BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 09: Jay Z performs at NIA Arena on October 9, 2013 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ollie Millington/WireImage)

The 10 Entrepreneurs That Actually Started From The Bottom

Preston Waters

The catchphrase “started from the bottom” seems to have turned ubiquitous because the man himself, Drake, turned it into something cool to say. The best part about it is that Drake didn’t even start from the bottom. He’s from Canada, he was a child TV star and he’s Jewish — last time I checked that doesn’t sound like rock bottom to me.

Just because you like the lyrics of the song and because you think you have actually come far in your life, chances are that you haven’t if you are uploading Instagram pictures of yourself and writing, “starting from the bottom now we here.” Most people buy things renovated, but there are those people who build it ground up, those are the ones that have really started from the bottom.

To start from the bottom means to actually come from nothing. It means to be an underdog in this world, to have your back up against the wall. It’s when most people feel no hope or that they will never be able to amount to anything because of the position they are in. That is the bottom; it means you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

It means you actually put it all on the line to create a better life for yourself and those around you that you care about most. It’s about not settling for the bullshit that life gives you and writing your own script. Making your stamp in this world.

Starting from the bottom is all about creating something from nothing. It’s the evolution of humans when you really think about it. Look around you, nothing that exists just magically appeared, it was created because something comes from nothing. Here are the top 10 entrepreneurs that truly came from the bottom — and spoiler alert: Drake, you are not on this list.

Steve Jobs

The man behind all the gadgets that you love dearly was not an overnight success and didn’t have everything in his favor when he first started out. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t have your iPod, iPhone, iPad or your Macbook. Jobs didn’t have an easy life; he was an orphan that was adopted by a poor family. He never finished college, dropping out after 18 months to take random, creative classes (such as that calligraphy, which he said is one of the main reasons why the graphics look so great on Apple devices). He was dropping in on these classes and just grabbing as much knowledge as possible without actually getting a grade in them. During the course of that he slept on the floor of friends’ dorm rooms, returning Coke bottles for food money, and getting weekly free meals at the local temple. Afterwards he decided that he would start the largest technology company on the planet in his parents’ garage. Jobs started Apple Computers in 1976 with his partner Steve Wolzniak. With barely any money to their name and no VC behind them, Jobs had a vision and an innovative idea to change the world. Jobs has been the brains behind Apple’s success and is one of the main reasons the company is so successful today.


Jay-Z is one of the most successful musicians of all time and has built an empire. But besides all the glitz and glamor, and being seen as someone who is cool because he is married to Beyoncé and wears all black everything, this man came from absolutely nothing. Jay-Z is originally from Marcy Houses, which was one of the worst project areas of Brooklyn New York. He was raised by his mother after his father abandoned him. At the age of 12, it is even said that he shot someone for trying to steal his jewelry. Jay Z was a thug; he never graduated high school and was selling crack-cocaine back in his day. Growing up in an area such as Marcy Projects is no easy task. According to his mother, when he was younger he always had a passion for music. He was banging out drum patterns on kitchen tables. His mother bought him a boom box for his birthday, which sparked his interest in music spurring him to write lyrics and freestyle. He had no major record label behind him and was selling CDs out of his car. It has been a long road for this man, but he always had his eye on the prize and has become one of the most successful musicians of our generation.

John Paul DeJoria

You haven’t seen the bottom until you have seen John Paul DeJoria. This man went from being an average nobody to one of the richest men in the world. He worked as a newspaper courier during his younger years and then took jobs as a janitor and a tow-truck driver just to put food on his table. During his youth he was also involved in street gangs in Los Angeles. While he was working for a hair care company, he decided to partner up with one of the hair stylists he was working with to create the company of what is now known to be Paul Mitchell. The two took out a $700 dollar loan and created a company that now generates a billion dollars in annual sales. DeJoria now also owns Patron Tequila, which sells more than 2 million cases a year. He has risen from the depths of homelessness to amass a net worth of $4 billion dollars.

