31 — Mark Zuckerberg
There’s little need in the way of an introduction to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, what can be considered as the world’s most successful site that reaches nearly the whole connected world. He was also the inspiration for the popular movie, The Social Network.
However, while Zuckerberg is considered wildly famous, rich and popular today, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, shortly after starting up Facebook, which started as thefacebook.com, Zuckerberg was sued by Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narenda, resulting in an enormous level of frustration and stress. That case was later settled for 1.2 million Facebook shares.
Before launching thefacebook.com, Zuckerberg created Facemash, a system that allowed students to pick the better looking person from a set of photos, either male or female. However, students complained that the photos were being used without their consent, and it was later shut down by Harvard, forcing Zuckerberg to issue apologies and for the student paper to call the site “completely improper.”
However, Facebook’s success in undeniable. Zuckerberg is now amongst the world’s richest individuals, far surpassing anything he might have envisioned his success to be.
32 — Mary Kay Ash
Born in 1918, Mary Kay Ash, born Mary Kathlyn Wagner, was the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, a direct-selling, multi-level marketing cosmetics company based in Addison, Texas. After marrying early on in life, in 1935, at the age of 17-years old, she became a housewife, had two children, and would later go on to sell books door-to-door when her husband was fighting in the war.
However, in 1945, she divorced, and eventually went to work for a company called Stanley Home Products. Yet in 1963, at the age of 45-years old, she retired. She had been passed up for a promotion and instead of continuing what she felt to be a dead-end career, she decided to write a book instead. That book turned into what would be her business plan for the business she intended to start with her new husband, Mel Ash.
However, Mel died just a month before the new business was set to start. One month after he died, she took the plunge by taking a $5,000 investment from her eldest son, Richard Rogers. She opened up her first storefront in Dallas and created the company to help empower women to succeed in a marketplace that was very much in favor of men.
Mary Kay Cosmetics grew beyond her wildest dreams. Today, the company has over 3 million consultants around the world with sales topping $3 billion annually. By 1968, the company had gone public, but was later taken private again after 17 years as a public company.
33 — Michael Jordan
Born 1963, Michael Jordan is a former professional basketball player and also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets team. Called “the greatest basketball player of all time,” Jordan’s professional career is something for the history books, with a game play that will likely be unmatched and unrivaled for decades to come.
Jordan is credited with once saying that,”I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
At the age of 15-years old, while a sophomore in high school, Jordan was passed up for the varsity basketball team, instead being assigned to the junior varsity team. He cried after he saw that list without his name on it. But instead of giving up, his mom convinced him to push forward. Every time he thought about stopping his training, he would picture that list without his name on it.
He was able to take failure in stride. He allowed it to push him rather than to entirely defeat him. At the age of 21-years old, he entered the NBA as a professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, where he would go on to win six championship titles and become one of the most impactful players to ever grace the courts.
34 — Milton Hershey
Born 1857, Milton Hershey is the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was early on in life, while working on the family’s farm, that he learned the values of persistence and hard work, carrying that with him throughout his life during his elder years.
Milton Hershey left school after just two-and-a-half years, instead opting to apprentice with a local printer. One day, he dropped his hat on accident into one of the machines there and was subsequently fired from that job. That was 1871 and Hershey was just 14-years old at the time.
After working for a candy factory near Lancaster, he decided to start his own business, opening a candy store close to Philadelphia. That business failed. He left town and headed to New Orlean’s and then Chicago. Unable to find the right opportunities, he continued moving around until he settled in New York City where he started working for Huyler’s, a candy and restaurant chain.
After a few years on the job, he quit and decided to sell candies on the street in New York City but was also unsuccessful at that as well. Disheartened by failure, Hershey moved back to the farm where he grew up, experimenting with chocolates and candies, considering he had a large supply of fresh milk from the dairy cows. It was here that he learned how to make delicious chocolates from condensed milk.
