Dubbed the ‘Queen of all media’ and ranked as the richest African-American of the 20th century with a net worth of $4 billion, Oprah Winfrey’s narrative to the top has not been an easy stroll in the park.
Born and bred in poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother Oprah, whose celebrated talk show the Oprah Winfrey show was the highest rated talk show of all time was raped aged 9 and 13 and had to flee from the relentless abuse which threatened to devour her self-worth.
Her escape was on temporary as she fell into the teenage motherhood aged 14. As fate would have it, her son died in infancy.
However landing a radio job in high school turned her fortunes for the better and now she is a self-made billionaire.
Not many are alive to the story of Jan Koum, a Ukrainian-born American internet inventor and computer programmer who is the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application which was acquired by Facebook Inc. in February 2014 for US$19.3 billion.
Koum’s upbringing was littered with countless challenges, poverty had overstayed its welcome in their home.
He migrated to the United States as a teenager with his mother and grandmother but the initial years in the new country were very difficult; the family struggled to make ends meet and the eventual passing away of his mother after succumbing to cancer further compounded his situation.
The celebrated billionaire lived on welfare and used food stamps but taught himself about computers by buying manuals from a local store and then returning each one when he finished reading it.
He came a long way from growing up without running water in Soviet-Era Ukraine to creating a messaging app used by over 1.2 billion people. Koum’s life story fits perfectly into the age old adage “from rags to riches.”
Some billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote among others grew up in affluent families and did not struggle to climb up the success ladder. However, some wealthy people had to groan, sweat and toil to be at the apex.
One such individual who conquered after engaging in a blood-spattered fight against a vicious background that was the personification of brutality is Zimbabwean budding businessman and Chief Executive Officer of Clearworld Cleaners, Lancelot Mupanga.
The 32 year old hails from Mutare about 254km from Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare.
He was born and bred in the dusty streets of Sakubva, a high density surburb in Mutare where the future of young people is habitually strangled to death by wretched poverty which is often married to a fatal lack of focus among some of the youths.
The sharpened and rapacious teeth of a cruel world thrust themselves into young Mupanga’s life when he was separated from his mother at the tender age of four following a messy divorce with his father.
Growing up without a biological mother presents its own series of calamities but Mupanga found a way to survive.
“Things were tough for me so I devised a plan to sell fruits and vegetables while in the third grade (aged nine).
I did not get much but the meagre earnings helped me get by,” said Mupanga who was immaculately clad in a grey slim fit designer suit and matching blue shirt during the interview with The Inspired Africa.
Life was to deal yet another fatal blow to the young man after the man dwelling in the courts of heaven decided to take the breath of life from Mupanga’s father in 2000.
Things nosedived as there was no steady supply of financial income and it greatly affected Mupanga’s education as seen in his unsatisfactory ordinary level results.
Like a real fighter, he picked himself up, rewrote and passed his examinations after raising examination fees through doing menial work for local companies.
“I have always wanted to be a business man. I got inspiration from my uncle Lloyd Gutu, who owned a fumigation company and I realised then that it is possible for one to make it in business,” he said.
However, his desire to have a cleaning company hit several snags as a number of factors fought in one corner to bring him down.
Financial challenges, corruption in the company registering institutions, lack of family support among others darkened his prospects and threatened to stifle his dream.
With the help of few individuals like Tendai Dzirutsa, Mupanga fulfilled his lifelong dream of registering a company, Clearworld cleaners, a cleaning services organisation in 2008 after relocating to Harare.
At that time, the Zimbabwean economy was at a comatose stage and tottering on the brink of collapse and Mupanga’s new baby only got one job call the whole of 2008.’
“Again that did not push me down. I got soft loans to buy cleaning equipment since I had started without anything and my efforts began paying off as I got a contract with a Harare gym which we serviced four times a month and got $260,” Mupanga said with a broad smile.
The pregnancy that was conceived through hard work and toil birthed a series of contracts, with the notable one being from German International Organisation, a non-governmental organisation based in Zimbabwe.
Clearworld cleaners has since grown from strength to strength and now has a staff complement of 34, of which 30 are cleaners and four office staff.
The company is now listed on the suppliers list of local giant companies like Old Mutual, CIMAS, and Champions Insurance among others.
“We are now comfortable as a company, we recently bought a company vehicle, investing in more equipment, quality uniforms and have also moved to a more spacious office,” explained Mupanga who is an avid follower of American businessman and author, Robert Kiyosaki and the late American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn.
To sharpen his business acumen, the athletic CEO is studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management.
It appears an undiluted desire to succeed is the fuel that keeps the father of one going as he has already started another furniture business and is working on a partnership to establish a café in Harare.
“To enterprising business people out there, being successful is not easy. Let no one lie that it is a bed of roses but it depends with how much you want to get to the top that carries the day for you,” remarked Mupanga.
Looking back at his thorny past, the 32 year old CEO can smile knowing that everything he endured every catastrophe and can now enjoy the fruits of the promised land.