The Billionaire Series: What some self-made billionaires were up to in their twenties

The Billionaire Series: What some self-made billionaires were up to in their twenties

Let’s be honest! At one time or another in our lives, each of us has pondered over the idea of becoming extremely rich. For most of us, it has been in our twenties. This is the time of our lives when we are extremely hooked by the idea of becoming a billionaire. But what about actual self-made billionaires? Were they obsessed with the same idea? If not, what were they doing in their twenties?



Del Vecchio was sent to an orphanage because his widowed mother couldn’t provide for him. He later found work at a factory, making molds, where he lost part of his finger. At 23, he opened his own molding shop, making eyeglass frames which expanded to become the world’s largest sunglasses brand.



Larry Ellison was born to a single mother who gave his custody to his aunt and uncle. When his adoptive mother died, he dropped out of college and moved to California from Chicago. He was 22 at the time and held several odd jobs for the next 8 years. ‘Oracle’ was the name of the database for a CIA project he undertook while working for Ampex Corporation.




Richard Branson dropped out of high school when he was 16. He was so mischievous that his headmaster predicted he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. When 22, he launched the record label Virgin Records and installed a recording studio. After 10 years, he left everyone dumbfounded when he announced entering the airline industry. He has overseen more than 500 companies in his nearly 5 decades long career.


RALPH LAUREN (Ralph Lauren)

Ralph Lauren dropped out of college to join the Army for 2 years. During his childhood, he dreamt of becoming a movie star. In his twenties he was working as a tie salesman. At 28, Lauren convinced the company’s president to let him start his own tie line which would later become a multibillion-dollar enterprise.



After graduating from high school, Jobs enrolled in Reed College but dropped out to visit India. He had become fascinated by Eastern spiritualism and took a part-time job designing video games for Atari in order to finance the trip. At 21, he co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak. They set up a shop in Steve’s garage and called the venture ‘Apple’ – inspired by a happy summer Steve spent at an apple orchard.



Shultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor. In his twenties, he was working as a sales representative for Xerox. Greatly inspired by Italy’s coffee culture, he opened his own coffee shop and later acquired Starbucks of which he was once a marketing manager. Today, Starbucks has more than 25,000 outlets across the world.


OPRAH WINFREY (The Oprah Winfrey Show)

Oprah was born into abject poverty. At 13, after suffering years of abuse, she ran away from home. She struggled hard to win a scholarship at the Tennessee State University and later became the first African-American TV correspondent in Tennessee. In her twenties, she was co-anchoring the six o’clock news at WJZ TV.


JACK MA (Alibaba)

Ma belonged to a poor family. After high school, he applied to college – but failed the entrance exam twice. In his twenties, he received more than a dozen job rejections – including from KFC which rejected only him out of the 24 total students who applied. He also got rejected from Harvard 10 times. he found success with Alibaba which now claims the title for the largest global IPO ever. As of 2017, Ma’s net worth surpasses $30 billion.



In his twenties, Bezos pursued his interest in computers at Princeton. During summers, he once worked at McDonald’s and hated it. After graduation, he worked for several firms including Fitel, Bankers Trust and D.E. Shaw. Quitting his job, he laid the foundation of Amazon in his garage.


ZHOU QUNFEI (Lens Technology)

Born to a poor family, she dropped out of school at 16. In her twenties, she started working for a small firm which made watch parts. At age 22, she started her own firm in a small apartment with her $3,000 savings. Now she supplies touch screens to Apple, Samsung and Huawei and has a net worth of $7.4 billion.

About The Author

Kingsley Alaribe is a Digital Marketer with 1stNews, and writes the weekly column, Strangers and Lovers. He is also a Data Scientist. Email: [email protected]

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