The Guardian newspaper recently said that the notion that people can just start up a business in the modern economy and be successful is a myth. Sure, it might be something that the odd freak does, but it’s not an option for the masses. According to the newspaper, we’re all stuck in wage-slavery, going to work for the man every day because of entrenched power structures.
But is that really true? On purely statistical grounds, it’s not. But it’s also not true on a personal level for many entrepreneurs who had humble beginnings. Contrary to what some newspapers would like you to believe, the American dream is alive and well.
Howard Schultz – Starbucks
One of the most interesting stories is that of Howard Schultz. He began life in social housing because his parents had practically no money. He grew up feeling that everybody else had “stuff” and that he had to put up with very little. It wasn’t fair, in his view, and so he took action. He knew that he didn’t want to be stuck in poverty forever. He saw the wealthy city-types getting into their luxury cars, and he wanted a piece of that himself.
Using no collateral loans, Schultz took over a small coffee shop called Starbucks. The chain wasn’t much in 1987, but little did Schultz know that coffee, not tea, would become the new drink of choice for the majority of the world’s population. Before long, coffee shops were being built all over America and Starbucks was the most recognizable brand. Schultz is now worth more than $2 billion.
Oprah Winfrey – TV Personality
Oprah Winfrey was born in a poor black community in Mississippi. She was among the first in her family to go to university. She won a scholarship and soon after became a correspondent on TV, reporting at the age of just 19.
In 1983, she began her own TV show in Chicago, and it wasn’t long before people were tuning in all over the country. Since then, her wealth has exploded, and she’s now worth a cool $2.9 billion.
Do Won Chang – Forever 21
Forever 21 is now a global clothing chain, appealing mainly to women, but also with a small men’s section. It’s founder, Do Won Chong and his wife started out with practically nothing. When he first moved to America in 1981, Chong worked three jobs at once: as a janitor, a gas station attendant and in coffee shops.
With the money he earned, he and his wife were able to open their first clothing store just three years later. Now Forever 21 has expanded all over the world with more than 500 outlets worldwide. How much Chang is currently worth is not entirely clear, though many put his net worth at $5 billion.
Leonardo Del Vecchio – Oakley
Del Vecchio began life at an orphanage because his mother was unable to care for him. His first job was in a factory. But that all changed once he founded his own spectacles-making shop. Soon he was the world’s largest manufacturer of sunglasses, making millions in profits a week.