age, sometimes even before they become teenagers.
It’s hard to make it when you don’t have any connections in business, or sometimes even the proper education to get a career in a certain field, but some people find a way to do it. It takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice to prove that you are worthy of a job at a firm that pays well. But, when that’s the only way you can change your life for the better, you have no other choice. The people on this list are no strangers to working more than 12 hours a day in order to make ends meet, and because of their extraordinary work ethic, these people were bound to succeed.
However, even when you manage to go from rags to riches, the memories of the past still haunt you. This is the one and only reason why people on this list have continued working even after they made their first million.
If you’re ever unsure whether pursuing your dreams is the right choice, or if you simply can’t find the proper motivation in order to work hard, then these stories are perfect for you. Often, by reading about the hardships of others and how they managed to overcome them, people get inspired to change their own lives.
10 Ursula Burns - Net Worth: $3.5 million
Ursula Burns grew up in public housing projects in a neighborhood that was occupied by street gangs. She was raised by her mother who was her main inspiration and the woman that taught her not to feel hopeless even when she didn’t have any money. Her mother figured that the only way Ursula could get away from poverty was if she had a proper education. So, Ursula enrolled at NYU, and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Shortly afterwards, she got an internship at the document management corporation Xerox. She is now the CEO of this company, and is known for becoming the first African-American female to lead a Fortune 500 company. Last year, Forbes even named her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.
9 Chris Gardner - Net Worth: $60 million
If you have seen the movie The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son, you’ll probably know the story we’re about to tell. Chris Gardner was born in Wisconsin, where he experienced poverty as a child. He was surrounded by sexual abuse, alcoholism, illiteracy, and domestic violence as a kid. His stepfather would constantly beat him up when he was young, and eventually kicked him out of his house. Chris joined the Navy as soon as he finished high school. After coming back home, he barely made ends meet by selling medical supplies. He was always fascinated by finances, but didn’t have a college degree or any connections that would help him succeed in business. But, he managed to get a spot in a training program at large firm, which left him and his son homeless, but helped him learn something really useful. After his training was complete, he was offered a job at the firm, and even started his own company later (when he got enough money). He now has a net worth of around $60 million.
8 J.K. Rowling - Net Worth: $1 billion
J.K. Rowling is one of the most popular authors of our time, having written the Harry Potter book series. Her family never really had a lot of money when she was a child. After she graduated from college, she went to Portugal to be an English teacher. While living there, she met a journalist with whom she had a daughter, Jessica. However, their marriage quickly ended in a divorce, so Rowling decided to move back to Scotland. She could barely support her daughter due to the fact that she was on welfare. When she wasn’t spending time with Jessica, she was writing a book, hoping to become a published author and earn some money. The book was Harry Potter, and nothing has been the same for Rowling ever since. She currently has a net worth of $1 billion.
7 John Paul DeJoria - Net Worth: $2.8 billion
DeJoria got his first job when he was only nine years old because it was the only way he could support his family. But, selling newspapers and Christmas cards wasn’t enough to make ends meet, so he was eventually sent to a foster home. When he was a teenager, he got caught up in the street gang life in Los Angeles. At the age of 22, he became homeless for the first time. After working as a janitor and insurance salesman for a while, he managed to get back on his feet, and was even offered a chance to work at a hair product company called Redken. The company motivated him to start his own hair product company, and he hasn’t looked back since. He also co-founded Patron Spirits Company, which is known for its popular tequila. His current net worth is around $2.8 billion.
6 Oprah Winfrey - Net Worth: $3 billion
The story of Oprah Winfrey is a really inspiring one. Before Oprah managed to have one of the most popular talk shows of all time and become the richest African American of the last century, her life wasn’t glamorous at all. First of all, she was born to teenage parents in the rural part of Mississippi, where her life of poverty began. When she was young, all she would wear were dresses that her grandma made out of potato sacks. As a child, she was molested by her relatives. At 14, she became pregnant, but her son died in infancy. Afterwards, she went to live with her father, and that’s when her life started turning around. After winning a beauty pageant, she was discovered by a radio station. She began climbing up the ladder of the media world and eventually became a millionaire when her show went national. She was 32 at the time, and her life of hardships was finally over. She currently has a net worth of $3 billion.
5 Richard Branson - Net Worth: $4.8 billion
The man who established the popular record company Virgin Records wasn’t considered to be the brightest kid at school when he was young. As a dyslexic, Richard Branson never really managed to perform well at school. But, he was always interested in things that weren’t being taught in the classroom, so he started dipping his toes in the business waters at the age of 15. Unfortunately, following an incident, he was expelled from school the following year, which left him completely devastated. He even contemplated suicide, and wrote a suicide note. He got another shot at school after the note was discovered, but ultimately dropped out at the age of 16. Afterwards, he started a mail-order record company, which eventually turned into the popular Virgin Records we all know. Now, Richard has a net worth of $4.8 billion.
4 Jan Koum - Net Worth: $6.8 billion
Last year, Jan Koum became the man of the hour when it was announced that Facebook would be buying the company he co-founded (WhatsApp) for $19 billion. However, once he became a famous man, a lot was revealed about Jan’s past. He was born into poverty in a small village in Ukraine. Specifically, there was no hot water in his house, and his parents refused to use the phone because they feared it was tapped by the state. He moved to California when he was 16, where he used to work as a janitor at a grocery store to make ends meet. He also spent his teenage years collecting food stamps. However, by the time he turned 18, he was a self-taught computer hacker. Because of his high level of expertise, he managed to secure a job at Yahoo by the age of 21. He stayed in the firm for several years, until he decided that he wanted to have his own company. In 2009, WhatsApp was born, and Jan never looked back. He now has a net worth of $6.8 billion.
3 Li Ka-shing - Net Worth: $35.3 billion
The richest man in Asia wasn’t always so successful. In 1940, when China was at war with Japan, Li’s family had no choice but to move to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, upon getting there, his father got really sick, and eventually died of tuberculosis when Li was only 15 years old. So, Li had to leave school and start working in a factory (where he worked 16 hours a day) because it was the only way he could support the family. After 10 years of working for other companies, Li decided to take a step forward and establish his own - Cheung Kong Industries. The company got its start in the plastics market, but later switched to real estate. Li Ka-shing now has stakes in a variety of companies, and has a net worth of $35.3 billion.
2 Sam Walton - Net Worth: $21-23 billion (1992)
Sam Walton is the man that founded the multinational retail corporation Walmart. However, life wasn’t so good while he was growing up. He was raised on a farm in Oklahoma, where the only way to make ends meet was for him to milk the family cow and then hand-deliver the product to his customers. He also used to sell newspapers and magazine subscriptions. During his college years, he would work as a waiter in exchange for hot meals. When he turned 26, he decided to borrow $25,000 from his father, and using an additional $5,000 that he saved, he managed to purchase a variety store. He was very successful at running the store, so much so that he managed to open up the first Walmart only a few years later.
1 Andrew Carnegie - Net Worth: $475 million (1919)
Andrew Carnegie is the fourth richest man of all time (the fortune he managed to obtain during his lifetime is equivalent to $310 billion today). He was the man known for leading the immense expansion of the steel industry in America during the 19th century. However, he wasn’t always surrounded by wealth. After his father lost his job, Andrew had no other choice but to start working at a factory for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He got this job when he was only 13! But, it was the only way his family could survive. During these years, Andrew said that he would make himself fall asleep at night just to forget the misery of hunger. After saving up some money, he made a series of investments in railroad and oil companies, and learned a lot about business in general, which later on influenced him to build the world’s biggest steel company at the time. He donated 90% of his fortune to various foundations and charities.