1. Andrew Carnegie
You probably recognize Andrew Carnegie’s name, since he’s one of the most famous and richest industrialists of all time. However, he didn’t accumulate his wealth as a result of formal education or a business-charged background. Instead, he dropped out of school at a young age and spent the major portion of his youth performing manual labor. He was a bobbin boy at a local cotton mill and then became a telegraph messenger. It wasn’t until he taught himself how to read and entered the railroad industry that he began to build the empire that would make him (and his family) a fortune.
2. John Paul DeJoria
You may not have heard of John Paul DeJoria, but you’ve certainly indulged in some of the beauty products attached to his name. Now a multi-billionaire and one of the most accomplished entrepreneurs in modern history, DeJoria got his start as a newspaper courier. To make ends meet, he worked as a tow truck driver and a janitor. Eventually, he found his way to working at a hair-care company, where he met his future partner, Paul Mitchell. With minimal experience and a $700 loan, the duo founded a company now known as John Paul Mitchell Systems. From there, DeJoria co-founded Patron Spirits and the House of Blues.
3. Harland Sanders
If someone asked you for a loan to start a restaurant, but had no formal culinary training or experience, would you make that loan? It seems crazy to think anyone could become a successful restauranteur without a background in the industry, but that’s exactly what Harlan “Colonel” Sanders was able to do. When he started his line of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, the only experience he had was cooking for his siblings as a child and working at a number of odd jobs.
4. Joyce Hall
The founder of Hallmark Cards didn’t come from an extensive background of writing greeting cards, nor did he — yes, this Joyce was a “he” — have much experience as a businessman. Instead, he got his start selling perfume to his neighbors, then started a business wholesaling postcards to gift shops and bookstores. It was only after a fire destroyed most of his stock that he resorted to making his own cards. From there, he was able to launch a chain that made him millions.
5. Jan Koum
Jan Koum doesn’t get as much press or attention as other tech company founders, but his story is both surprising and impressive. Koum immigrated to California with his family after leaving a small village in Ukraine. He didn’t have much of an education, but managed to teach himself the fundamentals of computer science in his spare time. When he was 18, despite his lack of formal education or training, he was able to attract the attention of Yahoo!, where he cut his teeth as an infrastructure engineer. After a few years working in the then-new computer industry, Koum saw the potential of creating his own app, and launched WhatsApp. In 2014, he sold it for $19 billion.