What Chip And Joanna Gaines Were Like Before The Fame

Since starring in the HGTV series "Fixer Upper," Chip and Joanna Gaines reportedly have a combined net worth of $20 million. For this power couple, a hit reality show was really just the beginning. In addition to owning their own construction and design business, Magnolia Homes, the pair has essentially rebranded Waco, Texas, into a Magnolia conglomerate. By November 2017, just two years after its grand opening, Magnolia Market at the Silos was already on course to becoming a bigger attraction than the Alamo.

Outside the Lone Star State, Joanna has taken over aisle after aisle at your local Target department store with her Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. As such, she's made the modern farmhouse style attainable no matter what part of the country you're in. And we're not complaining. In fact, we're excited to see what this fun-loving couple comes up with next. Still, Chip and Joanna's transformation into multimillionaires is even more impressive when you first consider their background. Here's what our fave TV couple was like before they became rich and famous.

Joanna started out in food service

It's almost impossible to imagine Joanna Gaines not being the interior designer we all know and love today, but just like many of us, she was once a student who didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. In an interview with PopSugar, the mother of five revealed her very first job, which was to tend the aisles at a local all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. "I still have an appreciation for buffet lines," she admitted. Unfortunately for her, Chip Gaines doesn't share the same enthusiasm. She revealed that her kids are the only ones who still enjoy hitting up buffets with her.

Although JoJo started out in food service, her ambitions would take her down a different career trajectory. By the time she went off to college, she started learning that she had a passion for a different field. And, no — it wasn't interior design. Not just yet.

Joanna didn't even get a degree in interior design

In "The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gaines, it is revealed that Joanna graduated from Baylor University with a communications degree. It wasn't until she moved to New York City to pursue an internship that Joanna began to feel "inspired to join the world of design." However, she didn't act on that inspo at the time.

It wasn't until Joanna met Chip that she'd gain some minor experience in the interior design field. Though, she admitted she was more or less a "gofer" who helped repaint and fix up properties alongside her then-boyfriend. Other than that, she explained that she "didn't know anything about interior design or construction" but was "more than content" to help out.

Joanna's eventual hubby also admitted that he didn't really know anything about those things either. "I learned it all on the fly," he wrote. "If I needed to put a fence in — or anything else for that matter — I would just get my hands dirty and figure it out."

She could've ended up on TV anyway

Although Joanna Gaines started to appreciate interior design in New York, that's not what drove her there originally. While studying at Baylor, she became increasingly interested in broadcast journalism. "I loved the storytelling and the editing process, and I managed to get two years' worth of internships under my belt at our local CBS station, KWTX," the "Fixer Upper" star wrote in "The Magnolia Story." She eventually landed an impressive internship with "48 Hours." But it wasn't all she'd hoped it would be.

"As amazing as it was to live on West 57th Street and to work under a man as esteemed as Dan Rather," Joanna explained, "I quickly fell out of love with the news business while working that job." Joanna believes some of what initially sparked her interest in broadcast journalism is the fact that she's a "curious observer of other people." While still in the city, she'd become enamored by boutique owners and their consumers. Joanna revealed that this helped her be "able to appreciate the creative process that went into each little table and window installation."

She worked at her father's tire shop

After leaving New York City and returning home to Texas, Joanna Gaines started working at her dad's Firestone tire shop. In high school, Joanna had told her father that she wanted to take over the store once he retired. "I thought that was the right thing to do," she wrote in "The Magnolia Story." "I thought it would make him proud, as if I were the son he'd never had who would step into his shoes and carry on the successful business he'd created."

That changed once she started pursuing broadcast journalism in college. But after discovering that wasn't the field for her, she still had doubts about running the shop. "I wasn't sure I wanted to run my dad's business, but I definitely liked the idea of owning my own business," she revealed. "Whatever I chose, I wanted it to be as beautiful and welcoming as those boutiques in New York," Joanna added. Still, it's a good thing Joanna did opt to work at her dad's store for a time because that's where she met Chip.

