Everyone dreams of earning a fortune, but some people actually do it. Good old-fashioned hard work, paired with a really great idea, can seriously pay off.
Once ordinary, these people went out on a limb, and were handsomely rewarded for their efforts. Take note of the legendary ways these creative geniuses struck it rich, and get inspired to build an empire of your own.
Warren Buffett: Picking Great Stocks
Warren Buffett is one of the most famous business people in the world, and his career in the stock market is undoubtedly legendary. Buffett's $75.6 billion net worth and rank as the second-richest person in the world are largely due to his prowess in picking stocks.
The Oracle of Omaha started investing at age 11 and built a net worth of around $6,000 by the time he was 15 years old. However, success has not gone to his head over the years, if Buffett's ordinary lifestyle is any indication. In fact, he still lives in the same Omaha home that he bought for $31,500 in 1958.
Palmer Luckey: Building Something New
Most people have never heard of Palmer Luckey, which is unfortunate because his story is truly the stuff of legend. The inventor of a device called the Oculus Rift, Luckey started out with only the dream of building virtual reality equipment. After fiddling with parts in his parents' garage for months, Luckey went on Kickstarter with his idea and, within hours, raised a quarter of a million dollars based on his prototype VR goggles.
Within a month, Luckey had raised $2.4 million to put toward his invention. Two years later, when he was 21 years old, Facebook acquired the company, Oculus VR, for more than $2 billion. Today, Forbes estimates Luckey's net worth at $730 million.
Mark Zuckerberg: Quitting College
Lots of people go to college. However, few of them go to Harvard, and far fewer quit Harvard to start a company of his or her own. Zuckerberg did all three, and today the legendary Facebook founder is worth $56 billion and enjoys the No. 5 spot on Forbes' list of The World's Billionaires. For this entrepreneur, dropping out of school seriously paid off.
Sara Blakely: Selling Something
A former Disney World ride greeter and door-to-door fax machine salesperson, Sara Blakely boasts one of the most legendary stories in the business world. After her stints at menial jobs proved unsatisfying, 29-year-old Blakely started her own company with $5,000 and a dream to help people look better in their clothes.
That dream would become a product called Spanx, which Blakely initially sold to a Neiman Marcus buyer with a live bathroom demo. Today, Blakely is one of the world's richest women with a net worth of more than $1 billion. And she still owns 100 percent of her company.
Elon Musk: Getting Rich Again and Again
Some people get rich once, and a few people hit the jackpot twice. However, Elon Musk has started multiple successful companies in his lifetime.
One of the co-founders of PayPal, Musk made his first fortune when the company was acquired by eBay. Not satisfied to retire, Musk went on to found Tesla and SpaceX, and play a key role in solar energy company SolarCity. Musk's $13.9 billion net worth might be poised to soar even higher if his latest idea for a new transportation system — the Hyperloop — proves a success.
Bill Gates: Reselling an Existing Product
With a fortune valued at $86 billion, Bill Gates enjoys the distinction of being the world's richest man. However, before Gates became the legendary success he is today, the tech genius was a shrewd but small-time businessman.
Gates operated tiny Microsoft in the early days of the PC revolution. After convincing IBM — the industry-leading PC maker at the time — that it needed to buy an operating system from Microsoft, Gates opted to buy an existing one called DOS, according to BloombergBusinessweek. He then licensed that system to IBM for a lucrative royalties deal.
Afterward, Gates had the capital and clout to create Windows, which launched him into the annals of all-time greatest businessmen.
Michael Bloomberg: Losing a Job
People get laid off all the time. Although most individuals go on to find gainful employment, it's rare that getting fired will open the door to true greatness. However, that was the case for Michael Bloomberg.
After being fired from former Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers in 1981, Bloomberg went out and launched his own financial technology company long before the internet boom. After years of hard work, Bloomberg is now the 10th richest person in the U.S. with a net worth of $47.5 billion. He is also a three-time mayor of New York and one of the most powerful men in the city.
