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The 7 Most Inspiring Rags to Riches Stories of All Time

Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Some people climb from the bottom of the world to the top with nothing but sheer willpower, tenacity and talent. These people are an inspiration to all. If you are worried about being in debt right now, scroll down to read about seven people who had nothing but eventually made it:

1. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. She was born to a poor African American family in one of the poorest areas in the U.S. Oprah wore dresses made out of potato sacks when she was little and was abused by a relative as a child. At 14, she was pregnant but later lost the child. She did not let her impossible situation keep her down. She excelled as school as an honor student. She got her first job at a local black radio station. She made the bold move into mainstream media, where, as a Black woman, she faced serious discrimination. But she pushed on and the rest, as you know, is history.

2. J.K. Rowling

We would not have “Harry Potter” without this lady. Jo Rowling was born to a lower-end middle class English family. While her childhood wasn’t exactly steeped in poverty, most of her adult life was. Rowling married quite young and moved to Portugal with her first husband. The marriage ended up in a disaster. As a young mother, Rowling was back in England with a small daughter and no job. She survived on welfare. She later recalled that she didn’t even have money to buy her toddler toys. However, she never gave up. She found inspiration in her own misery and spun the wonderful world of Harry Potter. After the book went on sale, of course, Rowling ended up being richer than the Queen. She is currently one of the most successful authors in the world.

3. Walt Disney

You may find it surprising that Disney, the man responsible for making our childhoods so happy by creating the Walt Disney Company, grew up in utter poverty. He was raised in a farm where he drew cartoons to make money. Disney was a very gifted artist, but no one wanted to hire him. He was so hopeless; he had to depend on his brother’s support as an adult. However, he never gave up on the dream of becoming an artist. Disney tenaciously drew pictures for advertisements, and later went onto animate the cartoons he had drawn. You know the story after that. Now, if you are down in the dumps considering calling up BLG bankruptcy, think about this man. It pays never to give up on your dreams.

4. John Paul DeJoria

DeJoria is best known as the majority owner of The Patron Spirits Company, which sells the world’s most expensive tequila. Even if you have not heard of this man, you may know the Paul Mitchell brand intimately, which DeJoria built from scratch. He was born to poor southern European immigrant parents. The family was so poor, DeJoria had to sell newspapers as a nine year old to support the family. When his parents couldn’t afford to support all their children, they sent DeJoria to a foster home. In his teens, he ended up in a violent street gang and did a number of odd jobs to support himself. However, poverty and crime could not keep this man down. As a young man, he started Paul Mitchell with a mere $700 loan and today he is one of the richest men in the world.

5. Daymond John

Daymond John, owner of the hip-hop clothing brand FUBU and popular motivational speaker, grew up in violence-ridden Queens. He was born to a poor family, but his entrepreneurial spirit was evident from the start. In high school, he sold wool hats for half the market price kicking off his business career. Later, he made the risky bet of mortgaging his home to start FUBU. The decision, of course, paid off really well.

6. Henry Ford

The founder of the Ford Empire came from very humble beginnings. Henry Ford was in fact a farm boy who taught himself machinery. This man had no fancy degrees, and started his career as a machine repairman. It was not at all a glamorous job. Ford, however, experiments with gasoline engines out of sheer curiosity. That’s just the beginning of his vast auto business which is valued close to $200 billion today.

7. Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner was the inspiration for the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” But this man’s early life was far from happy. Gardner had to live with a stepfather who physically abused him. He later ended up in the foster system. As an adult married with a child, he battled homelessness. Though it seemed all the chips were stacked against him, Gardner ultimately made it as a successful CEO and did find that happiness he had always looked for.

Success is never easy. Most of those people you see on glossy magazine covers have battled poverty and debt, just like you may be doing right now. However, you should never give up on your dreams. More importantly, you should never give up on yourself, as evidenced by the success stories mentioned above.


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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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