Billionaires that were from humble backgrounds

feedme poor to rich

Even the richest of billionaires started off from humble beginnings. Here’s a list of the super-rich that worked their way up from their originally poor backgrounds

Sometimes hard work does pays-off. While it doesn’t always lead everyone to riches and success, for these five millionaires, their hard work (and some luck) have definitely paid them back a million-fold. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon and for many current millionaires, their riches come later in life. These particular five millionaires have managed to rise up from the circumstances of their birth and become really, really wealthy.


Oprah Winfrey

oprah winfrey

Who doesn’t know Oprah Winfrey? The African American TV Personality is a household name not only in her native USA, but worldwide. For those of you who don’t know (if you’ve lived under a rock that is), Oprah originally came from a poor family in rural Mississippi and was raised by a single mother in the inner city of Milwaukee. By all means, she did not live an easy life, getting pregnant at 14 and losing her son in his infancy.

It was only when she was in her late teens that her career was beginning to take off, first by co-anchoring in a local radio station and eventually moving on to daytime talk shows and now to the queen of talk shows that she is now. She is credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication and revolutionised the talk show genre.

She has grown far from her roots and is now worth around US$2.8 billion. A far cry from what she started out with when she was born.

Howard Schultz, Starbucks

Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz may not be a familiar name for many but you might be familiar with the brand he owns, Starbucks. That’s right Schultz is the owner of Starbucks, the iconic coffee joint world over. Now a billionaire, it wasn’t always so for Schultz.

Born to relatively poor, working class family in Brooklyn, New York, Schultz grew up in the low income neighbourhood and found an escape in sports. Through sports, he managed to get a scholarship to Northern Michigan University and was the first in his family to be a graduate.

And while he is the owner of the famous Starbucks coffee now, he didn’t start it. Instead, he was the founders’ former employee who decided to strike out on his own. His own business Il Giornale, grew successful enough that eventually, his former employers, the Starbucks owners, sold the brand to him, which he then aggressively grew to be the powerhouse and iconic brand it is today.

Today he is worth US$3.8 billion, a far cry from the time he was growing up in the low cost housing area of Brooklyn.

Do Won Chang, Forever 21

Do wan chang

Forever 21 is fashion brand that many would know off. The fast fashion retail brand is well-known worldwide and has 600 over stores worldwide. What many might not know is that the founder Do Won Chang, used to work multiple minimum wage jobs just to survive when he and his wife first arrived in the USA.

Chang was born and raised in South Korea until he and his wife moved to the USA in 1981, which was a period of turmoil in South Korea. Landing in the USA, the two had barely anything and Chang took up multiple jobs including washing dishes, pumping gas and running his own cleaning business.

It was while working at a clothing store that Chang eventually got his initial start in the retail industry, and by pooling enough money with his wife, started their first store called Fashion 21. With a combination of good business sense and good dealings directly with manufacturers, Chang and his wife eventually grew the business, to the point of opening new shops every six months.

Now Forever 21 is a fashion Juggernaut and Chang himself is worth US$3.2 billion. Not bad for someone who had to work three jobs to get by.

Jan Koum, WhatsApp

jon kaum

We all know WhatsApp and for many of us, it’s an integral part of our personal and professional lives. What many might not know is that the creator and co-founder of this now pervasive messaging app came from humble beginnings in Ukraine.

At the age of 16, Jan Koum joined her mother moved to California, United States. Like Do Won Chang,  Koum’s  life in America was initially far from comfortable. While his mother worked as a babysitter, Koum had to help supplement the family income by being a cleaner in a local grocery store. His interest in programming though was what lead Koum to what he is today.

Realising that the app economy was to take off when Apple’s App Store was first introduced, Koum and his partner released the first version of WhatsApp in 2009. And although the messaging app did have its competitors, it rose to be the dominant messaging app in not only the USA, but the world. Big success came for Koum when Facebook finally bought WhatsApp for a whopping US$19.3 billion.

Koum is now worth US$9.1 billion and he definitely doesn’t need to mop floors in a grocery store anymore.

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea FC

roman abramovich

This Russian oil tycoon came to the public prominence when he bought Chelsea football club back in in 2003. While he has made his wealth in the oil business, he is still primarily known as the owner of the Chelsea FC. Although he is included in the richest people in the world with a fortune of US$ 11.5 billion, Abramovich’s childhood was far from the luxurious life he is living now.

Born in Lithuania Abramovich became orphaned before the age of four and was raised by his grandparents.  After dropping out of college twice, he joined the army before he ended in Moscow under Boris Berezovsky. He ran a few businesses which was good but not great but over the years, he managed to rise up under President Yeltsin, eventually making his fortune via the oil companies he was involved in.

Today, he is worth US$11.6 billion and is considered one of the richest man in the world. Something that he might not have dreamed off as an orphaned child.

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