50 Female Entrepreneurs We Should Aspire to Be Like
If you think there aren’t enough women in the public eye to aspire to, you’re wrong. Women are breaking through the glass ceiling in their droves, and if there isn’t a business willing to take them, they’re making the business for themselves; from manufacturing to media, from healthcare to technology, there isn’t a sector that doesn’t bear the hand-print of female entrepreneurialism. Female- led businesses are growing in their number and successes on an almost daily basis, and not just in the US- women of the UK, China, Australia, Taiwan, et al are all merrily carving out their mark on the business world. To find out more, let’s take a closer look at 50 of the top female entrepreneurs who are inspiring a new generation of innovators to follow their lead.
1. Sarah Prevette
Sarah Prevette has achieved phenomenal success as the director of Sprouter.com, an online community that provides advise to start-ups; as founder of BetaKit, a technology news site; and as co- star of Quit your Day Job, a reality TV show all about entrepreneurship. Now, in her latest project, the multi-talented businesswoman is helping others achieve the same. Future Design School provides teacher training for schools looking to encourage entrepreneurship amongst their students and is currently developing a network of innovation focused schools across America. Prevette is also responsible for BrandProject, a firm dedicated to investing in early stage start- ups. If that weren’t enough, she also serves on the board for Communitech and VentureLAB, as well as acting as chairperson of MasterCard’s Youth Entrepreneurship Board.
2. Karren Brady
Known to millions across the UK as Lord Sugar’s right- hand woman on BBC’s The Apprentice, Karren Brady has built a hugely successful business empire over the past 20 years. Her career started at Birmingham City Football Club at the age of 23; within 10 years, she’d been promoted to managing director of the club, a position she held until her appointment as vice-chairman of West Ham United F.C. in 2010. In addition to her accomplishments in the sporting sphere, Brady has written 4 books, been appointed as chairman of the Arcadia Group parent company, Taveta, and achieved the title of Baroness after being elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer.
3. Deborah Meaden
Deborah Meaden is a hugely successful businesswoman who build her fortune in the leisure and retail industry. In 1992, she joined Weststar Holidays, a holiday park operation with multiple sites in South East England. Seven years later, she acquired a majority stake in the business, and ran the company until 2005, when she sold the bulk of her shares to Phoenix Equity Partners in a £33 million deal. In 2009, she acquired Fox Brother, a textile mill based in Somerset, and in 2011, she launched online luxury goods retail store, The Merchant Fox. These days, Meaden is a household name across the UK thanks to her appearances on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, where she regularly puts her money where her mouth is by investing in the next generation of entrepreneurial hopefuls.
4. Dessislava Bell
As a winner at the National Business Awards in 2012, one of Management Today’s 35 under 35, and 2012 nominee in both the Everywoman in Retail Awards and Shell Women of the Future Awards, Dessislava Bell has seen phenomenal success over the course of her relatively short career. The UK based entrepreneur founded Zaggoro in 2011, and since then, the brand (which designs and sells technology enabled products), has gone on to sell more than 1 million products to a customer base that stretches over 143 countries.
5. Justine Roberts
Founder and chief executive of Mumset, the widely popular UK based website that gives parents a platform to share advise and information, and Gransnet, the Mumsnet equivalent for the older generation, Justine Roberts’ phenomenal success has earned her a place in the Media Guardian’s 2010 Power 100 list, a number 7 ranking in BBC Women Hour’s Power List 2013, and a position on Richtopia’s 500 Most Influential CEO’s in the World. In 2017, she topped of her success with a CBE for service to the economy.
6. Lisa Tse
As co-founder and manager director of Opus Artz (a concept art studio for the entertainment industry), owner of brand consultancy firm, Lisa Tse Ltd, curator of 209 Women and producer for the Power of Women Series, Lisa Tse has emerged as one of the UK’s most prominent business women. Keen to empower other women to similar success, Tse also fronts up The Sorority, an international, all- female affair that aims to unite inspiring women from all around the world.
