Although women make up half the U.S. population, they consist of only 29 percent of American entrepreneurs, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The ability for women to build and sustain their own companies is a crucial component for establishing gender equality in the business world. Here are 10 exemplary women who created their own opportunities for financial success.
Inspirational Women in Business
Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793)
A plantation manager in South Carolina, British-American Eliza Lucas Pinckney is famous for her cultivation of the first successful indigo crop in the American colonies. Due to her father's military service and her mother's chronic illness, Pinckney became her family's plantation manager while still in her teens. Although indigo (a plant commonly used for dye) had been used worldwide for centuries, Pinckney correctly predicted its commercial success in North America. Her contribution helped sustain the colonial Carolina economy for nearly 30 years.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Born to Louisiana sharecroppers, Walker struggled for years to escape poverty. After finding work as a beauty sales agent, Walker eventually started her own line of hair products and straighteners designed especially for black women. The Walker Manufacturing Company became extraordinarily successful, allowing Walker to build a factory, employ nearly 40,000 workers both in the United States and overseas, create her own training programs and establish the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association.
Pauline Trigére (1908-2002)
Pauline Tri gére is famous for her iconic impact on the American fashion industry. Born in France, Trigére moved to New York in the 1930s and worked for years in the tailoring business before opening her own fashion house. As a maker of ready-to-wear clothes, she created items such as the reversible coat, mobile collar, spiral jacket and sleeveless coat. Her accolades include a celebration of her 50th anniversary in fashion (a feat never before achieved by a designer in America) and a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She also became the first major designer to employ an African-American model.
Joyce Chen (1917-1994)
As a chef, author, entrepreneur and TV host, Joyce Chen is credited with popularizing Chinese food in the United States. Chen got her start while living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her food proved popular among Chinese students at Harvard and MIT. Her success as a cook led her to write The Joyce Chen Cook Book, own four popular restaurants and host a PBS cooking show, which proved to be the first nationally broadcast program featuring an Asian lead. Chen is known for popularizing meals like Peking Duck, Moo Shi Pork, Scallion Pancake and Hot and Sour Soup. She also developed the practice of selling bottled Chinese sauces and created the flat bottom wok with handle, among many other accomplishments.
Cathy Hughes (1947-)
As one of the wealthiest self-made black women in America, Ca thy Hughes is the founder of the media company R adio One. With a lifelong interest in radio, Hughes quickly worked her way up to roles in station leadership. Hughes launched an incredibly successful music format for which she became known called “Quiet Storm." The format featured romantic, moody music punctuated by smooth-voiced DJs and proved so successful that stations nationwide quickly copied it. Eventually, Hughes started her own radio station and went on to own and manage operations in television and digital media. She is the first African-American woman to chair a publicly held corporation.
Joy Mangano (1956-)
Joy Mangan o is the prolific inventor most famous for creating the detachable, self-wringing mop. After earning her degree in business administration, Mangano developed the mop prototype in the corner of her father's auto body shop. She quickly made connections with the shopping channel QVC, where she sold 18,000 mops on her first on-screen appearance. Mangano went on to acquire more than 100 patents, including “huggable hangers," the highest-selling product in the history of the Home Shopping Network. Today, Mangano is a millionaire.
Christy Haubegger (1968-)
Christy Haubegger is the founder of Latina magazine, the first major beauty, fashion and lifestyle magazine for Latina women in the United States. As a student at Stanford Law School, Haubegger came up with a business plan for her publication as part of a class project, fully modeling it on Essence, a beauty magazine for African-American women. After graduating, she met Ed Lewis, the founder of Essence, who helped her start her company. Today, Latina reaches around 4.5 million readers through its various media platforms.
Sara Blakely (1971-)
Sara Blakely is the creator of the wildly successful body-shaping garment Spanx. An aspiring entrepreneur all her life, Blakely came up with the idea of Spanx after cutting the feet off her control-top pantyhose. To build her business, she maintained her day job for two years while she worked to get her product into department stores. Blakely caught her big break when Oprah named Spanx one of her “favorite things" in 2000. Today, Blakely's multimillion-dollar company makes 200 types of body-shaping garments that sell in nearly 10,000 retail locations worldwide. At the age of 41, Blakely became the world's youngest self-made billionaire.
Katia Beauchamp (1983-)
Katia Beauchamp (along with co-founder Hayley Barna) is the owner of Birchbox, a monthly subscription box service that provides customers with curated beauty products. Beauchamp and Barna met in business school and quickly fell in love with the concept of “disruptive innovation," a model that enables small businesses to grow by catering to low-end or new markets. In Beauchamp's case, Birchbox convinces customers to pay for makeup samples, something she was told could never happen. Using a “try, learn, buy" approach, Beauchamp was able to grow her business exponentially. Birchbox now operates in the United States, U.K., France, Spain and Belgium.
Maureen Erokwu (1985-)
Maureen Erokwu is the founder of the Google-backed company Vosmap. An early lover of both tech and photography, Erokwu built a business that merged the two. Vosmap takes photographs of the interiors of businesses, giving shoppers access to 360-degree views of stores, restaurants and more. Erokwu's work allows companies to build their online presence and stand out in the marketplace in novel ways to promote sales growth. In addition to having her photography featured in People magazine and GLAAD, Vosmap was named Google's first Top-Performing Company in New York.
Whether quiet successes or prominent leaders, women entrepreneurs are a force in the world of business. From agriculture to technology, every sector of the economy has benefited from the innovations of extraordinary women in business.
Business Leaders of Tomorrow
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