8 Entrepreneurs From Humble Backgrounds Who Conquered the World With Success

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Written By Emily Moore

The stories of some of the world’s famous and wealthy entrepreneurs show that there are no rules for finding success. Find out how these amazing entrepreneurs overcame the odds and found the key to success on their own terms.

When you take a look at entrepreneurs with success throughout history, the majority have come from seemingly unremarkable circumstances. Even so, they have gone on to conquer the world and dominate their fields while amassing huge personal wealth and success along the way.

It is an inspiration to all of us who dream of becoming an entrepreneur with success and a great idea to change the world.

Think it is impossible? The stories of these eight entrepreneurs show us that with the right attitude and some determination, great success is truly possible.

1. John Paul DeJoria

A household name in the cosmetics industry, John DeJoria nevertheless achieved his success through a very roundabout route.

The completely self-made success worked as a lorry driver, to begin with, and continued his employment in humble blue-collar jobs as a janitor and door-to-door salesman. He was dismissed from his first job in the cosmetics sector at Redken Laboratories, and could well have moved into another anonymous, dead-end position.

However, fate dealt him a kind hand when he met hairdresser Paul Mitchell. Together, they launched the John Paul Mitchell Systems line of hair care products in 1980, with nothing but a tiny $700 loan. Today, John Paul DeJoria is a success worth a staggering $3.1 billion.

DeJoria credits his success to resilience in the face of continuous rejection, stating that people who find success are prepared to do what their unsuccessful counterparts can’t or won’t. Clearly, DeJoria believes that hard work leads to success, and it is an attitude that he has done incredibly well by.

2. Jan Koum (WhatsApp)

You might not know his name or success, but there is a very good chance that you’ve already used his invention today.

Jan Koum was born in severe poverty in Ukraine before emigrating to the United States. While not a scientific genius, he nonetheless taught himself enough rudimentary computing skills to become an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo! In 1997.

He toiled away in the company uneventfully for over a decade. However, upon purchasing his first smartphone, he had a eureka success moment for creating a messaging device that could send text messages over the internet, thereby circumventing phone provider charges.

The result? He launched WhatsApp in 2009, and a mere five years later, Facebook bought his success for an eye-watering $19 billion. What is Koum’s advice to other would-be technology entrepreneurs? “Do one thing, and do it well”. Wise words indeed.

3. Howard Schultz (Starbucks)

8 Entrepreneurs Who Conquered the World With Big SuccessThe founder of Starbucks may be the poster child for turn-of-the-millennium entrepreneurship, but the billionaire bean squeezing success didn’t always have it so easy.

The young Schultz grew up in a poor family stuck living in the projects and scraped by in college with government assistance loans and part-time work. It was at one of these lowly paid jobs that Schultz was first introduced to Starbucks, a young small-scale coffee producer based in Seattle.

A visit to the company confirmed his belief in the business’s potential, and he fought his way into the company with success to become its director of marketing. Having learned the ins and outs of the business, Schultz departed Starbucks in 1985 to open his own coffee business.

He generated $500,000 in investment to start his operation, and two years later accepted an offer from the original Starbucks to buy out their operation. With this, his success and the Starbucks empire were born, and through an aggressive policy of commercial expansion, the business has gone on to cover the entire planet.

Today, Schultz is worth $2.9 billion, a success all the more remarkable, given that the coffee served in Starbucks isn’t actually very good.

4. Oprah Winfrey (Talk Show Host)

There have been a lot of talk show hosts who have enjoyed success, but few, if any, will ever rise to the incredible heights of Oprah Winfrey.

The renaissance woman who we know today as a powerful political campaigner and Golden Globe-winning broadcaster originally came from desperate poverty. Her deprived childhood was split between rural Mississippi and inner-city Milwaukee. All she knew was suffering and neglect.

However, thanks to an iron-clad work ethic, Winfrey got a radio job whilst still attending high school. By the time she was 19, she found success as a co-presenter on the station’s nightly news bulletin and soon became a daytime talk show host on a show made by the production company she owned.

