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From the Ground Up: Entrepreneurs Who Started with Nothing

The “American Dream” is built on the premise of pursuing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while the old adage that “money can’t buy happiness” is true, it can certainly buy a bunch of stuff that will make you happy.


It’s incredibly easy to sit back, look at rich, successful people and wish that you could have their resources. What you may not realize is that those billionaires weren’t all born billionaires; some of them came from nothing and through hard work and determination built the massive wealth we see today. Being wealthy doesn’t have to be about what you have today; it’s about what you’re willing to do.


Jan Koum


Jan Koum was born in a small Ukrainian village to a single income couple. Tired of living in a home where they often had no access to hot water, Koum and his mother immigrated to California when he was only 16 years old. To help support them, Koum swept floors at a local grocery store and they often survived on food stamps.


Within two years of coming to America Jan had become a skilled computer hacker. He parlayed that skill set into a job with Yahoo where he earned enough money to buy an iPhone and soon realized how lucrative inventing an app could be. In February of 2014, Jan sold his creation, WhatsApp to Facebook for $14 billion.


Do Wan Chang and Jin Snook


Do Wan Chang and Jin Snook moved from Korea to America in 1981. The married couple barely survived with Do Wan working three low paying jobs as a gas station attendant, janitor, and at a coffee shop. They launched their first clothing store in 1984 and did over $700,000 in sales. That brand became known as Forever 21 and now has the couple at a net worth of over $5 billion.


Ingvar Kampra


Ingvar Kamprad grew up selling his neighbors anything he could get his hands on. This young man took money that his father gave him for earning good grades and started a mail order business. He figured out how to lower costs and turned that idea into Ikea, and was once one of the world’s richest men with a worth of $3.9 billion.


None of these people were wealthy when they started, and you don’t have to be either. You just need to be determined, passionate, and relentless. You can be successful even if you start with nothing.