AFRICANGLOBE – This is one genre of stories that has enjoyed an ever-lasting appeal: rags to riches tales. Stories of heroic struggle against odds, survival and eventual triumph have always inspired people, given them hope, courage to fight, and egged them on to persevere. Here, we bring 7 such fabulous stories from around the world, which we believe, would ignite your never-say-die spirit and inspire you to become all that you can be.
1. The steel tycoon who grew up in a one-room weaver’s cottage: Andrew Carnegie
This American industrialist, the founder of Carnegie Steel – a company that produced more steel than all of Great Britain at one point – was born to a poor handloom weaver in Scotland.
He grew up in poverty, living in a one-room house, often sleeping to “forget the misery of hunger”. To fight starvation, his family migrated to the US. His first job was at age 13 as a bobbin boy, changing spools of thread in a cotton mill 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a Pittsburgh cotton factory. In his spare time, he would read works of Robert Burns and historical Scottish heroes like Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and Rob Roy. His next job was as a telegraph messenger boy. A true entrepreneur, he was a hardworker, and soon was promoted as an operator. Colonel James Anderson, who opened his personal library of 400 volumes to working boys each Saturday night, gave a good boost to Carnegie’s education and passion for reading. He did a series of railroad jobs. There, he learnt about the industry and business in general. It was during this stint that he began making investments in steel and oil companies that earned him huge returns. By 1889, Carnegie Steel Corporation was the largest of its kind in the world. He went on to become become the richest man in the world.
Known as one of “builders” of America who helped shape the nation, in 1901, he sold Carnegie Steel to JP Morgan for $480 million and became a philanthropist. He donated millions to the New York Public Library, established the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, which is now known as Carnegie-Mellon University, created the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and formed the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Remember, the journey began in a one-room weaver’s cottage in Dunfermline.
2. The retail giant who had to milk cows, deliver newspapers: Samuel Walton
This American entrepreneur who built a small grocery store into the giant Walmart supermarket chain, amassing a fortune of over $23 billion, grew up during the Great Depression.
He had numerous chores to help make financial ends meet for his family as was common at the time. He milked the family cow, bottled the surplus, and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver Columbia Daily Tribune newspapers on a paper route. In addition, he also sold magazine subscriptions. During his college, he worked various odd jobs, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. After graduation, he joined the US Army during the World War II. After the war, he left the military and started managing a variety store at the age of 26.
He took a loan to buy his first store, and thanks to simple innovations in business, he soon bought his second store. Within 3 years, his sales volume grew to $225,000. The first true Wal-Mart opened on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. The rest is history. Forbes ranked Sam Walton as the richest person in the United States from 1982 to 1988. At the time of his death in 1992, he had 1,960 Wal-Mart stores, employed 380,000 people and clocked annual sales of about $50 billion.
3. The Queen of all media: Oprah Winfrey
Best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show — the highest-rated program of its kind in history — Oprah Winfrey is dubbed as the ‘Queen of all media’ and ranked as the richest African-American of the 20th century.
She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother. She was later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She has often spoken about the hardships she experienced during childhood, after suffering years of abuse, she ran away from home. She became pregnant at 14. Her son, she said, died in infancy. While in high school, she landed a job in radio and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. She got transferred to the daytime-talk-show arena because of her emotional ad-lib delivery.
She became a millionaire at age 32 when her talk show went national. She is credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication. Forbes’ international rich list has listed her as the world’s only lack billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first Black woman billionaire in world history. As of 2014, she has a net worth in excess of 2.9 billion dollars and has overtaken former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America.
4. The CEO of Oracle who was born to an unwed Jewish mom: Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison was born in New York City to an unwed Jewish mother. His father was an Italian American US Air Force pilot. According to Wikipedia, Ellison contracted pneumonia when he was nine months old and his mother gave him to her aunt and uncle for adoption. His adoptive mother was warm and loving, while his adoptive father was unsupportive and distant.
He was a bright but inattentive student. He left the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after his second year without taking his final exams because his adoptive mother had just died. Later, he attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer design. In 1966, aged 22, he moved to northern California.
In 1977, he founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) with two partners and an investment of $2,000. In 1982, the company became Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product, the Oracle database. Currently, Ellison owns stakes in Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Quark Biotechnology Inc. and Astex Pharmaceuticals. In September 2011, Ellison was listed on the Forbes List of Billionaires as the fifth richest man in the world. Ellison is still the third richest American, with a net worth of about $36.5 billion.