Billionaire Beginnings


Ralph Lauren is worth $7.7 billion. Oprah Winfrey’s empire has skyrocketed to $2.9 billion. They are among the mega-rich and regarded as celebrity royalty.

Their achievements are all the more inspiring when you consider how far they’ve come. Like others featured in a recent Business Insider post – “15 Billionaires Who Were Once Dirt Poor” – both overcame poverty.

Are you familiar with Howard Schultz? I wasn’t. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered that he runs Starbucks (I’m all too acquainted with the company’s lattes). In the piece, he recounts childhood memories residing in a complex for the poor:

Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like.

Today, he’s amassed $2 billion. Let me digest that.

Leonardo Del Vecchio’s story is one of the most poignant. As a child, he and four siblings were sent to live in an orphanage after their father died. While working in a factory, Del Vecchio lost part of his finger in an accident. In 1961, he founded Luxottica, the largest producer and retailer of sunglasses and prescription glasses in the world (think Ray-Bans). He’s now worth $15.3 billion.

Fortune may have smiled on these business legends, but their tremendous talent and determination paved the way.

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