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11 rags-to-riches underdog success stories

by in people

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There's rags-to-riches and then there's going to work when you're eight years old to help support your family.


1. George Soros

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Multi-billionaire George Soros was born to a non-observant Jewish family in Hungary in 1930. During his teens he survived the Nazi occupation of his home country before moving to England, where he eventually found work at a merchant bank.


2. Jan Koum

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The founder and CEO of WhatsApp emigrated to America from Ukraine when he was 16 years old, initially living on food stamps. In February this year, Facebook announced its acquisition of WhatsApp for $19billion.


3. Ursula Burns

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Ursula Burns, the chairman and CEO of Xerox, was raised by her mother in a New York social housing project. Now she is the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company and Forbes recently labelled her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.


4. Sean Connery

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Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy aged 16 and worked as a bricklayer, coffin polisher and lifeguard before becoming an actor.


5. Oprah Winfrey

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Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty and was raped by a relative when she was just nine years old. By 2003, she had become the first female African-American billionaire.


6. JK Rowling

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JK Rowling was a single mother living on benefits before she found success with the Harry Potter series. She has said she was "as poor as it's possible to be in this country". She is now estimated to be worth at least $1billion.


7. Shania Twain

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According to a biography, Shania Twain grew up in poverty and started singing in bars when she was just eight to try to help support her family. She is thought to have earned more than $350million since.


8. Howard Schultz

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Billionaire Howard Schultz was raised in a social housing project in Brooklyn, New York, before discovering and becoming CEO and chairman of Starbucks.


9. Dhirubhai Ambani

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The popular story about one of India's most successful businessmen is that he started with a single rupee in his hand and ended up as patriarch of the world's second-richest family.

The company he founded in 1966, Reliance Industries, now employs 85,000 people and is estimated to contribute around five per cent of the Indian government's total tax revenues.


10. Do Won Chang

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In the early 1980s South Korean-born Chang moved to California, where he and his wife opened a clothes shop named Fashion 21. As the business grew they changed the name to Forever 21. There are currently more than 450 stores worldwide and Chang's personal wealth is estimated at $5.4billion.


11. Ralph Lauren

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Born to Jewish immigrants from Belarus, Ralph Lauren grew up in the Bronx, New York. After discovering his passion was designing clothes he found work at a tie company but found his designs continually rejected. "The world is not ready for Ralph Lauren," the owner of the company once told him. Ralph Lauren responded by founding his own company, one that now employs 19,000 people and has given him a personal fortune of $7billion.


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