Thanks to her measured, sympathetic on-screen presence, the show became a phenomenal success with Americans from all walks of life. At the age of 32, Winfrey was a millionaire, and by the turn of the millennium, her net worth stood at $800 million, marking her the wealthiest African American success story in history at the time.

Come 2008, she was making $275 million every year, and in 2014 her net worth was estimated to be in the billions with a huge media empire.

What does Oprah attribute to her incredible success? She says that her key to success was the ability to align her personality with her career, which let her live her truth and flourish doing what she loved most.

5. Do Won Chang (Forever 21)

As the man behind fashion megachain Forever 21, Won Chang’s business is certainly a household name, even if the man himself isn’t quite as famous.

Before finding success, Won Chang held a number of menial jobs in his early years, employed as a janitor and gas station attendant after moving to the United States from his native country of South Korea. His first foray into fashion was a tiny store opened in downtown Los Angeles with his wife, funded by a paltry $11,000 worth of life savings between the two of them.

He initially titled the shop Fashion 21, and the store mainly attracted customers from LA’s Korean ex-pat population. Soon, however, his store was a success, with fashion fans from far and wide flocking to the store. Won Chang changed the name to Forever 21, and today the clothing company has over 700 outlets worldwide, amassing Won Chang a net worth of $3.2 billion.

Won Chang doesn’t have any specific tips for success for would-be entrepreneurs. Rather, he says his secret to success is his story, and proof that you can make it big no matter where you started in life.

6. Ralph Lauren

The iconic fashion designer was born in the rough and tumble Bronx neighborhood in New York. He dropped out of college to serve in the military and later found himself working as a lowly sales assistant in the Brooks Brothers clothing chain.

Noticing the monochrome fashion tastes of the time, Lauren started considering if perhaps the US public weren’t ready for some more colorful clothing options. So, in 1967, he opened up his own small stores selling colorful ties. The result was an immediate success. Within his first year of business, he’d sold over half a million dollars worth of stock.

He used this money to start his Polo fashion brand the next year, and his success, already considerable, skyrocketed from there. Today, his Ralph Lauren Corporation is a multibillion-dollar business, with clothing lines beloved by polo players and hip hop artists alike.

His personal fortune has been estimated at $7.2 billion, making Mr. Lauren a certified success as one of the 100 wealthiest people in America.

7. Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso has a young entrepreneur’s success story, thanks to the Nasty Gal fashion empire that she founded.

She started her career success flipping second-hand vintage wear on eBay after painstaking days combing through thrift stores and bargain boutiques. She wisely invested her profits to purchase premises for her inventory and was something of a pioneer for her early adoption of social media platforms to promote her retail business with success.

By 2016, she was estimated to be worth $280 million. It was all very much a far cry from the trappings of her youth, however. She was homeless for a long time as a teenager and recalls looking for food in the garbage to try to survive.

Today, though, she is the author of a best-selling autobiography and has a smash-hit Netflix show about her own life success on the air.

8. The Two Steves (Apple)

8 Entrepreneurs Who Conquered the World With Big SuccessPossibly the most iconic entrepreneurs’ success story of our time, the origins of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs are the stuff of legend.

The two computer prodigies both came from humble beginnings and launched their Apple business in Job’s parents’ basement after they’d dropped out of college. With Wozniak’s technical computing knowledge and Job’s almost messianic zeal for selling his vision, the two built up Apple into arguably the biggest technology success the world has ever seen.

Upon Job’s tragic death in 2011, his network was estimated at $10.2 billion. Today, his legacy is going stronger than ever, and iconic pieces of technology like the Apple Mac, iPod, and iPhone have left an indelible impression on modern life.

Steve Jobs was a master of spinning business success quotes entrepreneurs love repeating. Unsurprisingly, he credits his self-belief and perseverance as the two main qualities that enabled the way to success in life.

Conclusion: Success Can Come From Anywhere For Entrepreneurs

These inspirational real-life stories of successful entrepreneurs are proof that anyone with a dream and determination can reach incredible heights of success.

Poverty, a bad childhood, and even a criminal record need not be an impediment to the success rate of entrepreneurs willing to make their dreams come true. Is there a particular entrepreneur’s success story we missed that you find especially inspiring?

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