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Entrepreneurs who built their fortunes from nothing

You do not always have to come from a privileged background to make it big. That is the beauty of capitalism. Some of the greatest men and women in the history of business started with so very little. These captains of industry had vision, passion and a determination to be successful. In many cases, they overcame a number of challenges until they found the road to success.

Let’s take a look at six successful entrepreneurs who built empires with a meager amount of money. (For related reading, see CEOs Who Went from Rags to Riches)

Henry Ford

Henry Ford did not let his lack of financial resources stand in the way of his lifelong dream. He was a man with great ideas, but had very little financial backing of his own. So, he started Ford Motor Company with just US$28,000 – and that was not even Ford’s savings. It was money that he had borrowed from a variety of different investors. Ford made good use of the funds. He applied his talents to Ford Motor Company and became the first person to ever mass produce automobiles. Today, Ford Motor Company is a US$56 billion dollar company with over $128 billion dollars in annual revenue.

John Paul DeJoria

John Paul DeJoria rose from the most humble of beginnings to become one of the richest men in the world. He worked as a newspaper courier at the very young age of nine, and took jobs as a janitor and a tow truck driver just to make ends meet. DeJoria’s made the smart decision to go into business Paul Mitchell while he was working for a hair care company. The pair took out a meager US$700 loan, and turned it into a hair care conglomerate with nearly $1 billion dollars in annual sales. DeJoria now also owns Patron Tequila, which sells more than 2 million cases a year. He has risen from the depths of homelessness to amass a net worth of US$4 billion dollars. (For related reading, see Best Places To Become A Millionaire)

Steve Jobs

The inventor of the iPhone, iPod and iPad started the largest technology company in the world in his parents’ garage. Steve Jobs started Apple Computers in 1976 with his partner, Steve Wolzniak. The two men did not have a bunch of venture capital like startups do today. Jobs did, however, have a vision and innovative ideas that helped to thrust Apple into the forefront of the computer industry. Jobs has been the brains behind Apple for years and the company suffered during his departure in the late ’90s. The return of Jobs has led to the resurgence of Apple, and today the company has a market cap of US$320 billion dollars.

Sam Walton

Walmart may be a household name today, but it was not when Sam Walton opened his first store back in 1962. Walton got his first start in retail opening up his first general variety store in 1945, which he opened with just US$25,000. Only US$5,000 of the money was Walton’s; he borrowed US$20,000 from his father in law. This turned out to be a great investment for his father in law, as Walton was an instant success at retailing. His knack for retail sales and low cost strategy made his stores a hit with consumers everywhere. Walmart developed into one of the most popular retailers in the United States under Walton’s helm, and Walton even held the title of the richest man in the United States at one point in time. (For related reading, see Trading’s Six Biggest Losers)

Kevin Plank

The CEO of Under Armour was flat broke when the orders started rolling in for his moisture-holding athletic shirts. Plank started his entrepreneurial endeavor with just US$20,000 in cash and another US$40,000 in credit card debt. to launch his fitness apparel company. Plank was so broke that he was scoring meals at his mom’s house to eat. With hard work and determination, he managed to carve out a niche of the athletic apparel market for Under Armour. Kevin Plank now has a net worth just shy of US$500 million dollars.

Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard

Hewlett-Packard was the startup of all startups. The two cofounders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the industrial giant with a total of US$538 in assets. The US$538 total investment included cash and a used drill press. The two partners were unaware that the development of an audio oscillator in a tiny garage would be the beginning of a multi billion dollar personal computing company. Hewlett Packard has a market cap of US$88 billion dollars and generated US$126 billion dollars in sales last year alone. That’s quite a remarkable return on investment! (For related reading, see Outrageous CEO Spending Abuses And Perks)

Mark Zuckerberg

And last but certainly not least is social media magnate, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. There’s already been a lot written about Zuckerberg – and if you want a semi-fictionalized version of his tale you can see the aforementioned “The Social Network” movie – but in brief: While studying at Harvard and working out of his dorm, Zuckerberg started TheFacebook.com as a sort of student directory. Needless to say, Facebook has flourished into the biggest social network in the world.

Started as a directory, it is now a place to host photos, connect with friends, share stories and status updates, publicly proclaim your likes and dislikes, and it’s also become a place for companies to engage in direct marketing. According to Forbes, as of September 2010, Zuckerberg is worth US$6.9 billion. Though there’s been a lot of controversy around Facebook, it doesn’t look like the trend will be dying out soon.

The Bottom Line

The success stories of these entrepreneurs serves as an inspiration to anyone who dares to endeavor into fortune-building, with a small amount of startup capital. (For related reading, see The Six Highest Paid People On Wall Street)



About Mohammad

Dr Mohammad Khazab completed his Ph.D. in Computer Systems Engineering (Artificial Intelligence) at the University of South Australia in 2011. He has worked as Senior Software Engineer, Web Developer, and Research Associate on various projects. Currently he works at Schneider Electric on the design and development of new software solutions for smart devices used for home automation and Internet of Things. He's also been working on enterprise software for supply chain network simulation and optimisation, advanced planning and scheduling. In his spare times, In his spare times, he works on creating websites and mobile applications (Web2day Design), researching and writing about cutting-edge technologies in this blog. He has ambitions to solve real-world problems, and to use his knowledge and skills to develop useful applications.

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