Coming from humble beginnings, everyone always had a soft-spot for Robert Herjavec’s polite nature.
Before he found success, Robert didn’t always know what he wanted to do. At the age of 21, he was lost, like many other in that age bracket.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a bit of a mess, partying, hanging out,” he said. “People would say, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I’d go, ‘Ah, it doesn’t matter.'”
In his youth he did a lot of odd jobs such as delivering newspapers and waiting tables. That’s when his father pulled him aside and gave him the drive he needed to succeed.
“My dad sits down with me, and he says ‘I went through hell so that you could have the opportunity I never had,'” he said.
His father originally lived in Croatia, formerly Yugoslavia, where he was persecuted for speaking out against Communism.
“My dad was thrown in jail 23 times,” Robert admitted.
When Robert was 8-years-old, his dad escaped from jail and rushed the entire family to Canada, where they arrived with only $20 and a suitcase.
“My dad was a factory worker. When we came here, he worked in a factory and swept floors,” Herjavec said. “People made fun of him, because he wasn’t American. They called him all kinds of names, and it hurt him deeply.”
To get to work, Robert’s father would walk two miles each way in order to save bus fair. At times Robert was embarrassed of his dad and his family’s poverty.
“He was poor, he was rough around the edges and I just didn’t want to be like that,” Robert admits. “When I was growing up, I was really embarrassed of him.”
But that conversation they had when he was 21, really lit a fire under him to do something great.
“Now, I realize the sacrifice that he went through, in order to give me this opportunity,” he said. “I had this incredible sense of desperation that if I didn’t do something with my life, all the sacrifice wasn’t worth it.”
Robert’s estimated net worth is a whopping $200 million. First beginning his career as a film producer and director, he later founded his first company, BRAK System, an internet security software. Robert later sold the company for $30.2 million in 2000.
Robert then left work to be a stay-at-home dad for three years, and ended up founding the Herjavec Group in 2003. He still remains CEO of the company, which provides security solutions.
It comes as no surprise that Robert has also made millions through his appearance on Shark Tank, through investing in businesses pitched on the show. He has also authored two successful books.
No amount of money, however, can mend a broken heart.
Robert and Diane Plese married in 1990, after claiming love at first sight. Robert was just 26-years-old, while Diane was working as an optometrist. As proud children of Croatian immigrants, the couple married at a Croatian church in Ontario, Canada.
The couple went on to have three children; daughters, Caprice and Skye and son, Brendan.
After 24 years of marriage the couple split.
“‘I wish nothing but love and peace for our family as we move forward from this,” he said.
Late one night after Robert and his wife filed for separation, the businessman stood on the balcony of his Toronto hotel room contemplating whether or not to end his life.
“I just wanted to end it,” Herjavec said.
This is when he considered himself to hit rock bottom.
“It’s been a terribly difficult year,” he adds. “We were great parents and a great team, but over time we drifted apart.”
The couple’s three high school and college age kids initially refused to speak to their father after the split.
“Everyone has their kryptonite,” Herjavec says. “For me, it was my kids. It took me to a place I never thought I would go.”
That’s when he reached out to his pastor, John McAuley for advice. He steered him to Seatte’s Union Gospel Mission, a shelter that provides emergency care and long-term recovery services for the homeless. Arriving in Seattle the following day, he walked into the shelter and was promptly put to work in the soup kitchen.
“Nobody knew who I was,” he says. “People thought I was a recovering addict.”
The pain of his own life was quickly overshadowed by the suffering he witnesses from the men and women in the shelter.
That’s when he was inspired to take it one step further.