These men are all proof that working hard and knowing yourself is a path to riches. From orphanages and living on the streets these men became some of the wealthiest men in the world. These businessmen are the literal rags to riches stories that provide the inspiration for everyone else. Some of them went right into the business that made them rich while others tried a number of different avenues before finding the one that made them a fortune.
1. Chris Gardner
One of the most inspirational rags to riches stories, Chris Gardner was kicked out of his home by his abusive step father. He joined the Navy and then became a medical supplies salesman. However he wanted to make a better life for his family so he began a journey to become a stockbroker. During which he was homeless, sleeping in subway bathrooms and he still managed to pass his licensing exam and get employment at Bear Sterns. His life became the subject of “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
2. Ingvar Kamprad
Ingvar Kamprad grew up on a farm but always had his sights on something bigger. He started his business career as a young boy buying packs of matches and selling them individually. He expanded his enterprises to include other small items. When his father gave him a bonus for good grades he used that to create a mail order business. He grew that business into what is now Ikea and Ingvar Kamprad has a net worth of $3 billion.
3. Sheldon Adelson
The son of an immigrant taxi driver Sheldon lived in a small one bedroom tenement with his parents and three siblings. At the age of 12 he began selling newspapers and then at 16 he started a candy-vending machine business. He continued trying a number of different enterprises before getting his biggest break through a computer trade show. He then purchased the Sands and the Venetian to get himself a net worth of $21.8 billion.
4. Leonardo Del Vecchio
Leonardo Del Vecchio came from the most humble of beginnings. He was sent to a orphanage when his mother was unable to provide for all five of her children. He went to work in a factory that made auto molds and molds for sunglasses. He worked hard and bought his own mold factory at the age of 23. He expanded his factory and became the world’s largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses. His net worth is around $11 billion.
5. John Paul Dejoria
The son of immigrants who divorced when he was two, John Paul sold Christmas cards to help support his family before he was even 10. He was sent to a foster home and later joined an L.A. gang. He tried his hand at the military and then working at a Redken Laboratories. Taking a gamble he took out a $700 loan and created John Paul Mitchell systems. He was so sure of his product that he sold it door to door and lived out of his car. His shampoo was a success and his company is now worth $900 million annually. He can also be credited with creating Patron Tequila.
6. Sam Walton
Sam Walton grew up on the farm during the Great Depression and had to help his family out by milking the cow and driving the milk to customers. He also started selling newspapers and magazines to help make ends meet. After college he started managing a variety store and then used a loan from his father-in-law to buy his own store. He gradually expanded his brand into the mass retailer known as Wal-Mart.
7. Harold Simmons
Harold Simmons grew up in nothing more than a tiny shack in Texas. Even though there was no plumbing or electricity he managed to get himself a B.A. and a Master’s degree. He used his education to get a loan to get a series of drugstores. He built his chain to 100 stores before selling to Eckerd for $50 million. He took that money and continued to be a business mogul and has six companies to his name including the world’s largest producer of titanium.
8. Harry Wayne Huizenga
For Harry Wayne Huizenga his childhood was not easy, between moving around and living with an abusive father he did not have a good start. But he joined the army and then moved to Florida to start a trash removal business. His venture was so successful he bought more trucks and built Waste Management Inc. a company now recognized throughout the U.S. He expanded his horizons, even buying Blockbuster stores before selling them to Viacom. He founded three Fortune 500 companies and continues to be a success today.
9. Howard Schultz
Howard grew up in Brooklyn’s housing projects and his saving grace was his ability in sports. He was able to get a degree in Communications on a sports scholarship. He first went to work for Xerox and then became a general manager for a Swedish drip coffee manufacturer. It was in this position as manager that he visited Starbucks and decided to become a part of the growing coffee company. He eventually bought out Starbucks and turned it into the coffee and expresso giant that it is today. Howard Schultz has a net worth of over $1 billion.
10. Harold Hamm
Harold was the son of cotton sharecroppers and had to work his way from the ground up to make his fortune. He started out pumping gas and repairing cars enabling him to create his own oil company at the age of 22. Despite never going to college, he grew his oil company into an oil empire that is now worth billions.
11. Oprah Winfrey
She got a full scholarship to college, won a beauty pageant —where she was discovered by a radio station — and the rest is history. The Oprah name became an empire, and according to Forbes she is worth $2.7 billion