7. Leanne Pero
Leanne Pero has achieved worldwide acclaim thanks to her work as founding director of The Movement Factory, an award- winning series of dance programs that have helped inspire over 50000 children and teenagers across London. Along with her work in dance, the entrepreneur, mentor and philanthropist has written a self-help manual for youngsters and helped raise over £15000 towards innovative community dance and performing arts initiatives. To add to her list of credits, Pero was one of the lucky few chosen to bear the torch at the 2012 Olympics.
8. Brynne Herbert
Brynne Herbert began her career in the financial sector, but after spotting a gap in the global mobility market, she moved on to found MOVE Guides, a provider of technology and support for international relocation. The company helps professionals plan their global reassignment from beginning to end, providing expert local content, move planning tools and booking services. Since its inception, Move Guides has grown into a market leader, working with some of the world’s largest multinationals and facilitating international moves across 200 cities.
9. Gabrielle Bernstein – Gabrielle Bernstein Inc.
Professional speaker, life coach and New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein has built a career around helping others develop a more holistic approach to spirituality. Her teachings have led the New York Times to award her the title of “guru,” while her social networking and mentoring community, Miracle Membership, has helped thousands of women feel more “spiritually connected.” In addition to Miracle Membership, Bernstein has been instrumental in the establishment of many other companies, including the PR firm, SparkPlug, and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting female entrepreneurs.
10. Gina Bianchini
American entrepreneur and investor Gina Bianchini achieved her first major success with Ning, an online platform designed to empower individuals and corporations to create social networks and communities around their own specific interests. Bianchini left Ning in 2010 and has since acted as “entrepreneur in residence” at private venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. In 2011, she challenged the dominance of Facebook with the launch of Mighty Networks, a social platform that allows people to build networks around their own “deep interests.” In the same year, she also became an angel investor in Levo League, a network aimed at providing millennials with the necessary tools to develop their careers.
11. Loral Langemeier
Finance writer Loral Langemeier is rapidly becoming one of the most well-known money experts in America. Her five books have all appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, while her talents as a compelling and engaging educator in money matters have turned her into a hotly- in demand speaker. In addition to her role as weekly guest columnist on Gather.com and TheStreet.com, Langemeier can also claim the title of CEO and founder of Live Out Loud, Inc, a coaching and seminar company that works to help others achieve a similar success to Langemeier. Since its inception, the company has grown into a multi – million-dollar operation, with other 14000 members and 461394 subscribers.
12. Daryn Kagan
Founder of DarynKagan.com Daryn Kagan is a broadcast journalist who served as a CNN anchor for 12 years. During her tenure at the network, the talented correspondent acted as main anchor on CNN Live Today, and hosted the news entertainment program, People in the News. Kagan left CCN in 2006 to establish her own business, DarynKagan.com. Since its launch, the site has extended its content to include documentaries, radios and books. Her first TV film, Breaking the Curse (which Kagan narrated and produced), won the 2008 Gracie Award for Outstanding Documentary, while her first book, What’s Possible!, was released in 2008 to critical acclaim.
13. Ellen Bennet
Ellen Bennet began her career as a line cook for some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants. Finding that the standard issue chef’s aprons weren’t up to scratch, Bennet founded her own culinary apron business, Hedley and Bennet, to solve the problem. The brand saw great initial success, and quickly expanded to include other items such as work shirts and chef coats. Bennet is also founder of BennetBrunches (a series of fun brunches that bring people together for a morning of cooking and conversation), and a partner at the Firehouse Hotel, an independent boutique hotel and restaurant uniquely set in an original fire station in LA.
