Famous Millionaires’ Rags-to-Riches Stories


Within the realm of professional success and accomplishment, the story of one’s ascent from meager beginnings to enormous wealth has captivated the public imagination for many years. The phenomenon known as “rags-to-riches,” which is characterized by people who have risen from destitution or limited means to become millionaires, is a testament to the human capacity for resiliency, ingenuity, and unwavering determination. 

The stories in this article will astound and inspire you, demonstrating that socioeconomic barriers can be overcome with the right mix of perseverance, creativity, and a dash of luck. These inspiring tales of transformation show that even in the face of adversity, the pursuit of success can change the course of one’s life. They range from humble beginnings to the heights of affluence.

Famous Millionaires’ Rags-to-Riches Stories

Stories about people who rose from poverty to achieve great success can not only provide the inspiration you require to get started, but they can also provide the insight you require to take the right steps at the appropriate time. Here follows are some of the most motivational and educational success stories.

1. Do Won Chang: Founder of Forever 21

Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook have a combined net worth of $3 billion, which places them at position 222 on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. However, the couple had a difficult time climbing the ranks to reach this position.

Do Won was born in Korea, but he immigrated to the United States in the hope of finding opportunities that were difficult to come by in Korea at the time. After arriving in Los Angeles on a Saturday, he did not squander a single moment of his time there.

On Monday, he started working at a coffee shop, and a few weeks later, he found himself with two additional jobs. Do Won was 22 years old at the time and held three jobs at the same time. He worked at a coffee shop, put in eight extra hours at a nearby gas station, and then found a third office cleaning job to keep himself extremely busy.

When he was working at the gas station, that’s when he noticed that people who were in the clothing industry always had the best cars. This is what prompted him to start working at a clothing store as an employee. The couple had been in the United States for three years when they decided to open their first store using the 11,000 dollars in savings they had managed to accumulate while working part-time jobs.

After this, it was all about determining the best course of action for the situation. Do Wan took advantage of the trend toward fast fashion and purchased clothing from the manufacturers themselves so that he could save money.

Do Won’s ability to recognize opportunities even when they were far away was the single most important factor in his meteoric rise to the top, and he sealed the deal every time by making the decision to pursue those opportunities.

2. J.K Rowling: Author of the Harry Potter Series

Rowling at the White House in 2010

It is difficult to believe that the woman who contributed to some of the childhood memories of many children was having trouble paying rent while she was working on the Harry Potter books and movies. However, these children had the good fortune to grow up with Harry Potter.

J.K. Rowling struggled with mental illness, monetary issues, grief over the loss of her mother, and the responsibility of single-handedly rearing a child while subsisting on government assistance. She is the author of the Harry Potter series. She found solace in the fact that she could work on her writing while her daughter slept at the end of what had been a fairly trying journey.

After completing the first few chapters of the book, she submitted the manuscripts to publishers, but she was turned down by all of them. The Bloomsbury Publishing company finally gave in and agreed to publish the book, but not before warning Rowling that she should look for another job during the day because writing books for children is not enough to support a family.

The publication of the first book made it abundantly clear that the author would no longer require a day job. Rowling was the first author to reach the billionaire mark, and her successful series has sold at least 500 million copies across the globe. In addition, Rowling was the first author to reach the mark. Over 7.7 billion dollars have been made off of the series, and each of the subsequent movies has also brought in money in the billions.

Rowling’s own words provide a concise summary of her journey.

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling

3. George Soros: The Hedge Fund Tycoon That Escaped the Nazis

George Soros is known as the “Man who broke the Bank of England” due to the fact that he sold ten billion dollars worth of pound sterling currency during the Black Wednesday crisis that occurred in the United Kingdom in 1992. Simply from the proceeds of this sale, he made a billion-dollar profit.

It is difficult to fathom, when one looks at Soros’s current net worth, that he was born into a Jewish family in Hungary during the time that the Nazis occupied that country. His family came dangerously close to losing their lives on multiple occasions but were able to avoid it by using forged documents.

Following the conclusion of World War II, Soros relocated to London in 1947. There, he supported himself financially by working as a railway porter and a waiter while attending the London School of Economics.

After some time, he relocated to the United States, the country in which he was destined to build his fortune and become one of the most successful investors the history of the world has ever seen.

Since then, he has given more than 32 billion dollars to the Open Society Foundations, which has enabled it to contribute to the funding of organizations that advocate for democracy, equality, equal opportunity, education, and free society for all people.

