There’s no doubt that having a degree can open certain doors for you in life, but that’s not to say that without one you can’t break into the 1%.
Though many of today’s most successful business people are alumni of Ivy League or Russell Group institutions, there are a surprising number of billionaires who never even graduated university – about 35%, in fact.
(Net worth figures according to Forbes)
How he made his money: Consumer electronics and founder of Amstrad
What he did instead of university: Sugar grew up on a council estate in London and dropped out of education when he was just 14. Ge then went on to work for the Ministry of Education as a statistician for a brief period before selling electronics and car aerials from the back of a van he bought for £50. He has been very vocal about his opinion of higher education, branding university 'a waste of time.'
How he made his money: Telecoms and founder of Phones 4 U.
What he did instead of university: Caudwell was 15 when he left education, and he spent his younger years as a second-hand car dealer. It wasn't until 1987, aged 35, shortly after the first mobile phones became commercially available, that he and his brother ventured into the telecoms market and founded the business that would eventually build them their fortune.
How he made his money: Founder of IKEA.
What he did instead of university: Kampgrad showed entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, selling match sticks to his neighbours as a child from his bike. At 17, his dad gave him a small cash reward for his school studies which he used to create IKEA. He chose business over education and five years later, he added furniture to IKEA's product portfolio. He opened the first IKEA in 1958, aged 32.
How he made his money: Steel investment.
What he did instead of university:Frère dropped out of high school aged 17 after his father died. He decided against returning to education and dedicated his early life to running the family's small steel business. Following the company's success, he was investing in a number of other steel companies in Belgium by the age of 30. By 1970 he controlled almost all of the steel industry in the Belgian region of Chaleroi.
How he made his money: Founder of Virgin.
What he did instead of university:Branson dropped out of school when he was just 16 to start a youth lifestyle magazine. He interviewed high-profile musicians such as Mick Jagger, nurturing his love for music and in 1970, aged 20, he opened a mail-order business selling imported and discounted records. A year later, a postal strike hit the mail-order business hard and he opened the first Virgin Records stores at 21 years old.
How he made his money: Diamonds.
What he did instead of university: Graff dropped out of school aged 14 and began his career by cleaning toilets as a jeweller's apprentice. He then went into partnership with another local jeweller, helping to repair jewellery before the shop went out of business. He subsequently started creating and selling his own pieces and by 1962, aged 24, he owned two jewellery stores, one being in London's Hatton Garden.
How he made his money: Fashion retail and Founder of Arcadia.
What he did instead of university: Philip Green attended a Jewish boarding school but dropped out at the age of 15, a couple of years after his father passed away, and enrolled in an apprenticeship with a shoe importer. He never returned to school and set up his first business with a £20,000 loan, importing clothes cheaply to sell onto retailers in London.
How he made his money: Investor.
What he did instead of university: Roman Abramovich was orphaned as a child and dropped out of school when he was 17. He began his career selling imported rubber ducks from his apartment and used a 2,000 rouble wedding present from his first wife's parents to expand his business and add deodorant and perfume to his stock. Throughout his 20s he set up, invested in and sold several successful companies.
How he made his money: Fashion retail.
What he did instead of university: Pinault dropped out of high school at 16 years old with no qualifications. He spent years working for the family business, a local timber trading company, but set up his own timber firm at the age of 26 after borrowing 100,000 Francs from his family. He now owns the holding company of a number of luxury fashion labels as well as Christie's auction house.
How she made her money: Owner of L'Oreal.
What she did instead of university:As the heiress to the L'Oreal empire, Bettencourt had no real financial or career-based need to enrol in higher education as a teen. Bettencourt now owns 33% of L'Oreal stock but lost control of her £24 billion fortune after being deemed mentally unfit to do so in a legal battle with her children. She is the 10th richest person in the world.
How he made his money: Retail and founder of Zara.
What he did instead of university:Ortega left school when he was 14 to work as a messenger boy. It wasn't until 1975 at the age of 4o that he founded Zara and earned his wealth. Up until then, he worked in the textile industry, choosing to avoid education. In 1960 he decided to start making his own clothes and sold bath robes that he and his wife made together at home. The first Zara store opened in 1975. You can read Ortega's rags-to-riches story on Business Insider.
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