Jacob Arabo

The man also known as Jacob the Jeweler and the King Of Bling is also a man who came from nothing to become one of the most successful jewelry entrepreneurs of our time. Immigrating to America at the age of 14 from the country of Uzbekistan, Jacob was the youngest child with 4 older sisters. He and his family were broke when they came to this country. Not even finishing the 10th grade, Jacob dropped out of high school to go out there to work so that he could feed his family. At the age of 16, he got introduced to the jewelry industry where he started designing and selling his own jewelry. By the age of 18 he had his own operation and had more than 10 people already working for him creating jewelry. This was his passion and this was the industry he stayed in to become one of the most famous jewelers of our time and to create the worldwide brand known as Jacob and Co., having a client list from the likes of David Beckham to Jay-Z. Not bad for a man who’s not even from here.

Kevin Plank

It’s a funny story about Kevin Plank, who is the CEO and the founder of the company known as Under Armor. The reason he created his moisture holding athletic shirts is because he was known as the sweaty guy during football practice and was being poked fun at by the other guys. So he decided to create a t-shirt that would prevent that. The man was flat broke when the orders started coming in for his new athletic wear. He started the company with just $20,000 in cash and another $40,000 in credit card debt. Plank was so broke that he was scoring meals at his mom’s house to eat. With hard work and determination, he managed to carve out a niche of the athletic apparel market for Under Armor. Kevin Plank now has a net worth just shy of $500 million dollars.

Michael Dell

Dell founder Michael Dell got his start working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant for an incredible $2.30 per hour. During his high school years, Dell raked in $18,000 in Houston Post sales, which was enough to buy a car and three computer systems. Once in college Dell started PCs Limited in his dorm room. Before long the young company showed enough promise to inspire Dell to drop out of college at 19, taking a loan from his grandmother and re-naming the business to Dell Computer.

Oprah Winfrey

Many forget what Oprah really had to go through to get where she is today. She rose from a life of hardship and adversity to become one of today’s most influential TV hosts and media moguls. The daughter of an unwed teenage mother from rural Mississippi, Winfrey had to overcome poverty, sexual abuse and her own teenage pregnancy. Today, she is considered one of the richest African Americans of the 20th century, and one of the most powerful celebrities in the world. In addition to publishing two magazines, she runs her own production company as well as the television network, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in collaboration with Discovery Communications.

Sam Walton

If ever an entrepreneur rose up from humble beginnings, it was Sam Walton. The Walmart founder came from a poor family and began helping his family put food on the table at a very early age and held many jobs at one time. Among those jobs were milking the family cows, bottling the milk and then delivering it to paying customers. Later, Walton would take to his bike to complete a daily paper delivery route. He also sold magazine subscriptions on the side, perhaps building some early sales skills that proved crucial later on. Upon graduating high school, Walton was voted the “most versatile boy” in his class. Walton continued working odd jobs early in college, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. Walton got his first start in retail opening up his first general variety store in 1945, which he opened with just $25,000. Only $5,000 of the money was Walton’s; he borrowed $20,000 from his father-in-law. This turned out to be a great investment, as Walton was an instant success at retailing.

Larry Ellison

Much of Larry Ellison’s early life was marked by the perception that he would never amount to anything. Many even referred to him as a “…seemingly aimless young man” who dropped out of high school after his mother passed away. However, unbeknownst to Ellison’s father, the young boy had developed a stunning aptitude for math and science, which paved the way for his first job as a technician at Wells Fargo. His programming duties at Ampex even saw Ellison participating in “building the first IBM-compatible mainframe system.”

Howard Shultz

Howard Shultz is the founder and CEO of Starbucks. Today, he has a net worth of $1.1 billion, but he spent his childhood in Brooklyn, New York in the Canarsie Bayview Housing Projects. The son of a truck driver, Schultz’s first big break came with a sports scholarship to Northern Michigan University where he earned a degree in communications. After graduation, he took a position as the director of marketing at a small Seattle coffee bean shop called Starbucks. But Shultz left in frustration after they failed to share his vision of opening cafes that would serve coffee, espresso and tea. Instead, Schultz opened his own coffee shop, Il Giornale in 1985. Just two years later he was able to purchase Starbucks from the original owners and start building the ubiquitous coffee brand that we know today.

Top Photo Credit: Getty Images

Preston Waters



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