In 1893, at the age of 36-years old, he established the Lancaster Caramel Company, which he eventually sold for one million dollars seven years later in 1900, giving him the ability to start the Hershey Chocolate Company. When Hershey Chocolate Company first opened its doors, Hershey was 43-years old. Success didn’t come early for Hershey, nor did it come easy. But Hershey’s chocolates are still today one of the most famous and best-tasting brands of chocolate in the world.
35 — Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey was born in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to a single teenaged mother. Winfrey grew up in a sheer state of utter poverty for most of her childhood life, living with her grandmother during those years. When she was 6-years old, she moved in with her mother in Wisconsin, about the time her mother had another daughter, becoming Winfrey’s half-sister.
During those early years, Winfrey says she was sexually molested by her cousin, her uncle and a family friend. At the age of 13-years old, she ran away from home. At 14-years old, she was pregnant and gave birth prematurely to a baby that died shortly after birth.
At the age of 17-years old, she won a beauty pageant and interned at a radio station, creating a love for the media, and eventually landing a job after college as a news anchor in Nashville. After college, she moved to Baltimore to co-anchor the news, but was later removed by the producer for being unfit for television.
In 1983, at the age of 29-years old, she relocated to Chicago and took over a fledgling show called, AM Chicago, which would ultimately become the, Oprah Winfrey Show. She became the highest-ranked talkshow in Chicago. Today, she is a multi-billionaire and has had a major impact on a large part of world.
Oprah was able to overcome multiple failures in her life, but didn’t give up. Because of it, she reached international fame and is known around the world as a household name.
36 — Richard Branson
Richard Branson, born in 1950, is an English billionaire entrepreneur and business magnate well known around the world for being one of the most famous and successful individuals at the helm of a global brand, Virgin Group, with businesses in a wide variety of fields such as music, telecom, hospitality and travel.
In the late 1960’s, Branson started the Student magazine, where he interviewed prominent people. He also started to sell records through the magazine at a discounted rate, helping it result in an overnight success. Branson opened a record shop in 1971, but was labeling records sold as export stock, and thus had to pay a hefty fine and unpaid taxes. His mother had to re-mortgage the house to help his son pay the settlement cost with the government.
Ultimately, however, the Virgin Records store was a success, and it allowed him to create his own record label. By 1992, at the age of 42-years old, he had created Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin Megastores. But in order to keep the airline afloat, he was pressured into selling the record label or have to suffer a major financial failure and loss in the airline industry. He sold the label to EMI for £500 million and was completely distraught after this because the record business was his first foray into the business world.
Eventually, the airline succeeded and the Virgin brand today is synonymous with value and customer service, also making Branson one of the richest people on the planet. He simply refused to give up, even through all the failures and the setbacks.
37 — Robert T. Kiyosaki
Born in 1947, Robert Kiyosaki is an entrepreneur, investor and the wildly-popular author who wrote the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. He also founded the Rich Dad Company, which provides financial education to children and adults, along with creating the Cashflow board game, which helps to instill the same educational concepts as much of the books in a game format.
Yet before all that fame, Kiyosaki faced a number of failures along the way. His road to fame and wealth was wrought with a number of setbacks and defeats. In 1977, at the age of 30-years old, Kiyosaki started a company that sold surfer’s wallets, with nylon and velcro, but failed to intellectually protect the products. Facing stiff competition, that company eventually went bankrupt.
Afterwards, he started a company selling t-shirts and hats and other licensed products for heavy metal rock groups. That company also went bankrupt in 1980. He was 33-years old at the time. In 1985, at the age of 38-years old, he started a financial education company to teach investors and entrepreneurs various strategies for investing in real estate and other financial products. In 1994, at the age of 47-years old, he sold that company and began his investing and writing career.
However, it wasn’t until 1997, at the age of 50-years old, when he penned the Rich Dad Poor Dad book, that he achieved international notoriety. The book has since sold over 26 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 51 languages.
