From humble beginnings, Zong Qinghou, founder of the Wahaha beverage group, is now the wealthiest person in China, with a net worth of $12.6 billion.
A self-described poor child from the eastern coast of China, The New York Times reports, Qinghou grew up with little access to food or education and often suffered from malnutrition. He began work as a laborer in a salt plant but quickly became an entrepreneur, opening a modest stand of 10 employees that sold soft drinks and ice pops. There, he witnessed pervasive hunger in the children that passed by his stand daily, reminding him of the struggles he suffered as a child.
Those experiences inspired him to create a vitamin beverage called Wahaha Oral Liquid (which means "laughing child"). "It solved the problem of kids who didn’t want to eat and suffered from malnutrition," Qinghou said. After 25 years, the company has grown into a beverage market giant, with Wahaha holding a 15 percent share behind Coca-Cola and Tingyi Holdings. Qinghou is now planning to expand to urban grocery and convenience stores. How’s that for a million (OK, billion) dollar idea?