How 15 Billionaires Made Their First Million

5 April 2021

Do you ever look at the rich and think how they have made all this money? Find out how these billionaires made their first million.

The tough part is deciding how to make the first million. It’s a commitment, sacrifice and a belief in yourself that you can do it. You’ll meet doubters and naysayers, and you’ll want to prove to them that you did it. For inspiration, we’ve got the background of how these 15 Billionaires Made Their First Million.

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Evan Spiegel Made His First Million Through Snapchat

Evan Thomas Spiegel became a millionaire when he was 23-years old. Two years later, he was named the youngest billionaire in the world.

He’s the co-founder and CEO of the American social media company Snap Inc. He, along with Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown started the camera and social media company in 2011, and are responsible for Snapchat, Spectacles and Bitmoji.

The 30-year-old businessman, married to Miranda Kerr, have 2 children and today, his net worth is $9.6 billion.

Spiegel was a high school dropout. And in our video, 15 Things You Get Wrong About Wealth, we highlighted the fact that you don’t need a formal education to accumulate wealth – and Spiegel is the perfect example.


Mohed Altrad Was in the Scaffolding Business

Mohed Altrad owns the Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club but before that, Altrad was in the rather unglamourous business of scaffolding. After being orphaned at 4years old he was raised by his grandmother and attended school despite his grandmother’s disapproval. He did well and earned himself a scholarship to study in France where he graduated with a PHD in computer science.

In 1985 he bought a bankrupt scaffolding manufacturer in France, not exactly a sure win, but Altrad turned it into gold. Currently he has a net worth of $3.4 billion.

The Altrad Group is worth $4billion in sales and provides construction services globally.


Carlos Slim Made His First Million Through Real-Estate Investments

From 2010 to 2013 Carlos Slim Helú was named richest person in the world by Forbes. This Mexican based businessperson, investor and philanthropist currently has a net worth of $65 billion according to Forbes latest lists.

The stars of business aligned early for Carlos Slim when he made his first million at age 25 through real estate investments in 1965.

After that Carlos has ventured into many industries under his holdings conglomerate, Grupo Carso. Most notably his interests lie in telecommunications, and the dividends don’t lie!


Jack Cowin Made His First Million With Crispy Chicken

How much fried chicken do you think you need to sell to make a cool million in personal wealth? Well Jack Cowin would know. He is the man who brought KFC, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza to Australia after he had worked in Canada and noticed the growing interest in fast food in Australia while on holiday.

In the late 1960s at 26 years old he bought the right to open ten KFC franchises in Western Australia. He raised the funds by finding 30 Canadian investors to each invest 10 000 Canadian dollars. And in December 1969 he opened his first KFC. The investment has netted him a personal worth of $3.3billion.

It wasn’t just himself that Jack Cowin made rich, in March 2006 those initial C$10 000 investments were worth US$6.7million.


Sarah Blakely Made Her First Million Through Spanx

Who knew just how much the world would pay to hide their bulge? Well Sara Blakely has the billion-dollar bank account to show that it was A LOT! By age 29 Sara had only been running Spanx for a year when she was already listed as a millionaire selling her tummy tucking underwear.

Since then, she has expanded selling waistline decreasing garments into leggings and other intimate apparel and has amassed a net worth of $1 billion.

What is more impressive is that she was named the youngest self-made women billionaire at age 41.

And Spanx wearers everywhere are grateful she took the risk.


Sergey Galitsky Made His First Million Through Distribution

With a net worth of $3,5 billion, Galitsky knows his food. He is the founder and former CEO of Magnit, the largest food retailer and non-state employer in Russia. He has since sold the company to state-owned VTB Bank.

 He also founded the Russian soccer team, FC Krasnodar.

It was his wholesale perfume and cosmetics business, Transasia that put him on the map. Transasia   got the exclusive rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products in southern Russia.

Since he’s sold the company, he wants to spend his money in the city. He plans to plant 2,500 trees in the park near his soccer stadium.


Zhou Qunfei Made Her First Million Developing Glass Screens for Mobile Phones

This self-made millionaire had her first million when she was just 33. When her company, Lens Technology went public, she accumulated wealth quickly.

Qunfei is officially the wealthiest woman in China with a net worth of $12.7 billion.

Originally, she produced watch faces, and Motorola approached her to develop glass screens for their Razr V3, which was the time that phones were changing from plastic to glass screens.

HTC, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and Apple all use her glass, and she has a staff component of 90,000 helping her to make the company the success it is today.


Kim Beom-SU Made His First Million Through Computer Games

Meet the founder of South Korean internet company Kakao, Kim Beom-Su. Kakao operates a mobile messenger service called KakaoTalk, used by 95% of Koreans. They also operate search engine, Daum and a music streaming service, Melon.

His net worth is $7.3 billion. He grew up dirt poor and paid his way through college by giving private tutoring and skipped meals to save a little extra.

He loves video games, and it was this passion that had him begin the country’s first online game portal called Hangame Communications, which was followed up by Kakao. Hangame Communications netted him his first mil.


