Christopher Paul Gardner is an American entrepreneur, investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist who, during the early 1980s, struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr.
Gardner’s personal struggle of establishing himself as a stockbroker while managing fatherhood and homelessness is portrayed in the 2006 motion picture The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccino, starring Will Smith. The unusual spelling of the film’s title comes from a sign Gardner saw when he was homeless. In the film, “happiness” is misspelled (as “happyness”) outside the daycare facility Gardner’s son attends.
After Gardner separation from his wife, he ended up homeless and often scrambled to place his child in daycare, stood in soup lines and slept wherever he and his son could find safety—in his office after hours, at flophouses, at parks and even in a locked bathroom at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station.
His BIG break:
Gardner worked to become a top trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. He arrived at the office early and stayed late each day, persistently making calls to prospective clients with his goal being 200 calls/day. His perseverance paid off when, in 1982, Gardner passed his licensing exam on the first try and became a full employee of the firm.
In 1987, Chris Gardner established the brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, in Chicago, Illinois, an institutional brokerage firm specializing in the execution of debt, equity and derivative products transactions for some of the nation’s largest institutions, public pension plans and unions.
His new company was started in his small Presidential Towers apartment, with start-up capital of $10,000 and a single piece of furniture: a wooden desk that doubled as the family dinner table.
Gardner reportedly owns 75 percent of his stock brokerage firm with the rest owned by a hedge fund. He chose the name “Gardner Rich” for the company because he considers Marc Rich, the commodities trader pardoned by former president Bill Clinton in 2001, “one of the most successful futures traders in the world.”