38 — Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z
Born in 1969, Shawn Carter, also known as Jay-Z, is an American singer, songwriter and entrepreneur who’s sold over 100 million records and rose up against extraordinary odds to succeed in life. While quite possibly considered as one of the most famous and successful rappers of all time, his early life was dominated by a string of failures and unstable family life that led to a career of dealing drugs.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Carter grew up in the housing projects known as the Marcy Houses in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. After his father had abandoned the family, it was his mother that raised him and his three siblings. He became passionate about music early on, appearing on several early recordings of artists such as Jaz-O and Big Daddy Kane’s, Daddy’s Home.
However, while wanting to pursue a record career, he realized that no label wanted to sign him, so he opted instead to selling CDs out of the trunk of his car. Every major label had turned him down, so he did what any enterprising young individual would do that was committed to succeeding — he co-founded his own label called Roc-A-Fella Records.
Once the label had been setup, he sought out to find a distribution partner, which was no easy task. Ultimately, after finding one, Jay-Z released his debut album entitled, Reasonable Doubt, which reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and it eventually hit platinum status, with Rolling Stones calling it one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. This was the start of a long and very successful career.
39 — Soichiro Honda
Born in 1906, Soichiro Honda was a Japanese inventor and industrialist who created the automotive empire by his namesake — Honda Motor Company. However, while Honda’s company has certainly grown to rival even that of Toyota, Honda’s earliest days were anything but easy. Yet, it was his perseverance and his tenacity to never give up that kept him going and helped him to ultimately succeed.
Without any formal education to his name, at the age of 15-years old, Honda left home to head for Tokyo to search for work, which he later found at an auto repair shop where he apprenticed and worked for the next 6 years before returning home to open up his own automotive shop.
During the Great Depression, in 1937, at the age of 31-years old, he founded, Tōkai Seiki to create piston rings for Toyota. He toiled and labored night and day to create these, but to no avail. With little cash and bleak chances for survival, he had to pawn his wife’s ring just to make ends meet. He failed ultimately, and was told that the rings didn’t meet Toyota’s specifications.
However, he refused to give up. He went back to school and continued to search for ways to improve upon his prior designs. Eventually, after two more years of designing and trying, he succeeded and successfully secured a contract with Toyota to create the piston rings.
But shortly thereafter, his factory that he built to build the products was hit by a bomb during WWII when a B-29 bomber run carpeted the area. After he rebuilt the factory a second time, an earthquake leveled it. But he refused to give up. Instead, he created a motorized bicycle that would become the start of the Honda motorcycle.
40 — Stephen King
Born in 1947, Stephen King is one of the most famous and successful authors of all time. He’s sold over 350 million books but had an unorthodox start to his writing career. In fact, after a subsequent string of failures, Stephen King was all but ready to give up on his hopes and his dreams of becoming a published author.
King was so passionate about writing, that he worked tirelessly to get his worked published. He was rejected so often, however, that by the time he turned 14-years old, a nail supporting his rejection letters on the wall, could no longer bear their weight. Eventually, he replaced the nail with a spike and continued to hang his rejection letters.
After completing his studies at the University of Maine in 1970, at the age of 23-years old, he got himself a teaching certificate, but he was unable to find any work teaching. Instead, he worked for a laundry service while his wife went to work at Dunkin’ Donuts, writing short stories in his spare time.
In 1973, King finally secured a teaching job, however he continued to write when an idea came to his mind. When the idea for his first book, Carrie, a story about a girl with telekinetic powers, first came to him, he had envisioned creating it as a short story for a magazine like, Playboy. But after beginning the story, he realized it was going to need to be longer than the format would call for in Playboy.
One day, after being so frustrated with the story, he crumpled it up and threw it into the garbage, only later to be retrieved by his wife, telling him that he should continue the work and finish it. Upon completion, 30 publishers rejected the book. Eventually, he got published by Doubleday and received a $2,500 advance. A short time after, he was told that he would receive $200,000 for the rights to that book.