Female entrepreneurs are proving they have what it takes to go head-to-head with their male counterparts, and, in general, kicking-ass along the way.
These 7 inspiring women are building and running some of the world’s greatest companies. Not only are they handling multi-million dollar businesses with great finesse, they’re doing so across a variety of industries– proving that men have no special advantage when it comes to creating astronomical wealth and success. In a world where women account for 50% of the population but only 14.6 percent hold an executive officer position in Fortune 500 companies, these women have reached a rare level of accomplishment. Check out the list below to see how they’re doing it.
1. MICHELLE MONE, OBE @MICHELLEMONE
FOUNDER, ULTIMO; CEO, UTAN
Mone founded her first company, Ultimo, out of necessity. In fact, she first got the idea for the award winning lingerie company when she became frustrated with how uncomfortable her bra was– and thought she could develop a better design. Mone then invented a silicone underwire which she incorporated into her brands design for increased comfort. Ultimo is now estimated to be worth upwards of 60 million dollars. She also recently bought U-Tan, a fake tan company, in which she now owns a 100% stake. Considering that Mone’s school teachers told her she would never amount to anything, she’s living proof that success is possible for anyone willing to put in the work and persevere.
2. MIMI IKONN @MIMIIKONN
CO-FOUNDER, LUXY HAIR
Ikonn co-founded Luxy Hair in 2010, when she noticed how difficult it was to find and obtain quality, reasonably priced hair extensions. But Ikonn didn’t just create an online hair extension store, she created a HUGE following with Youtube. Since the beginning, Luxy Hair’s sales have been driven, almost exclusively, by tutorial-style YouTube videos done by Mimi and her sister Leyla. The YouTube channel, created in 2010, has since amassed over 1.5 million subscribers and more than 173 million total video views. Those views translate to what’s now a multi-million dollar business. Luxy’s business model is evidence that, the more value you offer, through your content, products, and services, the likelier you are to find success.
3. JENNIFER HYMAN @JENN_RTR
CEO & CO-FOUNDER, RENT THE RUNWAY
Hyman co-founded Rent The Runway when she and Harvard pal Jennifer Fleisswitnessed their friend’s frustration at trying to find a designer dress for a special event that also fit within her modest budget. They immediately decided to create a business that could cater to women like their friends– women who want to look glamorous for all their occasions and experiment with new brands without the anxiety of making a huge investment in each piece. Their online service, which provides designer dress and accessory rentals, has grown to more than 4 million members and over 250 employees. As of 2014, Hyman and Fleiss have also raised approximately $114 million in venture capital funding for their company. Today, the team is looking toward the future with plans to break into new industries where they can incorporate their highly successful business format.
4. SARA BLAKELY @SPANX
Sara Blakely invented Spanx to solve an age-old problem. The problem, bunching pantyhose that refused to to lie smoothly under pants, ended up being the greatest opportunity of her life. At 29 Blakely invested her entire life savings of $5,000, into creating a new line of shaping underwear which she sold from her Atlanta apartment. Incredibly, just six short months after launching Spanx, the invention was announced as one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things– launching her company into the spotlight. Since Oprah’s endorsement in 2000, Blakely’s company has grown into a powerhouse with more that 200 products and about $250 million in annual revenues.
5. TORY BURCH @TORYBURCH
FOUNDER, CHAIRMAN, CEO, & DESIGNER, TORY BURCH
Tory Burch has always had a flair for fashion and after college went straight to New York, working for fashion icons Vera Wang and Polo Ralph Lauren. She soon developed a distinct style which some have referred to as “preppy-boho”, and looked to make her own mark on the fashion industry. So, in 2004, she created a fashion label, “TRB by Tory Burch”, later known as “Tory Burch” and launched her first retail location in Manhattan’s Nolita district. It was a hit, as nearly all of the merchandise sold out on the first day. She got a second boost when, in 2005, Oprah Winfrey called Burch “the next big thing in fashion”. The next day her website received 8 million hits. Today, the company is comprised of 140 Tory Burch stores worldwide and has a market cap of $3.5 billion.
6. OPRAH WINFREY @OPRAH
CHAIRWOMAN, CEO, & CCO, OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK (OWN)
America’s favorite female entrepreneur, the “Queen of all media”, was once just the co-anchor at a local news station. There, she began to develop her signature emotional ad-lib delivery, earning her place in the world of daytime-talk-shows. In 1986, she made the decision to launch her own production company (Harpo Productions) and became internationally syndicated. Winfrey is widely credited with creating a more intimate and confessional form of interview and re-imagining the talk show genre on her hit television show titles “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Winfrey’s success has earned her a net worth is approaching $3 billion, supported by the many massively successful brands, products, and services she’s created. However, she hasn’t let her success get to her head, and she continues to give more and more of her fortune to charities and other causes.
7. CHER WANG @CHERWANG
CO-FOUNDER & CHAIRPERSON, HTC CORPORATION
One of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, Wang is one of very few female tech pioneers. Wang got the idea for HTC when she was hauling cases of computer parts she was hoping to sell. While struggling to carry the cases, she says “I began to ponder what it would be like if the devices could be smaller and not so heavy to carry around”(Holson, 2008). She co-founded HTC in 1997, and immediately took to places like Silicon Valley, where she secured major deals and built relationships with top companies like T-Mobile. The company, which designed and manufactured devices such as mobile phones, touchscreen phones, and PDA’s, is also credited with creating the first Android smartphone. HTC smartphones have proven extremely popular and, at one point, accounted for one of every six smartphones sold in the United States. With an estimated net worth of $8.8 billion, Wang now focuses on philanthropy.
The one thing that each of these highly successful women have in common is that each was able to see an opportunity where others saw only a problem. They also prove that there are no industries off-limits to female entrepreneurs, though, sometimes entering those industries can mean a lot of hard work and developing an unusual perseverance. So take their failures, successes, and experiences and create a vision for your own business– then get to work; because if there’s one thing these women know how to do, it’s hustle!