If there is only one piece of financial guidance that you are able to take away from this story, let it be this:

“Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.”- George Soros.

4. Oprah Winfrey: The First African American Female Billionaire in History

Oprah in Miami on her "The Life You Want" tour, October 2014.

Oprah Winfrey was raised by her maternal grandmother for the first few years of her life after her mother, who was only a teenager when Oprah was born in 1954, was unable to care for her daughter. As a result of her grandmother’s illness, she was eventually relocated to live with her own mother.

At the age of 13, Oprah was forced to flee her home due to the extreme poverty she was living in and the sexual abuse she was receiving at the hands of family members. At the age of 14, she gave birth to her first child, who sadly passed away not long after.

During her time in high school and college, she was successful in a pageant competition, and she even began reading the news for a local radio station. Things began to look up for her after she took these steps. At this point, she had been successful in getting things started, and there was no turning back now.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she began her career as a news anchor and later moved on to become a chat show host for the talk show People Are Talking, which she and Richard Sher co-hosted.

The passage of time brought about an increase in both her popularity and her notoriety. It wasn’t too much longer before her own show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” began to gain popularity.

She has accumulated a net worth of $2.6 billion as of the year 2020 and is also the founder of the Oprah Winfrey Network.

5. Roman Abramovich: He Was an Orphan in Russia and Now Owns the Chelsea Soccer Team

The vast majority of Roman Abramovich’s fortune was amassed through the sale of steel and investments. He is a part owner of the Chelsea soccer team in the United Kingdom, the steel conglomerate Evraz, and Norilsk Nickel.

On the other hand, he began his journey as an orphan in Russia and dropped out of college to pursue a career in business. It was obvious that he had a talent for turning nothing into something profitable. This was demonstrated while he was serving in the military when he sold stolen gasoline to army officers for a profit. During that time, he was in the military.

Abramovich’s journey to the top of the Forbes Billionaires list began in earnest when he liquidated at least 20 different companies during the 1990s. This marked the beginning of his journey to the top of the list.

These acquisitions of established businesses were the first steps he took toward establishing a name for himself as an investment tycoon. Given that Roman’s parents did not leave him a single rouble in their will, it is fair to say that he has done pretty well for someone who did not inherit any money from them. His multiple investments have turned a profit of millions of dollars.

6. Grace Goner: The Story of the Woman Who Made Seven Million Dollars from an Investment of Only $180 in Stock

Grace Groner is remembered as the woman who was able to multiply her initial investment of $180 in Abbott stocks into a total of 7 million dollars over the course of her lifetime.

She was able to accomplish this goal with the assistance of dividend reinvestments, stock splits, and the shares’ inherent value appreciation.

When she passed away at the age of 100, her three initial shares had grown to more than 100,000 total shares. The fact that she left the majority of her wealth to her alma mater, Lake Forest College, is really what brought it to everyone’s attention. 

Even though she had millions of dollars in the bank, Grace’s life remained uncomplicated. She never carried herself in a manner befitting a millionaire. She didn’t own a car, she walked everywhere instead of driving, and she didn’t splurge on many ‘wants’ with her money.

The most important thing to take away from this is that it is better to have a straightforward plan that is adhered to for a longer period of time as opposed to a complex plan that is constantly revised.

Grace has maintained her stock holdings through thirteen economic downturns, numerous economic slumps, numerous wars, and who knows what else. Even the most experienced investor would have been forced to reevaluate their choice in light of this information; however, she maintained her composure throughout the entire process.

The only mistake Grace made was putting all of her eggs in the stock of one company (putting all of her eggs in a basket), but thankfully for her, it worked out. Grace’s mistake was not investing in more companies’ stocks.

7. John Paul DeJoria: He advocated for an end to the use of animals in research and founded a company to show that there was an alternative.

John Paul was a member of the first generation of Americans. He began his journey as an entrepreneur when he was under ten years old and began selling newspapers and Christmas cards in order to assist in the financial support of his family.

A few years later, he started working for the Redken factory, and as he was maturing, he became increasingly frustrated with the number of products that were tested on animals. Shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and pretty much any other cosmetic product that could be potentially dangerous were being legally tested on animals.

He made the decision to establish an alternative for those who shared his viewpoints. 1980 was the year that he and his friend Paul Mitchell took a loan of $700 from the company that he worked for and created his own brand, which they named John Paul Mitchell Systems. This brand was a cosmetic brand that did not test its products on animals. He sold products door-to-door while sleeping in his vehicle and quickly realized that his customers shared his enthusiasm for the product he was selling.

