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The 5 best rags to riches stories in business


Because even those most successful in business have to start somewhere...

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business

The entrepreneurial mind: some have it, some don’t. It takes a certain type of person to put everything on the line to follow a pipe dream. That person’s daring, gutsy, and not afraid of going against the grain. But one of the biggest misconceptions about the ones that make it is that they were handed everything on a silver platter, that life has been easy for them because they come from money. We’re here to throw that theory out of the window: here are some of the greatest rags to riches stories in business:

Sir Philip Green, Arcadia

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business
Photo by The Times

Although Green has found himself a little unwanted attention in recent months, no one can deny that this is a smart and gutsy businessman with a mission to succeed. He may now be worth somewhere in the region of a cool $6.2 billion, but that wasn’t always the way.

Having left school at the age of 15, Green began importing jeans from the Far East that no one in England could get hold of, and selling them onto British high street retailers. His simple idea worked, and with a mere £20,000 in the bank to begin with, he began to get a name for himself as the king of the high street. He acquired Arcadia back in 2002 and the rest is (a slightly rocky) history.

Oprah Winfrey, Oprah

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business

Winfrey had about as tough a childhood as it gets; born into severe poverty to a single teenaged mother in rural Mississippi, she was later moved to an inner-city Milwaukee neighbourhood. She was raped twice, at the tender ages of 9 and 14 and was physically and emotionally abused for years. She fell pregnant after she was raped, but her son died a newborn.

After landing a job at the local radio aged 14, Winfrey had finally found her calling. In 1983, she moved to Chicago to host a morning talk show, AM Chicago, and she instantly rose to fame. The public loved her, and in 1986, just three years later, she broadcasted her very first national broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show. She’s now one of the most famous faces in America, and worth an estimated $3.1 billion.

Charles Dunstone, Carphone Warehouse

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business
Photo by Evening Standard

Being slightly ahead of the grain is one thing that every entrepreneur needs to have; to realise when a trend is a trend and when to latch onto something for dear life. And that’s exactly that Charles Dunstone did in 1989 when he began selling mobiles out of his flat in Marylebone, London.  Phones then weren’t as they are now; they were bulky and huge, and relatively difficult for small businesses and individuals to get hold of.

Dunstone, with what was said to be £6,000 in his pocket, saw a huge gap in the market and predicted that in the future, everyone and their mothers might just want to have easy assess to a mobile phone. His living room grew into a shop, which grew into more shops, and today Carphone Warehouse makes approximately £10 million a year, and Dunstone is worth an estimated £2.5 billion.

Richard Branson, the Virgin Group

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business

Perhaps one of the most famous rags to riches business stories comes in the form on Richard Branson, the world’s most loved entrepreneur. Perhaps a little know fact about the mogul is that he was bankrupted twice before he actually started to make money.

Having done poorly in school at just 16 Branson dropped out and made his first magazine. Shortly afterwards, he set up a mail-order business selling records which then moved swiftly into him opening stores – with just £300 in his bank. In 1971, he was arrested and charged for selling records in his stores that had already been declared export stock. As it was so early in his business days, there was no way Branson could repay the debts and the charges led to his mother having to remortgage the family home…

Several years – and a lot of successful businesses later, Branson is worth an estimated $5.5 billion.

Mike Ashley, Sports Direct

The 5 best rags to riches stories in business

After he left school aged 16, sport was always in the pipeline for Ashely. A keen eye for squash led to him reaching national standard, however injury took that pipe dream away from him and he was left out in the cold with no cash but a strong business mind.

In 1982, Ashley opened his first Sport and Ski shop in Maidenhead, and its success was shortly followed by more stores opening up in London, with a £10,000 loan from his family. Private money kept the brand afloat, and in 1990 Ashley rebranded to Sports Soccer and opened 100 stores across the country and the company got its trademark in 1999.

Ashley has perhaps made most of his fortune, though, through buying sports brands. He owns Donnay, Karrimor, Kangol to name but a few. Most notably, perhaps, is Dunlop Slazenger, which he bought for £40 million. Ashley is now worth an estimated £6.6 billion.

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