After his father lost his job, this Scottish-American industrialist started to work at a cotton mill for 12 hours and six days a week when he was only 13 years old. Hired later as a telegraph messenger at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, he was able to climb the corporate ladder where he used his earnings to invest in ventures that led him to build an empire in the steel industry, including his large-scale philanthropic legacy.
Born to unwed teenage parents in Mississippi, this media mogul wore dresses that her grandmother made out of potato sacks. After being molested, she ran away at the age of 13 and became a mother at 14, but her son died in infancy. Sent to live with her father, a barber in Tennessee, she got a full scholarship in college, won a beauty pageant, and was discovered by a radio station. Her empire is now worth $2.7 billion which she shares with the world through her philanthropic works.
Maria Das Gracas Silva Foster
Born in the poverty-stricken shantytown of Morro do Adeus, Brazil to an alcoholic father, she earned extra money by collecting cans and paper to continue her studies. She broke the barriers of the corporate ladder when she was hired as an intern at Petrobras, an oil company, in 1978 and became the first female head of the department of engineering. Foster also became one of the world’s most influential people as the first female CEO of Petrobras.
During the Great Depression, Sam Walton and his family lived on a farm in Oklahoma where he milked the family cow and delivered bottles to customers to make ends meet. He joined J.C. Penney three days after graduating from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors in Economics. After World War II, with capital of $25,000 that he borrowed from his father along with the $5,000 that he saved from the U.S. Army, he bought a Ben Franklin variety store which he expanded into the retailer giant Walmart and the membership-only retailer warehouse Sam’s Club.
Born without knowing his real father, he was driven out of his home by his abusive stepfather. He enlisted in the Navy and later became a medical supplies salesman. Due to the slump in his job and with his own family to support, he became interested in stock broking after seeing a stockbroker with a Ferrari. His travails of sleeping in a subway station bathroom, being homeless, passing the licensing exam for stockbrokers, and becoming employed by Bear Sterns was documented in his memoirs, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which became a hit movie as well.