Chip and Joanna Gaines went to the same college

Although Chip and JoJo Gaines met when Chip showed up at her father's shop to have his brakes fixed, the couple had actually attended the same college. While playing baseball at a junior college, Chip attracted the attention of a recruiter, and he ended up being offered a spot at Baylor University. "As it turned out, I loved Baylor," he wrote in "The Magnolia Story." "I loved being around all those rich kids, even if I was nothing like them. I loved the girls. I loved the campus." But he wasn't exactly the best student.

Chip continued to play baseball at the university while he also worked toward getting a degree in business. "But instead of daydreaming about the major leagues or running some Fortune 500 company," he revealed, "I found myself in class looking out the window at the guys mowing grass and wishing I could trade places with them."

He had political ambitions

Although Chip Gaines' career ambitions went through a pretty flexible period while he was studying at Baylor, as a kid, he had known exactly what he wanted to do. He told PopSugar that he either wanted to be a baseball player or a politician. Wait, what? The baseball player bit makes sense, of course, but a career in politics? (He'd probably win in a landslide nowadays, but you just know Chip would hate sitting in an office.) This is especially interesting because both Chip and Joanna Gaines have remained tight-lipped about their political affiliations.

Both consider themselves to be devout Christians, and given the fact that they live in Texas, a majority red state, some believe they're Republicans. Regardless of their political leanings, they're quite universally loved. Columnist Sharon Grigsby wrote in an article for Dallas News: "I'm forever surprised to see even my most wildly liberal and conservative friends always find one topic that they can agree on: They all love Chip and Joanna Gaines, from just their general goofiness to their reclaiming everything large and small from the ash heap."

He started a laundry service

Chip Gaines, who once used to daydream about mowing lawns while in college, did eventually get to do just that. But that wasn't his only entrepreneurial pursuit.  "One of my first businesses ... was my wash 'n fold business," Chip revealed in a post for Magnolia.com. He and two of his friends came up with the idea while in college. "We drew out a business plan on a napkin for this laundry service geared toward college kids," he explained. College students paid a fee upfront and were allotted "a certain number of pounds of laundry." 

Chip and his pals would weigh, launder, and fold the students' clothing for next-day pickup. Chip explained, "Our location was close to Baylor's campus — it was my very first commercial building!" Chip and his friends ran their fairly successful business up until the time they graduated.

In another post, Joanna Gaines revealed that she later commissioned an artist to paint a mural in their farmhouse laundry room to pay homage to Chip's former business: BMC Wash 'n Fold. Aww.

They had an affordable wedding

As Wide Open Country reported, Chip and Joanna Gaines said "I do" at the Earle-Harrison House, a beautiful Greek Revival mansion in Waco, Texas. Their wedding was no doubt beautiful, but it probably didn't cost them an arm and a leg. As of this writing, wedding packages at the home begin at $3,000. According to the wedding planning website Wedding Wire, most couples spend anywhere from from $3,000 to $11,000 on their wedding venue. 

In his book "Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff," Chip revealed that he later threw a 30th birthday party for Joanna with a total budget of $695, which he swears was "a nicer party" than their wedding reception. Chip and Jo may have millions and millions of dollars today, but, as it turns out, they weren't always swimming in money. They knew what it was like to struggle to make ends meet.

They were flat-broke newlyweds

Money was tight in the Gaines household from the very beginning of their marriage. "I remember when we first got married the only money we had was what was in Chip's pocket," Joanna Gaines revealed in an interview with People. "He always had a wad of cash, but we were broke." She added, "If I needed to go grocery shopping it's whatever was in his pocket. That's how we paid the bills."

When the two married in 2003, Chip was flipping houses and making just enough money to get by. And this didn't exactly go unnoticed by Joanna's family. "Her dad spent the first two years of our marriage asking me if I was going to get a job," Chip revealed to the publication. "I was like, 'I have a job and I like it.'" Mr. Stevens is undoubtedly happy that Chip stuck with his ambitions, but he probably couldn't have imagined his son-in-law making such a huge turnaround in just ten years' time.

