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Six Female Entrepreneurs and Their Stories

Successful women who have gone above and beyond.

Katerina Zissouli

4 min read

There are many female leaders today. Yet, there are few successful women who have gone above and beyond and managed to thrive and make a difference in a very competitive business environment. The women included stand out because of their determination, ambition and initiative. This is not an all-inclusive list by any means. 

Arianna Huffington
(The Huffington Post, Net Worth $50 million)

“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of success.” 

Arianna Huffington—born Ariadni Anna Stasinopoulou—in Athens, Greece, studied at the University of Cambridge, where she received her Master’s in Economics. In 2005, she started a web blog which she called The Huffington Post, which was acquired by AOL in 2011 for $300 million. Since then, it has become a very popular online newspaper with branches in many countries across the globe. In addition, she has written fourteen books on various topics, from feminism to self-help, to politics and biographies. 

In 2016, she left The Huffington Post to pursue other interests, such as the health and wellness project, Thrive Global (Biography). Fred Dickey, in July 30, 2000 wrote this about Huffington: “…she’s doing what she damn well pleases, and it could be argued that we all benefit because she pleases to make things better. Her way. Because she thinks for herself, she often thinks alone” (Los Angeles Times). 

Her heavy Greek accent did not deter her from succeeding. In her own words: “I didn’t relax about my accent until I moved to the States and met Henry Kissinger. And he said to me, ‘Never worry about your accent – in American public life you can never underestimate the advantages of complete and total incomprehensibility’” (Inbound Conference Keynote).

Debbi Fields
(Mrs. Fields Bakeries, Net Worth $65 million)

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” 

Debbi Fields—born Debra Sivyer—in Oakland, CA, attended junior college. In other words, even though she is not an Ivy League graduate, she had excellent business acumen, which made her relatable to everyone. This relatability played a great part in her success. 

When Debbi Fields was 20-years old, she was able to secure a loan to start a chocolate chip cookie business. She opened her first store, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery, in Palo Alto, CA. In her story she baked and sold real chocolate chip cookies, made with real ingredients. However, customers were difficult to come by, so she took a tray of cookies, stood outside of her store, and offered samples to passersby. By the end of her first business day, she had sold $75 worth of cookies. 

Treating her customers with respect was her secret weapon, which contributed to her company’s success. Since then, she has written and published cookbooks and is involved in a number of philanthropies. In her own words, “It’s easy to get comfortable, but it’s important to never lose touch with that feeling of opening day—that enthusiasm and excitement” (My Recipes).

“There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire. If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself—spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing and more time working”

Gina Rinehart, Chairwoman of Hancock Prospecting Group

Sara Blakely
(Founder of Spanx, Net Worth $1 billion)

“Everybody has a multimillion-dollar idea inside them,” 

Sara Blakely—born Sara Treleaven Blakely—in Clearwater, FL, attended Florida State University and graduated with a degree in Legal Communication. After she graduated from Florida State she failed the LSAT twice. As a result, she gave up her dream of attending Law School and took a job at Disney World instead. 

Eventually, she returned home and took a job selling fact machines door-to-door. It was a difficult job in Florida’s warm weather, especially since she was required to wear pantyhose in her daily dealings with potential customers. As a result, one day, she cut the feet out of her pantyhose but kept the control top because of its slimming effect. 

This is when the idea for SPANX shapewear was born. And the rest, as they say, is history (CNBC). Sara Blakely started SPANX in 2000 with $5,000 of her own money. Her moto is “Trust your gut!” 

Cher Wang
(Co-Founder of HTC—Mobile technology Company, Net Worth $1.6 billion)

“It is only through the convergence of technology and humanity that we can unleash our imaginations.”

Cher Wang—born in Taipei, Taiwan—attended The College Preparatory School, In Oakland, CA and received a Master’s in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. 

She co-founded VIA Technologies, a manufacturer of integrated circuits and HTC, a consumer electronics company, originally designing and manufacturing laptop computers. Also, HTC is known for making the earliest smartphones (SCMP).

In 2011, Global Mobile Awards, named HTC “Device Manufacturer of the Year.” The same year, HTC became the third-largest smartphone manufacturer, after Apple and Samsung. In 2011, HTC surpassed Samsung and Apple to become the largest smartphone vendor in the United States (Yourtechstory).

In her own words: “It takes humility to realize we don’t know everything, not to rest on our laurels, and to know that we must keep learning and observing. If we don’t, we can be sure some startup will be there to take our place” (My Frugal Business).

Denise Coates
(Founder of Bet365—English based online gambling company, Net Worth $2.5 billion)

“The more grateful we feel, the more things we receive to feel grateful for. The more loved we feel, the more love we receive. The more beautiful we feel, the more attractive we become.”

Denise Coates—born in Stoke-on-Trent, UK—received a degree in Econometrics from the University of Sheffield.

She founded Bet365, an online gambling juggernaut, which launched in 2001. Innovation and customer service and a solid reputation quickly placed Bet365 on the top. Today, she is the company’s CEO, which is a position that she shares with her brother, John. She is also the majority shareholder of Bet365. 

Yet, because she is a very private person, she is not easily recognizable, as she does not make public appearances. In addition, her occasional interviews are done via email. 

In her own words: “Focusing on a person’s positive attributes is an incredible way to give love” (Gambling Sites).

Folorunsho Alajija
(Founder of Supreme Stitches—a tailoring company in Nigeria, Net Worth $2.5 billion)

“I told as much of my life as I could to encourage people: to encourage others to get to where they should be, where they want to be.”

Folorunsho Alajija—born in Ikorodu, Lagos—is a Nigerian businesswoman. She has 51 siblings and is well-known for being one of the richest black women in the world. She studied at Dinorben School for Girls in Northern Wales for four years and continued her studies at Muslim High School Sagamu in Nigeria. After she graduated from high school, she attended college in London (Pitman’s Central College) where she received a degree in Secretarial Studies. 

When she returned to Nigeria (1974) after she completed college, she began working as an executive secretary in Lagos, Nigeria. Several years later (1984), she decided to change her career path, and studied fashion design in the UK. Upon her return to Nigeria, she established Supreme Stitches, which is a fashion house, in a three-bedroom apartment in Surulere, Lagos. And as they say, the rest is history. 

Her fashion house became a success in a short period of time.

In her own words: “Persevere—Never give up! Today’s world enjoys electricity because of those who did not give up” (Black Past).

The stories of these and other women entrepreneurs are inspiring. In the words of Gina Rinehart, Chairwoman of Hancock Prospecting Group—a mining company in Australia, whose net worth $11.7 billion: “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire. If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself—spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing and more time working” (AZ Quotes).

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