There are some people who got their millions through inheritance. Paris Hilton.

There are others who were given an already highly successful business. The Walton kids.

THEN there are my favorite success stories; those who became successful despite having any help. In fact most of them started with absolutely nothing. Here are some extremely successful people who started with nothing but a dream.

Sara Blakely

Blakely is the founder of Spanx, an intimate apparel company that specializes in pants and leggings.

Before Blakely started Spanx she worked at Disney in Orlando, was a stand-up comedienne, and sold copiers door to door.  Like many other great inventions, Spanx was born out of frustration. During her time selling door to door, her business attire required her to wear pantyhose. She wasn’t satisfied with the look of the pantyhose while wearing open toed shoes. So, with $5,000 in savings and a lot of hard work she launched Spanx in 2000. The company made $4 million in the first year.

Not a one trick pony – Spanx now offers bras, underwear, jeans, and pants. They even have shirts and underwear for men.

Blakely has done quite well. Her net worth was listed as $1 billion as of 2013.

Howard Schultz

You may not know his name but you know the name of his company. There’s a Starbucks on almost every corner. Schultz is the chairman and CEO.

After graduating college in 1975, Schultz worked as a salesperson for Xerox. A few years later he became a general manager for Hammarplast, a drip coffee maker manufacturer. It was 1981 that he discovered Starbucks. The company was a client of Hammarplast. When he visited the Seattle store he was impressed with its operation. By 1982 he joined Starbucks as the Director of Marketing.

While on a business trip to Europe he noticed a vibrant café culture. He took note that this culture was lacking from the coffee shops in the US. He wanted the same culture and social atmosphere at home in the US.

Frustrated by the unwillingness of Starbucks founders to change their model, he left the company in 1985. By 1986 Howard opened his own store, Il Giornale. In 1988 Starbucks decided to focus solely on its other retail venture, Peet’s Coffee.  The company sold its Starbucks retail unit to Howard.

Howard Schultz turned Starbucks in to a household name. He has a net worth of $3 billion. Not bad for a guy who grew up poor, living in a New York housing project.

Jack Ma

He is the richest man in China. Ma is the founder of Alibaba, the largest eCommerce site in China.

In the following years after graduating from college in 1988 Jack was unsuccessful in finding a job. He applied to 30 different jobs and was not hired by any of them. He was even turned down when he applied for a job at KFC.

Ma discovered the possibilities of the internet on a trip to the US in 1995. After returning to China he started his own company, Internet Yellow Pages.  By 1999 he launched Alibaba. The company was started in an apartment with a group of friends.

Jack Ma’s net worth is listed as $23.6 billion as of January 2016. Now he’s worth more than the KFC franchise.

Nick Woodman

While Woodman’s name might not be a household name, his product definitely is – he is the founder and CEO of GoPro.

But GoPro wasn’t his first business endeavor. His first two companies failed miserably, but Woodman didn’t give up. To help fund his third project, he purchased 600 belts made out of seashells from Bali. He then turned around and sold them for $60 each. With the money he earned, plus a loan from his mother, Woodman created his first GoPro. The first prototype was made with a drill and his mother’s sewing machine.

Woodman launched GoPro in 2004. As of early 2016 the company’s net worth is listed at over $1.8 billion.

Richard Branson

He is probably the most recognizable name on the list. Best known for founding Virgin Group, which was made up of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Records, Branson truly started from nothing. He dropped out of school at the age of 16. He was told by the school headmaster that he due to his dyslexia and poor academics, he’d either end up a millionaire, or in prison.

In 1966, after dropping out of high school, he started the magazine publication “student”.  Branson and several other students ran the magazine from a church basement. The first edition of the magazine sold $8,000 in advertising. By 1969 he started a mail order record business from the same church from which he published the magazine from. This was the beginning of the Virgin brand. He opened the first retail record store in 1971. The following year, with the money he made from his retail store, he was able start his own record label. Virgin Records.

Branson went on to start Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984. It’s hard to keep track of the companies under Virgin Group as there are many. Virgin Trains, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Media, VirginFuels, Virgin Comics…

The headmaster was wrong. Branson didn’t end up a millionaire, or in prison. He became a billionaire.  Branson has a net worth of $5.2 billion.


-There are some millionaires who were given their money, but there are some that earned it. The incredibly successful people on this list run the gamut of industries, but they all got where they are by working hard and never giving up.