14. Sandy Ruddick
Former training/ leadership consultant Sandy Ruddock established Scarlett and Mustard (an award- winning range of sweet and savory dressings, sauces and marinades) in 2012, and has subsequently gone on to rack up a huge list of accolades, including a place on the Daily Telegraph’s Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2015, a finalist position at the 2015 Women in Business Awards, winner of the EADT Business Award for Small Business of the Year in 2016, and a Best Newcomer Award at the Investec Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2014. In her downtime, Ruddick contributes to Suffolk Magazine, serves as a governor at Easton & Otley College, and is a board member at the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
15. Linda Bennett
In 1990, Linda Bennett set up her first L.K. Bennett store, a retail outlet specializing in women’s footwear. Within just a few short years, she’d earned the nickname “Queen of the Kitten Heel,” after introducing the comfortably-heeled shoe to millions of women’s wardrobes across the UK. After dominating the footwear market, the brand expanded to include women’s attire, and until it wrapped in March 2019, could boast around 130 stores across the world. Bennett’s success was recognized in 2006, when she was awarded an MBE by the Queen.
16. Alexandra Margolis
In 2013, Alexandra Margolis co-founded Carwaw, an online site that simplifies the car buying process by allowing users to browse availability at multiple car dealerships at the same time. Despite being only 25 years old at the time of its launch, Margolis has led the company to become the foremost site of its kind: since its inception, over 20,000 cars have been bought at Carwaw, generating more than £600m in sales for its network of dealers.
17. Sara Keel
Sara Keel established Babycup LTD, a company that specializes in producing mini open cups for babies and toddlers, in 2013. Since its beginnings as a small, UK centered operation, the brand has grown into an award-winning, multinational affair that retails across both Europe and America. The popularity of the brand has naturally led to award success, including Editor’s Choice at the 2018 Made for Mums Awards. In addition to her work with Babycup, Keel serves on the All-Party Parliamentary group, Fit & Healthy Childhood, which aims to positively influence legislature on childhood nutrition and health.
18. Rachael Taplin
Rachel Taplin founded her first advertising and design business, JRT Business Development Ltd, in 1995, and has since gone on to become one of the UK’s foremost business professionals. In 2007, she founded Mums in Control, a magazine aimed at working moms with a distribution of over 150000 per issue. She’s subsequently launched The Media Matchmaker, which provides PR training to entrepreneurs and business owners, along with the UK’s first Journo Request service and Media Database dedicated to connecting business owners to media influencers and journalists.
19. Jude Ower
Jude Ower has won multiple awards (including an MBE in 2015 for service to entrepreneurship) for her work as founder and CEO of Playmob, a global platform aimed at profitably connecting brands to millions of global gamers for the wider purpose of social good. Ower’s other roles include the curator of Startup Secrets, a BAFTA games judge, member of UKIE and an in-demand public speaker.
20. Sophie Cornish
Along with her business partner, Holly Tucker, Sophie Cornish has developed the online fashion retail store, notinthehighstreet.com, into one of most profitable businesses in the UK. The site, which offers customers the opportunity to browse and buy from more than 3500 independent designers, has grown from a small concern into a high profile, highly successful operation that has pulled in over 24 awards since its inception (not to mention an MBE for Cornish in recognition of her service to small business and enterprises).
21. Joanna Montgomery
Joanna Montgomery already had a successful career as a designer and photographer before founding Little Riot in 2011, but it’s her subsequent work with the design company that’s bought her to international attention. Little Riot offers a range of highly innovative, human-centric interactive technologies and products that aim to enable human connections. One of the brands most successful products is Pillow Talk, a wristband designed to pick up the wearer’s heartbeat and sent it, in real time, to their partner. In addition to her activities with Little Riot, Montgomery works with IoT London, the UK’s only conference and exhibition focused on the Internet of Things.
