Not everyone can count on nepotism to land their first job, especially if they grew up hungry, homeless or just hopeless. From teenage mothers to college dropouts, here’s a list of 10 ultra-successful people who started their careers from scratch.
1: Lloyd Blankfein
This filthy rich Goldman Sachs CEO used a job at a concession stand to pay his way through Harvard. Once a skinny kid with soda spilled all over his uniform, he now enjoys thousand dollar suits, high-powered business meetings and the ear of everyone on Wall Street.
2: John Paul Dejoria
You’ve seen his name on shampoo bottles around the world, but John Paul actually spent his formative years broke and living on the streets. This was after his high school classmates voted him “Least Likely to Succeed.” It looks like the joke’s on them!
3: Ursula Burns
Black, female and growing up in an inner-city neighborhood full of guns and drugs, no one thought Ursula Burns would amount to anything. She proved them all wrong by working her way up the corporate ladder at Xerox, starting as a summer intern and eventually becoming CEO.
4: J.K. Rowling
The story of Harry Potter began on a series of napkins as J.K. Rowling, a single mother, scribbled ideas while her daughter was napping. You know the rest: The boy wizard became the biggest fictional phenomenon on the planet, with books, movies and merchandise selling some $15 billion to date.
5: Bob Parsons
GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons was born into a life of poverty, barely scraping by during his childhood and fleeing to the military after almost flunking out of high school. He didn’t start earning his fortune until his mid-twenties, but today, at 63, he’s worth almost $2 billion.
6: Larry Ellison
Co-founder and CEO of the Oracle Corporation, Larry Ellison dropped out of two colleges due to poor grades and absenteeism. These failures eventually led his adoptive father to tell Larry that he would “never amount to anything.” Think again, dad!
7: Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson used to sell newspapers on a street corner when he was 12. Then he borrowed money and bought the newspaper stand itself. So began his long and billion-dollar career of entrepreneurship, which now leaves him as one of the wealthiest men in the world.
8: Richard Branson
Dyslexia made school a trial for Richard Branson, and he wound up dropping out at the age of 16. What did he do with his time afterwards? Well, he started something he called the Virgin Group, a little business that evolved into a multinational conglomerate currently encompassing more than 400 companies.
9: Howard Schultz
The son of a truck driver, Howard Schultz grew up in a Brooklyn housing project where there was never enough money to go around. He didn’t let his modest roots stop him from pursuing his dreams, however, and you may have heard of a little business he runs called Starbucks.
10: Oprah Winfrey
Perhaps the most successful rags-to-riches story of all time, Oprah Winfrey was born to young, poor, unmarried parents who didn’t have time for a daughter, resulting in abuse and her own teenage pregnancy. It wasn’t until she landed a job at a local news station that Oprah began her transformation into one of the richest and most influential media moguls in television history.