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Highly Successful Entrepreneurs Who Used to Be Homeless

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Highly Successful Entrepreneurs Who Used to Be Homeless

The origins of successful entrepreneurs vary from person to person. But did you know that the following successes were homeless at one point?

1. Tyler Perry

Tyler_Perry_-_army_mil-66455-2010-03-09-180359

    Image courtesy of Sgt. Michael Connors, via Wikimedia Commons

    Known for portraying “Madea,” Tyler Perry has amassed fortunes, fame, and fun in his career in the entertainment industry. He’s gained fame as an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, producer, author, and songwriter, specializing in the gospel genre.

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    Perry’s entered the entertainment industry in 1992 as a playwright. After listening to an episode of Oprah, where the daytime talk show host suggested that writing things down was cathartic, he decided to write his first play. I Know I’ve Been Changed was about the pain and shortcomings Perry had experienced in life.

    He was homeless for months at a time and spent many nights in pay-by-the-week hotels or in his car. He used the little money he had to get I Know I’ve Been Changed into a local theater in New Orleans, but he couldn’t seem to draw an audience to the play. However, his persistence and perseverance paid off in 1998. During a limited showing of the play, audiences began to show up in big numbers. The play was so successful, it then moved to the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

    Since 1998, Perry has written 13 additional plays and 12 films. In 2008, he opened his own entertainment studio in Atlanta, with a 400 employee workforce behind him.

    2. Dani Johnson

    successful entrepreneur
      Courtesy of Dani Johnson media kit

      If you don’t believe you can go from living out of your car with $2 in your pocket to becoming a millionaire at 23 years old, then take a look at Dani Johnson. Her life was marred by sexual abuse from her stepfather, teenage pregnancy, and being homeless, but she didn’t allow that to stop her from finding success. In fact, Johnson has turned the obstacles she’s faced into lessons and speeches that empower others to strive for greatness.

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      Johnson’s first brush with success came after she began marketing products for a health company from the back of her car. She soon became the company’s top salesperson. Her success sparked interest from others who wanted to know how to duplicate her achievements. Johnson decided to launch her own training company to teach her business skills to others. The training company later lead to the development of her own health and nutrition marketing company.

      The success of both companies turned Johnson into a multimillionaire by the age of 23.

      3.  Suze Orman

      successful entrepreneur

        Courtesy of Suze Orman media kit

        When it comes to personal finances, Suze Orman is one of the persons you think of first. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for money has made her a multimillionaire, but her road to fame and success was not easy. She had to overcome several roadblocks — including a speech impediment that caused poor performance in school, dropping out of college, and living as a homeless person.

        Growing up, Orman struggled to pronounce her R’s, S’s, and T’s properly, which hampered her reading ability throughout the student years. According to Orman, she didn’t score well on her SAT exam. This limited the colleges she could attend to either a community college or a state school. She was accepted into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but ran into another challenge her senior year: She hadn’t fulfilled her language requirement. Despite what some may consider a radical decision, she decided to drop out and take a cross-country road trip.

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        Orman ended up in California, where she found her first job at a tree service making $3.50 an hour. She couldn’t afford to find a place to stay, so she and a friend lived out of the truck she had bought.

        Orman later found a job as a waitress, which inspired her to want to open her own restaurant. Through donations she raised a total of $50,000, putting the money into a brokerage account. However, the broker mishandled her money and lost it all in three months. This caused Orman to develop a curiosity for how brokers operate. She studied the field and learned all she could about Wall Street.

        Orman later interviewed for a job as a broker and was hired, making $1500 a month. She became one of the most successful brokers at Merrill Lynch. After leaving the company, she used her knowledge of finance to teach people through TV, books, and seminars about how to effectively manage their money.

        4. Howard Schultz

        successful entrepreneur

          Courtesy of Starbucks Newsroom

          Howard Schultz is another example of the amazing amount of success you can gain by simply not allowing your situation to get you down. As a kid growing up in New York City, Schultz and his family were poor. They stayed in public housing and struggled to make ends meet. After graduating from high school, Schultz became the first in his family to attend college — with the help of an athletic scholarship to Northern Michigan University.

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          After a successful stint at Xerox, he took on a management role at a coffee manufacturer that worked with Starbucks at the time. He was impressed with the coffee chain that consisted of only four stores. It inspired him to open his own coffee shop, but he had one problem — money. It would cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars to open his own coffee business.

          Following years of dedication to raise the money necessary to open his first shop, he finally had enough. In 1986, he opened Il Giornale and within years he had bought the Starbucks chain and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business.

          Today, Starbucks is the universal name for gourmet coffee.

          Featured photo credit: Dani Johnson via danijohnson.com

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