22. Melody Hossaini
Melody Hossaini is a successful motivational speaker, personal development trainer and lifestyle coach. She came to the public’s attention as the first social entrepreneur to appear on the BBC television series, The Apprentice. Although she failed to win the show, her talents didn’t go unnoticed, and Sir Allan Sugar was even prompted to describe her “a woman with exceptional ability.” Since The Apprentice, Hossaini has grown into one of Britain’s foremost social entrepreneurs: her company, InspirEngage International, delivers self-development coaching and training through its line of InspirEngage Skills Bootcamps, while her social enterprise program, InspirEngage, is the first of its kind to be introduced into the UK school curriculum.
23. Julia Elliott Brown
In 2009, Julia Elliott Brown founded Upper Brand, a luxury accessories company that allows customers to design their own bespoke shoes. As well as achieving massive success with Upper Brand, Elliott Brown has gone on to become the UK’s leading equity fundraising expert, offering tailored coaching and guidance to women entrepreneurs through her crowd-sourcing agency, Enter the Arena. In 2018, Elliot Brown was recognized for her endeavors with a Distributor of the Year finalist position at the Women in Finance Awards.
24. Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington is a Greek- American author, columnist and businesswoman best known as the founder of the phenomenally successful news blog site, The Huffington Post. The talented entrepreneur has featured on Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” as well as on Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women” list. She can also claim authorship of 15 books, ownership of Thrive Global, a health and well-being platform, and board membership of such companies as Uber, Onex and Global Citizen. The combined result of Huffington’s endeavors is a staggering $50 million net worth.
25. Debbie Field
With a purported $65 million net worth, Debbie Fields is one of America most successful businesswomen. In 1977, Fields founded Mrs. Field’s Bakeries, the hugely profitable American snack food franchise that ranks as one of the largest retailers of on-premises cookies, soft serve ice-cream and brownies in the US. Although Fields sold the business in the early 1990’s, she’s remains active in its operations and still serves as its main spokesperson. In addition to her duties with Mrs. Field’s Bakeries, Field has written several highly popular cookbooks, including the first of its kind to ever top the New York Times Bestseller list.
26. Indra Nooyi
Indian-American entrepreneur Indra Nooyi has seen remarkable success over her career, including a position as director at retail giant Amazon; the first independent female director of the International Cricket Council; CEO and chairperson of PepsiCo; a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum; and Honorary Co-chair for the World Justice Project. In addition to her work in business, Nooyi has also dappled in politics: in December 2016, she was selected by President Trump to join an elite business forum that provides advice and guidance on economic issues. Nooyi’s hard work haven’t gone unrewarded: in 2009, she was named CEO of the Year by Global Supply Chain Leaders Group, and in 2013, she earned a place on NDTV’s list of “25 Greatest Global Living Legends”.
27. Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg has gained considerable acclaim (and a place in Time Magazine’s Top 100 Influential People for her work as a technology executive, author and activist. Her many roles have included vice president of global online sales and operations at Google, and Chief of Staff for the United States Secretary of Treasury, Lawrence Summers. Since 2008, she’s served as COO of Facebook, and in 2012, she was elected as the first woman to join the company’s board of directors. If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Sandberg also serves on the board of directors for The Walt Disney Company, the Women for Women International, The Center for Global Development, and V-Day. To complete the roundup of her achievements, we have: an in- demand public speaker, an author, and founder of the charitable organization Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.
28. Sara Blakely
Spanx founder Sara Blakely has proved there’s money to be made in the undergarments industry; since its launch in 2000, Spanx has grown into one of the world’s leading underwear brands, generating over $250 million in annual revenue and awarding Blakely (who owns 100% of the company’s shares) a very neat 1.1 billion net worth. As well as overseeing Spanx’s day-to- day operations, Blakely is a guest judge on Shark Tank, and is known to regularly invest in female- led startups such as the highly profitable food company, Biena Snacks, and the equally successful lifestyle brand, Alice’s Table.
