First Jobs of 20 Billionaires, Like Oprah and Mark Cuban

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
87th Academy Awards - Arrivals
Jordan Strauss/Invision/APOprah Winfrey went from the corner store to the Oscars.
By Morgan Quinn

Not all of today's billionaires grew up with silver spoons in their mouths -- many are self-made moguls who came from humble beginnings. See how these billionaires earned their first paychecks.

1. Ralph Lauren, Worth $7 billion

This American sportswear icon studied business at Baruch College in Manhattan. After a brief stint in the Army, Ralph Lauren took a sales job at Brooks Brothers. In 1967, Lauren started designing neckties, which became the cornerstone of his empire.

2. Nick Woodman, Worth $2 billion

Before he invented GoPro, Nick Woodman started a website called, which sold electronics for no more than a $2 markup. The company failed to take off (surprise, surprise), but Woodman persevered.

3. Steven Spielberg, Worth $3.5 billion

In high school, Steven Spielberg produced his first feature film, "Firelight," which ended up grossing $100 when it was shown at a local theater. He graduated from California State University, Long Beach and got an unpaid internship at Universal Studios. He even found himself an office and just moved in. He reportedly said, "Everybody assumed I was related to someone working on the lot, or to an executive, and no one really threw me off the set."

4. Larry Page, Worth $31 billion

Larry Page has been surrounded by computers his entire life. This Google co-founder is the son of a former Michigan State professor of computer science, and Page received his first computer at age 6. After earning an undergraduate degree in engineering with a concentration in computer engineering, his first jobs were working for Advanced Management Systems in Washington, D.C., and CogniTek in Evanston, Illinois.

5. Oprah Winfrey, Worth $3 billion

Oprah Winfrey worked at the corner store next to her father's barbershop. At 16, she landed a job at radio station WVOL that would eventually help her become the queen of daytime television.

6. Steve Ballmer, Worth $21 billion

Before he became a Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer worked as an assistant product manager for Duncan Hines' Moist & Easy. His former cubicle mate was Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric.

7. Michael Kors, Worth $1 billion

After attending New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, Michael Kors' first job was merchandising and designing a collection for an upscale boutique. The experience inspired him to strike out on his own and create fashions for some of the world's most beautiful women, like Charlize Theron, Heidi Klum, Madonna and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

8. Tory Burch, Worth $1 billion

Tory Burch's mother inspired her career in fashion. She told Business of Fashion, "The prom dress that my mom got me was this light pink sequin and navy tulle Yves Saint Laurent dress. It was a big statement for Philadelphia." After high school, Burch worked for Zoran, a designer with clients that include Isabella Rossellini and Lauren Hutton. "I cold-called Zoran," said Burch. "Really interesting man and a beautiful designer. My mother wore his clothing. So a week after I graduated, I moved to New York and started a full induction into fashion."

9. Charles Schwab, Worth $6.5 billion

Charles Schwab's first few jobs included sacking walnuts and selling chickens and eggs. He learned early in life how to recognize a profitable business concept and the value of perseverance, which certainly came in handy when he started the first discount brokerage firm in America.

10. Elon Musk, Worth $12 billion

This Tesla Motors founder has always been an avid fan of technology. When he was just 12, he wrote code for his own video game called "Blastar," which he sold.

11. Bill Gates, Worth $79 billion

Bill Gates worked several odd jobs as a child growing up in Washington, but he didn't get his first "real" job until his senior year of high school -- as a computer programmer for aerospace firm TRW.

12. Mark Cuban, Worth $3 billion

At 12, Mark Cuban sold boxes of garbage bags to pay for a pair of basketball shoes. He told Bloomberg's Barry Ritholtz, "I would literally go door to door: 'Hi, does your family use garbage bags?' And who could say no? So, that's where I learned to sell. Literally."

13. Mark Zuckerberg, Worth $37 billion

Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook while he was still in college, but he already had several other successes under his belt. While still in high school, he created an early version of the music streaming software Pandora, which was called Synapse. Several software companies, including Microsoft and AOL, showed interest in purchasing Synapse and offered Zuckerberg a job before he had even graduated.

14. Jan Koum, Woth $7 billion

The co-founder of WhatsApp emigrated from Ukraine to Mountain View, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. Jan Koum's mother worked as a babysitter, and he swept the floor of a grocery store to help her pay the bills.

15. Warren Buffett, Worth $71 billion

Investor Warren Buffet started as a newspaper delivery boy, and he applied that experience to his "invest in what you know" strategy when he purchased the Omaha World-Herald in 2011. That same year, Buffett also challenged Berkshire's annual meeting attendees to a paper toss.

16. Jerry Jones, Worth $4 billion

Jerry Jones got his start bagging groceries at his local store. He now owns the Dallas Cowboys, the second-most valuable sports team in the world, second only to Spanish soccer team Real Madrid.

17. George Lucas, Worth $5 billion

George Lucas enrolled in the University of Southern California film school thinking "film" meant "photography." Once he began his studies, he fell in love with the art, and his first job was working as a teaching assistant to train cameramen for the U.S. military. He went on to USC graduate school and won USC's annual scholarship to become a production apprentice at Warner Bros.

18. Larry Ellison, Worth $53 billion

Oracle founder Larry Ellison first worked as a programmer for a company called Amdahl.

19. Jeff Bezos, Worth $34 billion

Jeff Bezos has come a long way from his summer job flipping burgers at McDonald's. "My first week on the job, a five-gallon, wall-mounted ketchup dispenser got stuck open in the kitchen and dumped a prodigious quantity of ketchup onto ever hard-to-reach kitchen crevice," Bezos told author Cody Teets. "Since I was the new guy, they handed me the cleaning solution and said, 'Get going!'"

20. Donald Trump, Worth $4 billion

Donald Trump learned business tactics by watching and learning. He told Forbes, "I accompanied my father to his sites and would collect soda bottles with my brother for money. That was my first income. Later, I went around with rent collectors to see how that worked. I learned to stand out of the doorway to avoid being shot."

This story originally appeared on
Read Full Story

People are Reading