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How These Ten Entrepreneurs Went From Rags To Riches

We all love a true rags to riches story. These stories help us understand one simple, but complex rule to life: anything is possible if you stay consistent, own your talent, and make smart choices. Here's proof of that.

1. Larry Ellison:

Larry Ellison is the founder of Oracle Corporation. He dropped out of college after the death of his mother and jumped from one job to another, for almost ten years. In 1977, he founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) with two partners with an investment of $2,000; $1,200 of the money was his. In 1979, the company renamed itself Relational Software Inc., and in 1983, officially became Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product, the Oracle Database. He is the top ten wealthiest persons in the world with a net worth of $69 billion (Wikipedia).

2. Oprah Winfrey:

Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in inner-city Milwaukee. In 1986, legendary film critic Roger Ebert encouraged Winfrey to license her own show for a national audience through syndication. Her program was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and expanded to an hour in length. The Oprah Winfrey Show, aired for 25 seasons. Winfrey's casual, improvisational style helped her develop a natural rapport with guests, who felt comfortable telling their personal stories (Investopedia). At the age of 32, Winfrey became the first African American nationally syndicated television host (Investopedia). Maintaining ownership of her show freed Winfrey to expand her business endeavors. She co-founded Oxygen Media, a programming company geared towards women. She laid the foundation for the 2000 publication of O, The Oprah Magazine, she co-authored multiple books on diet and exercise, and launched her influential Book Club in 1996. Oprah Winfrey continues to reinvent herself. Oprah is worth $2.7 billion (Wikipedia).

3. Sam Walton:

The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton had nothing when he opened his first store back in 1945. While everyone's strategy was focused on big cities, Sam decided he would focus on rural areas, a neglected market that big box retailers overlooked. He niched down, a term you will here throughout our Build Bold Blogs. Walton took $5,000 from his savings from his military pay and a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law to buy a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. He would later enter the discount store industry and make history with his model of "Buy it low, stack it high, sell it cheap." Wal-Mart currently has a net worth of over $175 billion.

4. Jan Koum:

Jan Koum is a computer programmer and the founder of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application acquired by Facebook for $19 billion dollars, in 2014. Born in Ukraine, his house had no hot water, and his parents rarely talked on the phone, in case it was tapped by the state. At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to Mountain View, CA due to the anti-semitic environment and tumultuous politics. Through government assistance his mother secured a small two-bedroom apartment. His dad never made it over. After years of bouncing around at different tech companies, and unhappy, Koum was inspired to create WhatsApp. He is currently worth more than $9 billion (Forbes).

5. David Steward:

David Steward is an American entrepreneur, chairman and founder of World Wide Technology, one of the largest black owned companies in the world. Steward was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son, a homemaker and mechanic. As a child growing up in Clinton, Missouri, Steward faced poverty and discrimination. Nonetheless, he knew he was different. Steward received his BS degree in business from Central Missouri State University in 1973. In 1990, Steward founded World Wide Technology, a systems integrator. In 2003, revenues exceeded $1 billion and Steward formed World Wide Technology Holding Company as the parent company for the two firms. As of 2018, World Wide Technology's revenue is estimated to be greater than $11 billion, which would rank it as one of St. Louis' largest private companies. Steward is worth $4 billion dollars. (Wikipedia)

6. Do Won Chang:

Do Won Chang was born in a small village in Seoul, South Korea. In 1981, both him and his wife migrated to America and worked in coffee shops and gas stations to make ends meet. In 1984, using the wages from his three jobs, Do Wan Chang was able to open his first store in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. He called it Fashion 21 and targeted it towards his fellow Korean-Americans. In just the first year, sales soared from $35,000 to $700,000, and he decided to expand throughout the world and change the name to Forever 21. He and his wife now have an estimated worth of $3.5 billion, even after Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy (Erply).

7. John Paul DeJoria:

John Paul DeJoria, is the self-made, billionaire entrepreneur who is best known as the co-founder of hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems and Patrón Spirits Company ( With a start up loan of just $700, John Paul Dejoria along with his partner began a business that transformed itself into what is now known as John Paul Mitchell Systems, at the time he was homeless living in his car. However, nothing stopped him from his vision of transforming the professional hair care world. He is also the behind the Patrón Spirits Company. He is currently worth $3 billion dollars (

8. Shawn Carter (Jay-Z):

Perhaps, one of the most intriguing stories yet. Jay-Z is Hip Hop's first billionaire. He is a multi-platinum recording artist, icon, clothing designer, and business mogul, who is worth over $1 billion dollars. He was raised in Marcy Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn's Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood. After their father, Adnis Reeves, abandoned the family, Jay-Z and his three siblings were raised by their mother, Gloria Carter. Faced with unbelievable obstacles Jay-Z has truly given people facing similar circumstances the blueprint. He's diversified his wealth and the world has watched him grow into a successful mogul, who is gives back to his community (Forbes).

9. Alan Gerry:

Gerry Alan is a smart businessman, who grew up with humble beginnings during The Great Depression. Often times his family struggled to put food on the table. In 1956, he used his GI Bill benefits to become trained in television repair and he invested $1,500 to start a cable company in his hometown of Liberty, NY. Decades later, his business evolved into 64 cable systems in 18 states. He sold the company to Time Warner in 1996 for a reported $2.7 billion, including $900 million in personal profit. Alan Gerry, is worth $1.4 billion dollars today. (

10. J.K. Rowling:

J.K. Rowling is a famous name when it comes to successful people who started from scratch! The author of the Harry Potter book series had to go through many ups and downs in life while writing her first book. The author lived in cramped apartment with her daughter, jobless, and penniless. Rowling fell into a deep depression and admits she even considered suicide. Nonetheless, she kept writing even after being turned down by hundreds of publishers (bet they're sorry). Her series of seven books has since sold more than 450 million copies, won innumerable awards, been made into movies, and transformed Rowling's life (Business Insider). She's made over $1 billion from her brand and has given a huge part of her earnings to charity.

It's important to understand that entrepreneurship is a journey. There are many doors that will close in your face, attempt to knock you down, and dare you not to get back up. But do, indeed, get back up with more enthusiasm than before you were knocked down. No one makes it without hearing big NO's!

This post is all about encouraging entrepreneurs to understand that if you stay consistent, work hard, own your talent success it is inevitable. The Gopaul Group believes in providing every resource possible to help entrepreneurs grow beyond their wildest imagination. We're committed to your growth, which helps us grow. For more cool & inspiring business stories, please subscribe to our Build Bold Blog.

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