Born Poor, Drop Out and Got Rich - The Billionaire's Story

by Rod Low

It's a true fact that it's not where you are born or whom you are born to that determines how your life will be. Its what you do with your life that determines how your life will be. Not long ago, Forbes Magazine publishes a special report on The World's Billionaires. It's a snap shot of who's who of the super rich.

I have the privilege of studying their life stories and observe that many of them started out as either a poor boy from the neighborhood or a high school dropout. In this article, you too will have the privilege to read about them and hopefully get inspired by Their Billionaire Story.

The IKEA Story

IKEA Founder Ingvar Kamprad made headlines in early 2004 when Swedish business magazine Veckans Affarer reported that he had surpassed Bill Gates as the world's wealthiest person. While IKEA's unconventional ownership structure makes this the matter of some debate, there is no doubt that IKEA is still one of the largest, most successful privately held companies in the world, with over 200 stores in 31 countries, employing over 75,000 people and generating over 12 billion in sales annually.

Kamprad was born in the South of Sweden in 1926 and brought up on a farm called Elmtaryd, near the small village of Agunnaryd. Kamprad began to develop a business as a young boy, selling matches to neighbors from his bicycle. He found that he could buy matches in bulk very cheaply from Stockholm, sell them individually at a low price and still make a good profit. From matches, he expanded to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds and later ball-point pens and pencils. When Kamprad was 17, his father gave him a reward for succeeding in his studies. He used this money to establish what has grown into IKEA.

The name IKEA was formed from Kamprad's initials (I.K.) plus the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, the farm and village where he grew up. He continued to expand his business to a variety of goods, including wallets, watches, jewelry and stockings. When he outgrew his ability to call on his customers individually, he converted to a sort of makeshift mail order operation, hiring the local milk van to make his deliveries.

Kamprad has a reputation for being, well, "cheap". He takes the subway to work, and when he drives, it's an old Volvo. Rumor is that when he stays in a hotel, if he feels the urge to drink one of those expensive sodas from the wet bar, he replaces it later with one picked up from a nearby convenience store. He also encourages IKEA employees always to write on both sides of a paper.

Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at US$33 billion, making him the 4th richest man in the world.

Las Vegas Sands story

Sheldon Gary Adelson is an American businessman. He is a property developer and public company CEO based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns and operates the Venetian Casino Resort and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Adelson vastly increased his net worth upon the initial public offering of Las Vegas Sands in December 2004 by selling just 10% of the shares.

In addition, on May 26, 2006, Adelson's Las Vegas Sands was awarded a hotly contested license to construct a casino resort in Singapore's Marina Bay. The new casino is expected to open in 2009 at a rumored cost of $3.16 billion.

Adelson was born to a poor Jewish family, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Son of a Boston cabdriver, he borrowed $200 from his uncle to sell newspapers at age 12. In the years that followed, he worked as a mortgage broker, investment adviser and financial consultant. To this point in his career, Adelson has created and developed to maturity more than 50 different companies, including COMDEX, a tradeshow he developed with his partners for the computer industry. Adelson together with his partners directed COMDEX to become the world's largest trade show with a presence in more than 20 countries.

According to Forbes magazine, Adelson is the 6th richest person and the third richest American in the world, with a net worth estimated at US $26.5 billion in 2007. Forbes estimates he has been earning about $1 million an hour for the past two years.

The Zara Story

The son of a railroad worker and a maid, Amancio Ortega received no formal higher education. He began his remarkable career as a teenager in La Coruña, Spain, the traditional center of the Iberian textile industry. When he was 13 years old he worked as a delivery boy for a shirt maker who produced clothing for the rich. He later worked as a draper's and tailor's assistant. In seeing firsthand how costs mounted as garments moved from designers to factories to stores, Ortega learned early on the importance of delivering products directly to customers without using outside distributors. He would later employ such a strategy with great success at Zara, attempting to control all of the steps in textile production in order to cut costs and gain speed and flexibility.

In the early 1960s Ortega became the manager of a local clothing shop, where he noticed that only a few wealthy residents could afford to buy the expensive clothes. Thus he started producing similar items at lower prices, purchasing cheaper fabric in Barcelona and cutting out pieces by hand using cardboard patterns. Ortega then sold his items to local shops; he used the profits to start his first factory in 1963 at the age of 27.

In 1975 Ortega opened his first Zara shop across the street from La Coruña's most important department store; he would become renowned for choosing the best locations for his outlets. By 1989 Ortega had opened nearly one hundred stores in Spain.

Ortega had a reputation as a private and secretive man. He never granted interviews to the media, and the company released very little personal information about its founder and chairman. For decades there was only one known photograph of Ortega in circulation. When the company issued its first annual report in 1999, a new photograph finally appeared.

Ortega rarely attended official events. When the Spanish Prince Felipe called on Inditex headquarters, the royal visitor was received by one of Ortega's representatives.

Ortega was also known for being a down-to-earth boss. He never wore a tie to work; indeed his wedding was reportedly the last time he had donned one. He hated working with investment bankers in preparation for the initial public offering of Inditex stock. One banker told the Financial Times, "We could see it was absolute torture for him" (April 28, 2001). Even on the first day of the sale of Inditex stock in 2001, when Ortega became the richest man in Spain, he did not celebrate in grand style. Rather he went to work, watched the news on television for 15 minutes to find out that he had just earned $6 billion, and then ate lunch in the company cafeteria.

According to Forbes magazine, Ortega is the 8th richest person and the richest Spaniard in the world, with a net worth estimated at US $24 billion in 2007.

Rich as they may seem, but their poor start leaves a message that says "its not where you started, its where you end up, that is important".

Filed under: Business , Success , Wealth
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About Rod Low

Roderick works as a Business Executive in Talentpreneur Hub, a company based in Singapore that helps youths turn their talent into business. A student of Personal Development, he hope to enrich himself by enriching others.

In order to live, breath, eat, sleep Personal Development, he has created a blog to share his articles, insights and opinions on the subject.

Do visit his blog @ http://mindchic.blogspot.com/

Recent articles by Rod Low

Sep 6, 2007 Let The Dogs Teach You About Positive Mental Attitude
Aug 31, 2007 Born Poor, Drop Out and Got Rich - The Billionaires Story Part 2
Aug 22, 2007 The Power Of Belief
Aug 16, 2007 10 Reasons Why You Can't Get What You Want
Aug 8, 2007 How To Raise Your Own Salary
View all of Rod Low's articles »
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