29. Wang Laichun
As chairwoman of Luxshare, the Chinse electronics manufacturer that keeps Apple in parts, Wang Laichun has broken the glass ceiling and then some. Wang began her career in the cable assembly department of Haiyang Factory, a Taiwanese electronics plant set up by Foxconn Technology Group. She left the company in 1999 and in 2004, she and her brother acquired Luxshare. Since then, Wang has become one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires; according to Forbes the self-starter now holds a net worth of $3 billion.
30. Cher Wang
Cher Wang is a Taiwanese entrepreneur and philanthropist. Her position as co-founder and chair of HTC Corporation (a Taiwanese electronics company that makes one in every six smartphones in America), and integrated chipset maker VIA Technologies has earned her a position of one of the most successful and influential women in technology. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of HTC, Wang is a noted philanthropist, and has made significant donations to the Guishou Forerunner College in Southwest China, as well as to the University of California, Berkeley.
31. Pamela Slim
Author, teacher and businesswoman Pamela Slim spent the first 10 years of her business (The Main Street Learning Lab) working as a consultant to such companies as Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab and Cisco Systems. Over the past 8 years, she’s concentrated her activities instead on helping other entrepreneurs start their own successful companies. Her first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur was released in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim, while her 2nd book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together, emulated much of the success of its predecessor. Slim also runs the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, which has grown in the past 15 years to become one of the top career and business blogs on the internet.
32. Oprah Winfrey
In the 1990’s, media executive Oprah Winfrey broke multiple taboos with her hit talk show and is credited as one of the first mainstream hosts to give the LGBT community a public platform. In 2007, Winfrey successfully transitioned her daytime show into her own network, Oprah Winfrey Network- an entertainment, media and business empire that, according to Forbes, has rewarded Winfrey with a staggering $2.7 billion net worth. In addition to her media work, Winfrey is a noted philanthropist and is credited with donating over $400 million to educational causes. In 2013, her endeavors were recognized with a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
33. Ana Patricia Botín
In 2014, Ana Patricia Botín took over the chair of banking giant Santander after the sudden death of her father and company chair, Emilio. Prior to her appointment, Botín had served as CEO of Santander UK from December 2010, director of the Coco-Cola Company from 2013, and executive Chair of the Spanish Bank Banesto from 2002. During her tenure at Santander, Botín has championed fintech and focused the bank’s activities on developing small enterprises and female- led businesses. She’s also launched Santander X, a scheme dedicated to support entrepreneurship in Universities, and helped develop Spain’s first multi sector block-chain based platform.
34. Denise Coates
In January 2000, Denise Coates purchased the domain name Bet365.com, and spent the following year developing what would become one of the largest online gambling sites in the world. By 2017, Coates was ranked as one of the highest paid company heads in the UK, pulling in a massive £217m for the 2016–17 financial year, and an even more staggering $280 million in 2018. As of 2019, her net worth according to Forbes is estimated to be in the region of $6.6B.
35. Folorunsho Alakija
With a net worth purported to be in the region of $2.5 billion, Folorunsho Alakija holds the title of richest female entrepreneur in Nigeria. In 2014, she even managed to temporarily usurp Orpah Winfrey as the richest black woman in the entire world. Her journey to riches began with the tailoring company, Supreme Stitches, which proved so successful she was inspired to try her luck in other industries. She’s since gone on to assume the position of group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group and executive vice-chairperson of Famfa Oil Limited. Outside of her day job, Alakija serves as the vice-chairperson of Nigeria’s National Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts, along with Chief Matron of the not-for -profit foundation, Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs.
36. Gina Rinehart
With a personal fortune estimated to be around $11.7 billion, Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart enjoys the title of richest person in Australia, and 6th richest woman in the world. Rinehart’s wealth can be attributed to her position as head of the privately-owned mining company, Hancock Prospecting Group, a title she assumed on the death of her father in 1992. Rinehart’s tenure as chair saw a rapid expansion of the company, while her own personal wealth expanded when she began to explore investment opportunities outside of the mining company, most notably with Ten Network Holdings and Fairfax Media. Despite a decline in the mining sector over the past few years, Rinehart’s wise investments have ensured she’s kept a firm grip on her ample fortune.
