5 self-made billionaires who started from zero

“You need money to make money”, it is a famous quote so it must be right, right? Wrong!

Some of today’s wealthiest people started out as the impoverished children of farmers, lumber millers or railroad workers. Some were orphans and most don’t even have a college degree. So how did they do it? A mixture of hard work and risk taking with a healthy dollop of right place, right time.

Richest Man in Italy

Photo: Luxatex

The richest man in Italy with a net worth of US$20.3 billion was born in Milan in 1935, five months after his father passed away.

His mother, unable to afford to feed him, had to place him in an orphanage. He began his career as an apprentice to a tool and die maker, where they didn’t even know his name.

At 26 he decided to turn his metalworking skills to making spectacle parts.  A few good decisions and lucky breaks later and Leonardo Del Vecchio became the founder and chairman of Luxottica which owns the Sunglass Hut and Lenscrafters chains and has over 6,000 stores and 73,400 employees worldwide.

Amancio Ortega Gaona

Listed as third-richest person in the world by the Hurun Report in February 2014, with a net worth of USD $62 billion, Amancio Ortega Gaona is the youngest of four children of a Spanish railroad worker.  At 15 he got

At 15 he got a job as a shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala. And at 36 he managed to organise thousands of local women into sewing cooperatives which enabled him to found Confecciones Goa (his initials in reverse).

Three years later he opened his first Zara store with lingerie and bathrobes he and his former wife Rosalia Mera made in their living room and now he has over 6,000 stores and more than 92,000 employees.


Son of a Taxi Driver

U.S. business magnate, investor, and philanthropist Sheldon Gary Adelson is the son of a Boston taxi driver and currently the 8th richest person in the world with a fortune of US$36.4 billion.

Sheldon Gary Adelson | Photo: Sheldon Gary Adelson Blog

At the age of 12, he borrowed two hundred dollars from his uncle and bought a license to sell newspapers in Boston. Four years later he had started a candy-vending-machine business.

A few years after that, he started a business selling toiletry kits, followed by another business named De-Ice-It, which sold a spray to help clear frozen windshields. Later, he started a charter tours business.

In fact, over the course of his business career, Adelson has created over 50 of his own businesses.

By the time he’d reached his mid-30s he had built and lost a fortune twice. He is now the chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation which operates The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center as well as owning Israeli daily newspaper Israel HaYom.

One of the Richest People in the World

Ingvar Kamprad was born and raised on a farm on the outskirts of a small rural village in Sweden. His entrepreneurial side started as a young boy when he found he could buy matches in bulk from Stockholm and then sell them individually at a low price whilst still turning a profit.

Then he moved on to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, and later ballpoint pens and pencils.

At the tender age of 17 his father rewarded him for succeeding in his studies with some cash and with it IKEA was started from his uncle’s kitchen table.Today Ingvar Kamprad is one of the richest people in the world.

Today Ingvar Kamprad is one of the richest people in the world.


High School Dropout

And what about the head of the family that own high-end fashion design houses Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent as well Christie’s Auction house?

Francois-Henri Pinault, who dropped out of high school, was born into a family of French timber traders in 1936.

He’s current net worth is estimated at US$13.4 Billion.  He started his first wood business, the Pinault Group aged 27 which he grew, diversified and expanded until, after taking his company onto the French open market in 1990, he withdrew from the wood business altogether and began acquiring other companies in other markets.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish that counts.

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