1. Oprah Winfrey-HARPO, OWN Network
Oprah Winfrey is one of the first self-made woman billionaires in American history. Very hard to do. Especially for a Black woman raised in the segregated South during the 1950s.
The famous talk show host and media mogul was born into poverty in rural Mississippi. She was raised by a single mom and grew up so poor that Oprah often wore dresses made of potato sacks! After a series of traumatic and tragic events, Oprah relocated to Nashville. From there, she went on to become an honors student and won a scholarship to attend Tennessee State University.
Winfrey became the first Black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. She would later move to Chicago in 1984 to host a low-rated half-hour morning talk show. Within months the show’s popularity grew and overtook Donahue as the highest-rated talk show in Chicago. The show’s name was later changed to The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Oprah has expanded her media empire to include movies, a TV Network, and magazines. Her net worth, as of 2022 is $2.5 billion. Oprah Winfrey is, without a doubt, one of the most influential women in the world today and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time.
2. François Pinault
François Pinault is considered “the king of luxury retail”, but his rise from poverty to prominence was anything but smooth. In high school, Pinault was teased for being poor so much, by his fellow students, that he decided to drop out. Even though he came from poverty, his determination and will to work hard was evident since young age, as Pinault was used to helping out his father, who was employed in the timber/wood industry. He moved from timber business to fashion and lifestyle and his holding company, Artemis S.A. now owns Converse shoes and Samsonite luggage, among other things. Pinault owns one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world and is considered one of the richest men in France.
3. John Paul DeJoria- Paul Mitchell, Patrón
John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products, The Patrón Spirits Company and a billionaire, grew up in a foster home, used to be a gang member and at the tender age of nine began selling Christmas cards and newspapers to support himself and his family. His math teacher once told him that he will “never be successful with anything in his life”, but none of this stopped John from achieving his goals. On the contrary, all the pain and poverty further motivated him to become what he is now. After working as a janitor and selling shampoo door-to-door, while living out of his car, John went on to co-found and grow billion dollar businesses. His net worth is now $4 billion.
4. Steve Bisciotti
Steve Bisciotti was born into a working class Italian-American family. He played on the high school football team and was a fan of sports, but not much of an athlete. However, after graduating university with a degree in liberal arts, Steve along with his cousin, co-founded what would later become one of the largest companies in the world, within its market (technical staffing) – the Allegis Group. He started running the company out of a basement office and managed to produce 1.5 million in sales, in the first year alone! Ever since then, the company has been steadily growing and Bisciotti is now the majority owner of the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Larry Ellison-Oracle
Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corporation, was raised by his aunt and uncle in Chicago. After his aunt died, Larry dropped out of University and moved to California. He worked a number of odd jobs for the next 8 years, until founding Oracle, in 1977. Oracle is now one of the largest companies in the world and Ellison is considered to be the third wealthiest person in the United States, with his net worth being around $103 billion.
6. Howard Schultz- Starbucks
Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks and former owner of the Seattle Supersonics, grew up in a housing complex for the poor. Ever since young age his goal was, in his own words “to climb over the fence”. Schultz desperately wanted to escape poverty and he would, eventually, manage to do so. He ended up winning a football scholarship and started working for Xerox, soon after graduating from university. Not too long after that, he took over an obscure coffee shop name Starbucks and went on to turn it into a worldwide franchise and a multi-billion dollar empire. Schultz’s net worth is $4 billion.
7. Ken Langone- Home Depot
The famous investor can Ken Langone was born into a blue collar, working class family. His father was a plumber and his mother a cafeteria worker. His parents even had to mortgage their house so the young Ken could attend university. While completing his studies, Ken worked a series of odd jobs and supported himself. Only two years after getting his first “real” job, he partnered with Bernard Marcus and started Home Depot. His net worth is now $2.7 billion.
8. Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang- Forever 21
Do Won Chang was born and grew up in South Korea. He moved to the United States in 1981 with his wife, Jin Sook Chang. Their story is a typical example of the American dream, a Hollywood-like, epic rags-to-riches tale. Do Won Chang worked as a gas station attendant and janitor before opening up his first clothes retail store in 1984 using their $11,000 life savings. The name of the store was Fashion 21.
By 2013, Forever 21 was an international enterprise with more than 480 stores and a revenue of $3.7 billion. The family-owned business was later sold in 2020 to a consortium of mall operators including Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties.
9. Ralph Lauren-Founder Ralph Lauren
Originally born, Ralph Lifshitz, Ralph Lauren was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents. After completing high school he enrolled Baruch College, only to drop out later on. After dropping out Ralph joined the army. Soon after that he started working as a clerk at Brooks Brothers and then moved on to become a salesman for a tie company. It is then that Lauren designed his first tie, only to be rejected by the management. Shortly after that, he started making his own ties – he made them from rags and started selling them to small shops in New York. In 1967., he opened his first necktie store and sold his neckties under the label Polo. Almost 50 years later, his clothes are world famous. As of 2022, Ralph Lauren has an estimated net work of $6.6 billion.
10. Alec Gores -The Gores Group
Alec Gores was born to a Greek father and a Lebanese mother in 1953 in Nazareth, Israel. In 1968, the family moved to Michigan with just $40 and two suitcases to their name. The very next day, he began working at his uncle’s store bagging groceries for 25 cents an hour.
Soon after finishing college, Gores landed a job at General Motors . Within six months he quit after realizing that working for a large corporation was not for him. He went on to start his own business of buying and distributing computers. By 1986 the company employed over 200 people and was acquired by CONTEL for approximately $2 million. He eventually founded The Gores Group, a private equity firm in 1987 and since then has acquired or invested in over 130 companies.
He has a networth of $2.5 billion.