Mark Cuban was a Dallas bartender.
He had just graduated from Indiana University and was living in a 3 bedroom apartment with SIX other dudes while bartending. A few years later, he became a sales rep at a computer software store, where he was soon after fired for failing to open the store because he was busy chasing a deal. From there he went on to start his own software company, which he later sold for hundreds of millions.
Ursula Burns was an intern at Xerox.
Beating the odds by simply attending college after making out the projects of NYC, Burns went on to get a master’s degree from Columbia University in engineering, before joining Xerox as an intern and working her way up, over the next 29 years to become the company’s CEO and one of the only black (and female) CEOs of a Fortune 500 company in the country,
JK Rowling was a single mother on government assistance.
While working as a secretary in London, Rowling, first came up with the idea for Harry Potter, which soon began to consumer so much of her thoughts and time that she was fired for never paying attention. She used her newfound free time to focus on writing the novel, got married, had a child and got divorce. She was literally on government assistance and toeing the homeless line when she finally finished the book, got it picked up by a publisher and the rest is history.
Jay Z was an unknown rapper from Brooklyn.
He was starting to gain popularity alongside some bigger rappers, but it wasn’t until he was 27 that he started his label, Roc-A-Fella records and released his first album, “Reasonable Doubt”, that things really started to take off for this now international hip hop star.
Oprah Winfrey was a local talk show host in Baltimore.
After being fired from her former TV station at 23, Winfrey went on to host at other stations for the next 5 years before moving to Chicago to host “AM Chicago”, which would eventually lead to her big break.
*This post originally appeared in a Business Insider article.