“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”, Mahatma Ghandi. . .
Not everybody is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. These 10 incredible entrepreneur success stories are just some of the many, reminding that it’s possible to overcome just about anything, from extreme poverty to rejection, and rise to the top. What you need is passion, guts, hard work, a bit of luck, and dare to be different. These stories will hopefully inspire you through your startup journey.
#1. John Paul Dejoria
John Paul DeJoria, a Greek-Italian-American billionaire businessman and philanthropist, the man behind Patron Tequila and a hair-care empire John Paul Mitchell Systems, had it rough from the beginning. He grew up in poverty, selling Christmas cards and newspapers at 9 years of age to support his family. When his single mother proved unable to support both children, DeJoria was sent to a foster home. As a youth he was a member of a street gang, and started his career working in a series of jobs ranging from a janitor to an insurance salesman. After trying his hand as an employee for Redken Laboratories, he took a $700 dollar loan and created John Paul Mitchell Systems. He hawked the company’s shampoo door-to-door, living out of his car while doing so.
#2. Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison was one of the world’s greatest inventors, with 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as numerous patents in Europe in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. His most significant inventions were electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures, as they established some major new industries worldwide. Not only Edison was dyslexic, but he also developed hearing problems at an early age, and was labeled as dumb and too stupid to learn anything by his teachers. Later he struggled to function productively in the workplace, was fired from 2 jobs, and had to sell candy and newspapers on trains to supplement his income.
#3. Leonardo del Vecchio
Leonardo Del Vecchio is an Italian businessman, founder and chairman of Luxottica empire, the biggest producer and seller of glasses and lenses, such as Ray-Bans, Oakleys and more. Del Vecchio was one of five children born in poverty and was sent to an orphanage by his widowed mother who could not take care of him. He started his career in a factory making molds for auto parts and eyeglass frames, where he lost part of his finger. At 23, he opened his own moulding shop that later expanded to the world’s largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eye wear.
#4. George Soros
George Soros, the legendary trader, survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and arrived in London as an penniless college student. Soros put himself through the London School of Economics by working as a waiter and railway porter. After graduating, Soros sold goods at a souvenir shop, writing countless letters to managing directors at merchant banks in London until he finally got a job.
#5. Colonel Sanders
Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, at age 13 dropped out of 7th grade, became a cook as a child in his mother’s regular absence, then shuffled between the life of a farmer, streetcar conductor, soldier, railroad fireman, lawyer, insurance salesman, steamboat operator, secretary, lighting manufacturer, and a number of other jobs, including hotel owner and restaurateur.
#6. Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Tesla is known for his early (1893) pronouncements about the possibility of wireless wireless communication. He was born in a small village into an orthodox parish priest’s family and was supposed to become a priest. In his young years Tesla contracted cholera and nearly died. His father in a moment of despair wowed to send him to the best engineering school if he recovered from the illness. He recovered and went on to become one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century.
#7. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is the UK’s best-selling living author, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living as a divorced single mother on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years, while she was working on the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
#8. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, left behind a legacy that changed the computer, music, film and wireless industries. He is widely recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, and was a co-Founder and CEO of Apple Inc. Jobs was born to unmarried parents – who gave up their son for adoption to a working class couple. At 17, Jobs dropped out of the college because of tuition fees, survived on free meals from the local Hare Krishna temple, and took sporadic courses and experimented with LSD. In 1975, the 20-year-old Jobs and Wozniak set up shop in Jobs’ parents’ garage, dubbed the venture Apple, and began working on the prototype of the Apple I. To generate the $1,350 in capital they used to start Apple, Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen microbus, and Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard calculator. The rest is history!
#9. Jan Koum
Jan Koum, is the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook Inc. for US$19 billion. Koum was born and raised in a village on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, as the only child of a housewife and a construction labourer. His house had no hot water, and his parents feared that their phone was tapped by the State and so rarely talked on it. He immigrated to California with his mother when he was 16, and used to sweep the floor of a grocery store and stood in line to collect food stamps, by 18 becoming an expert computer hacker.
#10. Ruslan Kogan
Ruslan Kogan is a serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Kogan.com as well as several other eCommerce related companies in Australia, making him one of the top 10 richest in Australia’s Young Rich List 2014, with a personal wealth of $349 million. Kogan was born to Belarusian parents, and grew up in the Elsternwick Housing Commission flats, after his family moved to Australia. He started his first business at the age of 10 by finding lost golf balls, cleaning them up and selling them for $0.50/each to golfers at the local golf club. Kogan was interested in technology from an early age, building his first computer at the age of nine, and starting 20 businesses since the age of 10.