You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to achieve great things in life. Many of today’s billionaires had very humble beginnings. Growing up poor didn’t stop these CEOs, celebrities and business experts from reaching the pinnacle of success — and it shouldn’t stop you, either.
Whether you’re in need of some inspiration to start your own business, or you want to grow your wealth, take a look at how these famous folks made it to the top.
Family wealth isn’t the secret to this billionaire and media maven’s unparalleled success. Now worth an estimated $3.1 billion, according to Forbes, Oprah Winfrey was born to a teenage single mother in Mississippi. In an interview with Barbara Walters, she talked about not having running water or electricity growing up.
By focusing on school, participating in beauty pageants and then working at a radio station, Winfrey was able to enter the media world. She got her big break in television as a host for the local Baltimore talk show, “People Are Talking.” Later came “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which entered national syndication in 1986.
In a 2001 taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Winfrey shared some tips on making the shift to a wealth mindset.
“The whole idea, I think, of having wealth is not letting wealth use you but you use it,” she said. “Being a person who has come from an outhouse, and very poor circumstances, I can assure you that the more money you get, it really doesn’t change you — unless you are the kind of person who is defined by money.”
Howard Schultz helped Starbucks become the company it is today — a giant coffee retailer with 23,000 retail stores in 73 countries and a market value of about $85 billion, according to Forbes. However, this successful businessman, who boasts a net worth of $2.9 billion, wasn’t born into wealth.
In an interview with Dr. Mukund Rajan of the Group Executive Council, Schultz discussed his childhood and what it was like growing up with less.
“When I was 7 years old, I experienced something that deeply affected me that I carry with me every single day,” he said. “And that is the scar and the shame of being a poor kid living in government-subsidized housing.”
Schultz said his father became a “broken man” after working in many dead-end jobs that offered neither money nor respect. But, this hardship seemed to motivate Schultz to become the success he is today.
“I never dreamed I would be in a position one day to be part of a company where I would have authority — let alone build a company,” said Schultz. “What I’ve tried to do is build the kind of company that my father never got a chance to work for.”
Known for its polo shirts and high-end ties, the Ralph Lauren fashion brand is easily recognizable. But did you know that there was a time when the iconic fashion designer couldn’t even afford clothes?
“As a kid, I was always into clothes, but I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Lauren told Winfrey in a 2002 interview. “When I’d get my brothers’ hand-me-downs, there was an energy in me that made me say, ‘I want to get my own things, to make my own statement.’ Somewhere along the line, that energy — coupled with my exposure, through movies, to a world I hadn’t known — turned into something.”
That “something” is now a fashion brand with a market value of nearly $8 billion, according to Forbes. As for Lauren, he’s worth a cool $5.9 billion and is considered one of the richest fashion icons.
Oracle founder and former CEO Larry Ellison was born in New York City but grew up in a lower-middle-class community on the South Side of Chicago.
“I’ll never complain again about living in a bad neighborhood, after moving from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to a still-worse neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago,” said Ellison in an interview posted on the Academy of Achievement website. “After my ninth month, I kept my mouth shut about the neighborhood.”
A 1997 Vanity Fair profile on Ellison described his childhood home as a “cramped walk-up apartment.” According to the article, Ellison was raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle, who was once successful in real estate but lost everything in the Depression.
Although he came from modest beginnings, Ellison is now a multibillionaire worth $61.8 billion. And Oracle has a market value of almost $183 billion, reports Forbes.
“Everyone who works hard, and maybe a little cleverly, has the opportunity to make almost anything possible,” said Ellison in the Academy of Achievement interview. “That’s the American Dream, that anything here is possible.”
Self-made billionaire businessman and investor Kenneth Langone, who helped create Home Depot, had humble beginnings.
In a 2013 interview with OneWire, posted on Business Insider, Langone said he had a “charmed life” as a child — but not because of his material possessions. In fact, his mother was a cafeteria worker. Still, Langone enjoyed unconditional love, which later helped him get over his failures and not let them bring him down.
“When you’re in the risk-taking business at the level that I am, not everything you’re going to do is going to work,” he said. “Where you really lose is when it doesn’t work, and you start being abusive to yourself in terms of your qualities and your abilities.”
Today, Langone has a net worth of $3 billion, according to Forbes. And, he’s proud of that fact, he said in an interview for “Street Smart” on Bloomberg.
“I worked like hell to become part of the 1 percent,” said Langone.
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