Are rags the key to riches?

By at home

According to a survey on entrepreneurs, almost half of us think so…

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story. So much so that, in a survey carried out by OnePoll, 46% of respondents believed that those who have grown up in families without much money make good entrepreneurs, as opposed to 15% who believe that coming from a wealthy family is more likely to spawn a good entrepreneur.

Of course, Duncan Bannatyne, one of James Caan’s fellow dragons, is a perfect example of the rags-to-riches tale. Growing up on a tough tenement estate near Glasgow, he took on a paper round at the age of 11 so he could buy the family an ice-cream the following summer. His business ventures started with his own ice-cream van, gradually building up a fleet. A move to fitness clubs and hotels has seen his wealth grow to more than £320 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2009. The OnePoll survey also revealed that people think entrepreneurs are, above all, ambitious, hard-working, driven risk-takers. However, they are also seen as productive, creative leaders who are visionary, independent, clever and courageous. Check out the stories behind some of our most inspirational business people, below…

James Caan
Entrepreneur, co-chair of the Ethnic Minority Business task force and Dragons’ Den panelist

James was born in Pakistan and came to London with his family at the tender age of two. He left school at 16 without any qualifications and got his first job in the recruitment industry at the age of 18. He has since set up London-based Hamilton Bradshaw and he joined the prestigious panel on Dragons’ Den in 2007.

Net worth: £65 million

Sir Alan Sugar
Entrepreneur, enterprise tsar, political adviser and star of BBC hit show The Apprentice

Sir Alan, the son of a tailor, grew up in Hackney. After leaving school at 16, he started selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van that he bought with his £100 savings. He formed Amstrad at the age of 21 and went on to become the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and an adviser to the Prime Minister.

Net worth: £730 million

Bernie Ecclestone
President and CEO of Formula One Management

Bernie left school at 16 to work at the local gasworks and pursue his motorbike hobby. He established a car and motorcycle dealership in Kent and had a brief career as a racing driver. In 1972, he bought the Brabham racing team and then co-founded the Formula 1 Constructors Association, and remains firmly in charge of F1 today.

Net worth: £1,466 million

JK Rowling
Author of the best-selling book and film series, Harry Potter

As a struggling single parent, Joanne wrote the Harry Potter story in an Edinburgh café, using a Scottish Arts Council grant to help pay for a typewriter. After a year-long search for a publisher, Bloomsbury made an offer in 1996. Since then, the Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million books and generated a series of hit films, too.

Net worth: £499 million

Pictures: pa photo

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