Rags to Riches


Howard Schultz, the owner of Starbucks, enjoying his cup of coffee. Photo credit: Business Insider.

Grace Kim, Editor

Here’s the tea: it is harder for someone who grew up in poverty to succeed compared to someone who is well off from the beginning. Surprised? Probably not. According to a report by Urban Institute on Child Poverty and Adult Success, low income children are influenced by their economic state through low quality education in unsafe environments, and unstable circumstances. However, that is not to say that a person who grew up in poverty will never succeed. In fact, some of the most wealthiest people today come from very humble beginnings. It should be noted that the definition of success varies; however, the success emphasized in most textbooks is the accumulation of material wealth. As a result, this article will consider the material aspect of success rather then marriage or level of happiness.


Howard Schultz: There are over 13,000 Starbucks in the US alone. Due to its abundance and convenience, students at Yorba Linda High School frequently go to Starbucks to study or hang out. Howard Schultz is the man behind this beloved million dollar corporation. However, he definitely didn’t start from easy beginnings. When Howard Schultz was younger, his truck driver father and stay at home mom could barely afford health insurance. For college, the future Starbucks CEO worked as a bartender and sometimes donated blood in order to afford Northern Michigan University.  Just like the CEO, even Starbucks started from humble beginnings. Howard Schultz was introduced to a small coffee shop chain that no one wanted. That exact company would later become the Starbucks empire.


Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey is the most recognizable figure in all of America. Her show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, inspired millions of Americans, especially women, to persevere through hard times. Oprah Winfrey, herself, has been through some of the most unimaginable treatment. Not only was Oprah Winfrey born in a family of poverty, she was also raped at a young age by a family member. Still, despite the hurdles in her life, Oprah Winfrey became the first African American TV correspondent at the adolescent age of 19.


Ralph Lauren: The name, Polo, probably insinuates luxury and elegance. Shoppers are fanatic about the preppy classic style emanated from all of Ralph Lauren’s designs. Long before the success, Ralph Lauren grew up in poverty as the youngest son of a Jewish family. He, to the surprise of his friends and family, dropped out of college and joined the US Army. While working as a clerk at Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren started Polo. Polo is now one of the most respected clothing brands in the world. As Ralph Lauren put it, “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”

End note: any person can achieve great things. Just as Howard Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, and Ralph Lauren, started from impoverished beginnings, but became successful entrepreneurs, the possibilities are endless. Mabel Ra (12) is “surprised by the humble beginnings of certain entrepreneurs.”