George Lucas Made His First Million Through Star Wars

It’s a year that George Lucas will not forget, 1978. He was 34 and became a millionaire. Lucas is the creator of Star Wars, thank you, and by the time he was 52, was a billionaire.

If you look at his credentials, there aren’t many. Lucas has only directed 6 feature films, 4 of them being Star Wars. So, how did he manage to make his first million and then billion?

It’s all thanks to an idea he had in 1973. After the success of American Graffiti, he was offered a 300% pay rise to direct Star Wars. He declined the rise in exchange for 2 things:

1 – He retains merchandising rights.

2 – He retains the rights to any sequels.

Both were agreed to, because nobody thought the movie would even survive the first round. Well, jokes on them – because he’s now worth $7,2 billion and it’s the merchandise he can thank for his first and every million ever since.


Dilip Shanghvi Made His First Million With Medicine

Indian billionaire businessman, Dilip Shanghvi, is the founder of Sun Pharmaceuticals.

With a net worth of $8.7 billion, his first million must seem like a distant memory.

When he started Sun Pharma, he was treating psychiatry ailments. Today it’s the largest chronic prescription company in India. They’re leading in the fields of psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, gastroenterology and nephrology.

There have been various acquisitions, mergers and changes along the way – but it’s through Shanghvi’s vision to develop his own drugs, that he became a self-made millionaire and then billionaire!


Meg Whitman – Self Made Millionaire

Whitman was 40 when she made her first million and 2-years later, she was worth more than $1 billion! She’s the former CEO of eBay, and her net worth hit the billion-dollar mark when she made the company public.

This powerful woman is an American business executive, former political candidate, and philanthropist. She can add board member of Procter & Gamble and Dropbox to her resume and former CEO and president of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Her resume has other enviable jobs, including the global management and marketing of Playskool and Mr. Potato Head.

She’s been involved with several incredible company transformations, but eBay is the most noteworthy. It’s thanks to Whitman that eBay went from 30 employees and $4 million in revenue in 1998 to 15,000 employees and revenue of $8 billion during her time as CEO.

Her millions quickly grew to $5.9 billion which is her current net worth.  

If you have gotten inspired by our article and are thinking of ways to make a million, check out 15 Ways to Make 1 Million Dollars.


Petter Stordalen Made His First Million Connecting 3 Shopping Centres

Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but by completing this mammoth project, he proved to many doubters that he was capable of much more.

The Norwegian businessman had a project in Trondheim to connect 3 malls, and nobody believed he could do it. He proved them wrong and made a million from the assignment.

Stordalen is a hotel and property developer and self-proclaimed environmentalist. He owns corporate group, Strawberry, which consists of 10 companies involved in real-estate, hotels, and art.

His current net worth is $1.3 billion and we stand behind him when he says, “What is good for society is also good for business.”


Denise Coates – Sold Betting Shops to Coral to Make Her First Million

She’s the wealthiest woman in the UK and the only female billionaire, Denise Coates became a millionaire when she was 38 and a billionaire when she was 47.

How did she make her first million? It does help to have a foot in the door as her father owned a chain of betting shops and was the majority shareholder of Stoke City F.C… although, that came in Denise’s early 20s.

As a teenager she worked in the family business, marking up bets in the cashier’s department. She later got a degree in econometrics. At one point, the business was struggling so her dad offered her the position of MD. She accepted and grew the chain and profit substantially.

Fast-forward a few years, her and her brother John, bought the website Bet365.com and the rest you could say is history.

Today, Denise is worth $6.4 billion.


Chip Wilson Made His First Million With Sports Apparel

Lululemon Athletica is all thanks to Chip Wilson, the founder and former CEO of the athletic clothes company. He’s the founder of Westbeach, and is involved with Kit and Ace, specializing in technical casual wear.

His mom was a seamstress, and he found his passion for clothing through her. He opened Westbeach Snowboard in 1979, selling clothing for surfers, skaters, and snowboarders. Chip was able to make his first million through his brand and eventually sold Westbeach in 1997 for $2.45 million.

Today Chip is worth $5.1 billion. He is still a shareholder of Lululemon, he’s involved with Hold It All, has stakes in Amer Sports and Anta Sports.

Wilson has been known for controversy, like when customers complained about their pants pilling, his response was, “Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it.”


Melanie Perkins Made Her First Million Through Canva

No was a word that Melanie Perkins was used to hearing. She heard it a hundred times. It didn’t stop her pursuing her dream. She always had an entreprenial spirit. At 14 she was designing scarves to sell in her hometown of Perth.

At 22 she founded Fusion Books. It was an online system that allowed schools to design their yearbooks. The company was so successful that it’s now the largest yearbook publisher in Australia.

In 2013, Canva was launched. She’d had the idea since she was 19 and wanted to create an all-in-one platform that was easy to use and accessible to everyone.

Today, she is the CEO of Canva, which has over 10 million registered users from 190 different countries. It’s available in 100 languages and was valued at $1 billion in 2018!  

Her advice is, “Solve customer problems and make sure that the customer is representative of a large market and then you will have a pretty good formula.”


Who do you draw your financial inspiration from Aluxers? We’d love to hear from you.