We may know her best as a singer, but Beyoncé has more than one string to her bow. In 2010, the talented musician founded her own entertainment company, Parkwood Entertainment, which today serves as an umbrella for her various ventures in music, film, fragrance and attire. The company’s first major production was the 2008 musical biopic Cadillac Records (which Beyoncé both starred in and produced). Since then, Parkwood has gone on to become the main distributor of the singer’s albums, and has also bought other acts, such as the R&B duo Chloe X Halle, on board. In 2005, Beyoncé took her entrepreneurial ambitions one step further with the launch of her own fashion label, House of Dereon, whose range of attire, footwear and accessories is available in department stores across both the US and Canada. The combined result of Beyoncé‘s pursuits is a staggering personal fortune of $500 million.
She may be one of the world’s highest paid TV stars, but not all of Sofia Vergara’s $37 million fortune can be attributed to her acting abilities. In between her film and TV work, the Colombian is a hugely successful entrepreneur. Not only has she secured multiple, highly paid endorsement deals with the likes of Diet Pepsi, Rooms to Go, and Synthroid, she’s also launched her own range of attire for retail giant Walmart. The line, which goes by the name Sofia Jeans, features nearly 100 affordably priced items designed to encourage women to “work what they’ve got.”
39. Gisele Bundchen
In recent years, Gisele Bundchen has made the successful transition from supermodel to entrepreneur. In 2010, the Brazilian beauty launched her own brand of natural skincare products, Sejaa Pure Skincare, which has been the subject of acquisition talks with Shishido for several years. She also has her own line of lingerie, Gisele Bundchen Intimates, while her line of sandals with Ipanema sells 25 million pairs annually. In addition to her own businesses, Bundchen has a number of highly lucrative endorsements to her name, including deals with Procter & Gamble, HOPE and Arezzo. Along with her husband, Tom Brady, Bundchen is known for her philanthropic works, which include contributing over $15000 to Brazil ‘s Zero Hunger programs and designing a limited- edition necklace to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Tory Burch is an American designer, businesswoman and philanthropist who currently serves as the executive Chairwoman and Chief Creative Officer of the fashion brand, Tory Burch LLC. Since Burch founded the company in 2004, the brand’s line of apparel and accessories (which are carried in over 250 boutiques and 3000 department stores worldwide) have secured a massive fan base. Burch developed the brand still further in 2015, when she launched a line of active wear, Tory Sport, to international fanfare. In addition to her day-to day activities with the company, Burch is a well-known philanthropist, and has even created her own foundation, the Tory Burch Foundation, which offers women entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete for mentoring, educational funding and a $50000 investment in their business.
41. Weili Dai
Chinese born, US educated Weili Dai is the co-founder and former director and president of semi-conductor company, Marvell Technology Group. Thanks to her strategy of developing key partnerships, Dai elevated Marvell to the status of one of the leading semiconductor companies in the world, gaining global recognition in the process as the only female co-founder of a major semi-conductor group. During her time at Marvell, Dai served as chief operating officer, executive vice president, corporate secretary of the board and general manager of Marvell’s Communications Business Group. Since stepping down from the daily operations of the company, Dai continues to be associated with the company via a non-managerial position on the board. During her tenure at Marvell, Dai won numerous accolades, including the Gold Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Products in 2014, Gold Winner at the 2014 Women World Awards and a “Keeper of the American Dream” Award from The National Immigration Forum and National Immigration Forum Action Fund.