8. Steve Jobs: You Are Probably Reading This on a Device He Helped Create

Jobs onstage at Macworld Conference & Expo, San Francisco, January 11, 2005

He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, a couple based in California; Steve Jobs grew up in what is now known as Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs was born to parents who were immigrants and was adopted by them.

At a young age, his father introduced him to electronics, and from that point on, Jobs was constantly experimenting with new gadgets and tinkering with different devices. He was never one for formal education and quickly left college after only a short time there. During this time, he and Steve Wozniak established Apple Computer in the garage of his parent’s home.

However, right around this time, things began to go in a negative direction, which led to the company’s demise just as it was on its way to becoming a multi-million-dollar success story.

The poor performance of new products in the market was a contributing factor, but the failure of the Macintosh to sell was the final straw that caused the camel’s back to buckle. After having ongoing disagreements with the company’s board of directors, Jobs was pressured into retiring by the company’s CEO at the time, John Sculley.

After selling his shares and walking away from his creation, Steve Jobs went on to pursue a wide variety of other endeavors, such as the establishment of the NeXT Computer Company and the acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios.

Even though he was kept extremely busy by all of these projects, Jobs was always destined to work for Apple. After selling NeXT to Apple, he took over as CEO of the latter company. His return to Apple resulted in the production of iconic products that will live on in the annals of time. The iMac, the iPod, and the iPad are examples of some of these products.

Steve Jobs became a billionaire as a result of his innovative nature, which caused him to be ahead of his time at certain points in his journey but also contributed to his eventual success. It is estimated that Jobs’ net worth was close to $10.2 billion at the time of his death in 2011.

One of Steve Jobs’ most famous quotes serves as a succinct summary of his own rise to success:

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” -Steve Jobs

9. Leonardo Del Vecchio: Whose eyeglasses empire makes Ray-Bans and Oakleys, once lived in an orphanage.

Leonardo Del Vecchio, who is worth multiple billions of dollars, spent his childhood as the child of a widowed mother who struggled to make ends meet and eventually had to place him in an orphanage.

In order to put food on the table, Del Vecchio took a job in a factory where he manufactured molds for eyeglass frames and automobile parts.

He opened the doors to his very own molding shop when he was only 23 years old. This eyeglass frame shop would eventually evolve into Luxottica, the largest manufacturer, and retailer of sunglasses and prescription glasses in the world. Luxottica is responsible for producing popular brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley.

On June 27, 2022, Leonardo Del Vecchio passed away at the age of 87. At the time of his passing, his wealth was estimated by Forbes to be worth $25 billion.

10. Dolly Parton: First grew up in a poor family in rural Appalachia 

Dolly Parton accepting Liseberg Applause Award 2010

Dolly Parton was the fourth child out of a total of 12 to be born. Her parents, Robert Lee, and Avie Lee Owens, had a difficult time providing for their large family consistently.

After dropping out of school at a young age, Lee worked as a tobacco farmer and as a construction worker. According to a previous article published by Insider, Lee was illiterate and never learned to read or write. Her mother was the daughter of a preacher and devoted her life to the care of her children. Dolly Parton is her daughter.

Nevertheless, despite her humble beginnings, Parton was raised in an environment filled with musicians who supported and encouraged her aspirations. Her uncle Bill Owens secured Dolly Parton her first job, performing on “The Cas Walker Show” in Knoxville, Tennessee when she was only 10 years old.

She has won nine Grammy awards over the course of her six decades-long career in the entertainment industry. The majority of her impressive fortune comes from the sale of her music catalog. According to Forbes, the total value of her song catalog is thought to be approximately $150 million at this point.

According to Forbes, the singer’s estimated net worth as of the year 2022 was $375 million, but she is known for being extremely charitable with her money. In the year 2020, Parton made a contribution of one million dollars toward the development of a possible COVID-19 vaccine.


The ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity and flourish despite the absence of favorable circumstances is proven by the rags-to-riches stories. The stories serve as a lesson that teaches people that circumstances do not define the future and that with the proper mindset and a relentless pursuit of excellence, it is possible to create opportunities even in the most unfavorable of situations.

Even though every story is different, the underlying lesson that can be learned from them all is the same: success is not determined solely by where you begin; rather, it is determined by your willingness to dream big, take risks, and persevere in the face of adversity. As you continue to navigate your paths, let these stories remind you that the power to shape our destinies lies within your own hands and that the journey from rags to riches is a testament to the remarkable potential that resides within every individual.