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Igor Sikorsky: Inventing Something
Igor Sikorsky achieved great wealth while still in his early 20s. At just 24 years old, Sikorsky developed the first four-engine plane. He would go on to build the first working helicopter and found the brand that still bears his name.
Although Sikorsky died in 1972, his company remained massively successful for decades after. In fact, Lockheed Martin bought Sikorsky Aircraft for an impressive $9 billion in November 2015.
J.K. Rowling: Writing a Book
J.K. Rowling's story is so famous that it almost has to be called legendary. Rowling went from being a single parent on welfare to a best-selling author and one of the world's richest women, all thanks to a story about a boy named Harry Potter.
Rowling's tales of witches, wizards and adventure have captivated hundreds of millions of people around the world, and her books have been turned into movies and inspired games and even amusement park rides. And to think that Rowling owes her billionaire status to a story she made up on a train ride.
Airbnb Co-Founders: Letting Strangers Crash on the Floor
In 2007, Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were roommates struggling to pay rent on their San Francisco apartment. To earn extra cash, they rented three airbeds on their living room floor during a design conference that filled up the city's hotel rooms. Their friend, Nathan Blecharczyk, designed a website, and six days later three guests were each paying $80 per night for a place to crash and eat breakfast.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb is valued today at roughly $31 billion, and has a presence in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. Now multibillionaires, the three co-founders no longer need to rent space on their living room floor to pay the bills.
Uber Co-Founders: Having Trouble Hailing a Cab in Paris
Back in 2008, Uber co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab on a snowy Paris evening. Knowing they weren't the only ones who'd ever had a hard time getting a ride, the duo founded Uber, which is currently valued at approximately $70 billion.
Now in nearly 600 cities worldwide, Kalanick and Camp no longer have to stress about finding a cab. The ride-sharing app's co-founders each have a net worth of $6.3 billion.
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Arthur Fry: Getting Upset a Bookmark Wouldn’t Stay Put
In 1974, Art Fry became frustrated when the bookmarks in his church hymnal kept falling out. The 3M new-products developer remembered an adhesive developed by chemist colleague Spencer Silver that stuck to products, but easily peeled off. The next day at work, Fry made a few samples of the Press 'n Peel memo pad — now Post-it — for his co-workers to try.
Personal earnings for their invention haven't been made public, but 3M realized $30.2 billion in global sales for 2015. Some of the company's other brands include Scotch, Command and Nexcare.
Phil Robertson: Making Duck Calls
An avid hunter, Phil Robertson wasn't pleased with the duck calls on the market, so he made his own. In 1972, he decided to start selling his Duck Commander call, yielding $8,000 in profits his first year. He received a patent for his call in 1973, and since then, Duck Commander products have been sold in all 50 states and several countries.
Still a family business, Robertson's net worth is now $15 million. The Robertson family starred in the hit A&E reality series "Duck Dynasty" for 11 seasons, spanning from 2012 to 2017.
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Sophia Amoruso: Shopping for Vintage Clothes
A former shoplifter, the first thing Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso ever sold online was a stolen book, according to The Telegraph. The community college dropout used her knack for finding great vintage buys to launch eBay re-selling store Nasty Gal Vintage, which became a huge success. This gave the "Girl Boss" author the platform to start her own company in 2006, which realized $300 million in sales for 2015.
Amoruso's majority stake in Nasty Gal soared her net worth to an estimated $280 million, according to Inc. Sadly, Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2016, so it will be interesting to see how she fights for her brand in 2017.
Angie Hicks: Searching for Home Repair Companies
Along with Bill Oesterle, Angie Hicks co-founded Angie's List in 1995 to help homeowners connect with reputable service providers. Hicks initially went door-to-door selling subscriptions to the service, which has now paid off in the form of a $50 million net worth. The company realized revenues of $323.3 million for 2016 and ended the year with 5.1 million members.
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