42. Yang Lan
Media mogul and talk show host Yang Lan is viewed as one of the most powerful women in China… a fact demonstrated by her nickname, the “Chinese Oprah”. Yang began her career as a TV host, working as a presenter on such shows as the popular Zheng Da Variety Show and Yang Lan Sight. In 1998, Yang launched her own talk show, Yang Lan Studio, which focused on topical events and in-depth interviews. In the same year, she launched These Hundred Years, a joint production with the BBC and PBC chronicling the history of the 20th Century. During their time on air, both shows pulled in the highest advertising revenue in the network’s history. In 2000, Yang acquired the construction company Leung Kee Holdings Limited, relaunching it after significant investment as Sun TV, the first historical and cultural channel in China. The channel’s huge initial success inspired Yang to take on further projects, starting with her own talk show, The Village, which she would later develop into a multimedia community dedicated to empowering women. In 2007, she collaborated with Canadian singer Céline Dion to launch a jewelry accessories company. Outside of her work in the media, Yang is a noted philanthropist, having acted as ambassador for China in Beijing’s 2008 Olympic bid, and served as Goodwill Ambassador for the 2010 Shanghai Expo. She is also the first UNICEF ambassador for China, and co -chair of the Lincoln Center China Advisory Council.
43. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Indian billionaire Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw achieved her personal fortune (estimated by Forbes to be $3.4B) as the founder, chairperson and managing director of India’s largest biotech company, Biocon. Mazumdar-Shaw founded Biocon in 1978 when she partnered up with Irish company, Biocon Biochemicals Limited. Despite facing obstacles created by her gender and youth (she was only 28 at the time of the company’s creation), Mazumdar-Shaw successfully developed the business by venturing into the US biosimilars market, becoming the first company to attain USFDA approval for two different biosimilars of drugs used in cancer treatment. Biocon continues to explore new ground in medical research, with 10% of its revenue being plowed back into research and development. Mazumdar-Shaw is also active in philanthropy: her foundation, The Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre, focuses on developing health care, education and infrastructure in some of India’s poorest rural communities. She’s also supported the development of Arogya Raksha Yojana, a charity that’s established multiple clinics across India, providing medical care to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
44. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling may have started out as a children’s author, but these days, she’s much more than just a writer. Her Harry Potter fantasy novels have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling book series of all time. In 2008, the Glaswegian author sold the film rights to the books to Warner Bros, but exercised considerable creative control over the direction of the subsequent movies, reviewing all scripts and even producing the final two films herself. Her production skills clearly impressed Warner Bros: in 2013, they announced they would continue to collaborate with Rowling in the production of a further series of fantasy films set in the world of Harry Potter. Rowling has subsequently scripted and co-produced two Fantastic Beasts films with the studio. Outside of the world of fantasy, Rowling is a noted philanthropist, serving as president of Gingerbread, a charity that supports single- parent families in the UK. She’s also worked extensively with anti-poverty charity Comic Relief, and in 2006, co-founded international children’s charity, Lumos.
45. Diane Von Furstenberg
Belgium fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg began designing clothes in 1974, and remains best known to the public for the highly influential jersey “wrap dress” she launched in the same year. By 1979, her company, DVF, was pulling in $150 million in annual retail sales. Inspired by her success, Furstenberg moved to Paris in 1985 and founded Salvy, a French-language publishing house, along with a number of other businesses, including a home-shopping company. She also continued to build her fashion empire, and in 2006, was elected as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 2011, DVF launched a home collection and fragrance line, DIANE. Her fashion designs, meanwhile, have become wardrobe staples for working women and celebrities across the world, while her famous wrap dress remains as relevant today as it was 40 years ago… a fact Michelle Obama demonstrated when in 2009, she donned the garment for the White House Christmas card. Outside of her business ventures, Furstenberg is a keen philanthropist, serving as director of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, a charity which provides support to other charitable foundations in the areas of human rights, arts, health and education. The foundation also sponsors the annual DVF awards, which recognizes those women who have done most to advance women’s causes across the world.