They always found 'a way to celebrate the milestones'

Chip Gaines has always been one for grand gestures. That 30th birthday party he threw for Joanna was no exception. "It very well could have been the last of our money, and I wouldn't have cared a bit. She was worth it," the construction guru wrote in "Capital Gaines," adding, "Being all but broke wasn't going to stop me from making Jo feel like the most important woman in the world that night."

With nearly $700, he somehow managed to pull off "the surprise of a lifetime." Although Chip can now afford to throw a much more extravagant party, it was never about spending money or throwing a big gathering. "In those days, broke or not, we somehow always seemed to find a way to celebrate the milestones," he explained.

They lived in quite the fixer-upper

If you've watched "Fixer Upper," then you know Chip and Joanna Gaines can take the worst of the worst and turn it into something absolutely beautiful. However, Joanna wasn't always confident in her ability to do that. In an Instagram post from 2015, Joanna shared a photo of one of the couple's first houses. "I remember crying when Chip said we were moving in — it was dumpy and it smelled bad," she admitted. After fixing it up, though, Joanna said they grew to love it. "To this day, if you ask us what our favorite house we ever lived in we both go back to this little white [800-square-foot] home."

Fixing up a house — at least to HGTV quality — doesn't come cheap, but Chip and Jo successfully renovated their space with limited means. "We were broke and were forced to be creative with our resources and we were proud as punch about this place," Joanna revealed. The home ended up being a learning lesson in creativity for her and taught her to "own the space you live in and love what you have."

Joanna opened a Magnolia Market once before

Long before Magnolia Market at the Silos would come to be, Chip and Joanna Gaines bought their first shop. In fact, they'd been married for less than a year when Joanna opened Magnolia Market in 2003. "In that store, I developed and sharpened my design style and skills, grew as a business owner, and gained much needed confidence in Magnolia Market and myself," Joanna explained on Magnolia.com

However, in three years' time, Chip and Joanna had welcomed two children into their lives and decided it was time to close up shop. The couple shifted their focus to raising their kids while also growing a construction business. Instead of selling the building, they began using it as a construction office. By 2014, though, Chip and Joanna officially reopened Magnolia Market, but they soon purchased the larger Silos property, and shuttered the original building again in 2015.

As their business grew, the couple eventually decided to use the building as an extension of Magnolia Market and opened it again as the Little Shop on Bosque. According to the website, you can purchase "slightly damaged and last chance items at a discount" at the small store.

The couple started making a career of flipping houses

The pair's decision to place more emphasis on their construction business in 2006 turned out to be a good one. Chip Gaines had already started flipping houses while he was in college, so he had a decent amount of experience by then. In an interview with HGTV, Chip recalled buying his first flip and admitted he "was hooked." Once married, Joanna Gaines would eventually develop the same passion for fixing up houses. "When I met Chip, he was renting and flipping properties left and right to college students," Joanna revealed to HGTV. When she saw the money they could make in flipping, she "was hooked, too."

After spending years growing their family and buying and flipping houses together, HGTV took an interest. "One of the homes we had renovated was featured on a high-profile blog and a production company found it," Joanna explained in an interview with the network. "They researched our company and contacted us for a show."

Fame 'fell into' their laps

Given the fact that Chip and Joanna Gaines were noticed by HGTV without even having to reach out to the network, you can see why they're still pretty blown away. "All of this sort of fell into our laps," Chip told People. "We were just living our life out here in little bitty Waco. We had dreams and aspirations like most folks, but this has really been something else."

Despite their success on HGTV, the couple made the decision to walk away from "Fixer Upper" after five seasons. But, in true Chip and Joanna fashion, the couple only came back bigger and better. In July 2021, the couple launched their very own network with Discovery, Magnolia Network, which boasts all the house-flipping, family-oriented projects fans could want. And to fans' delight, one such project was the Gaines family's new "Fixer Upper" revival, "Fixer Upper: Welcome Home." While the network's shows are available on Discovery+ and the Magnolia app, Magnolia Network will be available as a "linear pay-TV network" in January 2022, as Deadline reported.

With all they've accomplished already, we can't wait to see what else the future could possibly hold for this power couple.