How Self-Made Titans Launched Their Empires

According to a 2002 U.S. Census Bureau survey representing some 16
million business owners, a whopping 55% were initially funded by
personal and family capital. Just 11.4% snagged bank loans, and 8.8%
got going on personal and business credit cards; much of the remainder
lived on government loans and outside investors.

Which means only 25% (and less since many have government funds) are the ones that are funded by venture capitalists.

Sometimes sheer talent and persistence is enough.

As a single mother
on welfare in Scotland, J.K. Rowling, 43, began writing the first Harry Potter
novel in Edinburgh cafés whenever she could get her infant daughter to
sleep. After being rejected by 12 publishing houses, Bloomsbury, a
small publisher in London, offered an advance of 1,500 pounds (about
$2,400)–even while one its editors, Barry Cunningham, advised Rowling
to get a day job.

Good thing she didn’t listen: The following year, U.S. publishing rights to the first Potter
book sold for $105,000. Rowling, who is now worth around $1 billion,
has since moved nearly 400 million copies worldwide, and is the only
author on our list.