46. Zhang Xin
Zhang Xin is a Chinese businesswoman who’s managed to amass a personal fortune of $3.79 billion from the real estate industry. Zhang founded SOHO China in 1995 alongside husband Pan Shiyi, and within 10 years, theirs was the largest property developer in the country. In 2011, the company began to diversify from developing and selling properties to buying and leasing them, with Zhang launching the SOHO 3Q shared office space sector in 2015. In 2014, Zhang and her husband launched the SOHO China Scholarship, a charitable fund that supports disadvantaged Chinese students through education. Zhang is now recognized as one of China’s most prominent entrepreneurs, and has won several international awards for her work, including a prize at the 8th la Biennale di Venezia for the SOHO China managed boutique hotel, Commune by the Great Wall.
47. Wu Yajun
Prior to her divorce, Wu Yajun held the title of richest woman in China, and even now still ranks as one of its wealthiest thanks to a personal fortune of $4.2 Billion. Her wealth comes from her substantial property portfolio, which spreads across most of China’s major cities, including Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Wuxi, Changzhou and Dalian. Before moving into real estate, Wu worked for several years as a journalist, but in 1994, abandoned her career in media to launch Chongqing Zhongjianke Real Estate Co Ltd (later renamed as Longfor Properties) alongside then husband, Carl Kui. The company initially focused on residential developments for China’s growing middle class, with their first project involving the construction of townhouses, apartment blocks, a school, supermarket and recreational facilities. From there, the company expanded into shopping malls and business centers. In addition to her day-to-day activities with Longfor, Wu is a member of the National’s People Congress of China, and in 2010, was ranked 47th most prominent businesswomen in the world by the Financial Times.
48. Iris Apfel
97-year-old Iris Apfel is as well known for her business savvy as for her status as intentional fashion icon. After beginning her career with Women’s Wear Daily, Apfel branched into business in 1950 with the launch of textile firm Old World, which she co-founded with late husband Carl Apfel. Between 1950 and 1992, Apfel contributed to multiple design restoration projects, while her illustrious clientele included 9 US presidents. Although she officially retired from Old World in 1992, Apfel’s career has continued unabated: in 2016, she starred in a TV commercial for French car manufacturer Citroen, as well as becoming the face of Australian fashion brand Blue Illusion. That same year, she announced the launch of a new line of Smart Jewelry in collaboration with technology startup, WiseWear. In 2018, she published her memoirs, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, and became the oldest woman to ever have a Barbie doll created in her image. This year alone, Apfel became one of the oldest models in the world when she signed a modelling contract with global talent agency, IMG. In 2016, Apfel was recognized with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Pioneer Award at the United Nations headquarters in New York for her work in fashion. She was also awarded the Women Together Special Award of the Year at the 12th Annual Women Together Gala.
49. Alexa Von Tobel
35-year-old Alex von Tobel is the founder and CEO of personal finance website, Learnvest.com, as well as the author of a New York Times Bestseller, Financially Fearless. Von Tobel’s inspiration for Learnvest came shortly after her graduation from Harvard, when she came to the realization that she, along with most of her peers, were pretty clueless about how to manage their personal finances. In 2009, von Tobel secured a $4.5 million funding deal to develop her idea further. Learnvest proved massively successful, and in 2015, it was announced that Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance CO would acquire the company, under the agreement it would remain a distinct entity with von Tobel at the helm.
50. Angie Hicks
Businesswoman Angie Hicks is Chief Customer Officer of ANGI Homeservices Inc and founder of Angie’s List. Angie’s List was created in 1995 as a call-in service and publication featuring local home and garden services. In 2017, IAC announced a takeover of the company, which it’s since gone on to combine with its HomeAdvisor service to form a new digital marketplace company, ANGI Homeservices. The project, which Hick heads up, works to connect customers to local service providers for home repair and maintenance projects. In addition to her work with ANGI, Hicks serves as a member of the Techpoint Board of Directors, and is a co-founder and past member of the Board of Directors of The Governor Bob Orr Indiana Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program.