While it may seem obvious now that female-identified belong in every aspect of every business, this wasn’t always the case. For far too long, business was dominated by men. Women were expected to take care of the home and family. Those women who dared to enter the world of business had a hard time getting started and being taken seriously.
When women did become entrepreneurs, it was generally in areas of concern to other women: beauty, fashion, and domestic needs. Not always (check out entrepreneurial pioneer Mrs. Beech!), but more often than not this was the case.
As the world changes, so does the face of entrepreneurship. Keep reading to learn about a few kick-butt female entrepreneur pioneers as well as those taking charge for the future. We hope they inspire you to seize your moment and start something amazing!
1. Madam C.J. Walker
You simply cannot talk about female entrepreneurs without including Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C.J. Walker. This self-made millionaire started from literally nothing. After suffering for years from hair loss, she created a unique scalp healer for African-American women. That product, Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, became so successful that Walker expanded her business all over the western hemisphere!
2. Estée Lauder
Before it became a world-famous brand name, Estée Lauder was the woman at the start of it all. Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, she got her start selling skin-care products developed by her uncle, a chemist. She was so successful at sales that she quickly worked at her own counter in major department stores. From there: beauty product world domination!
3. Olive Ann Beech
Along with her husband, Beech co-founded the Beech Aircraft Corporation in the 1930s. Among other things, they designed many of the planes flown in battles during World War II. When Beech’s husband died, Olive took over as CEO and grew her company into an aviation and aerospace company worth millions of dollars.
4. Debbi Fields
A.K.A. “Mrs. Fields,” she of the delicious cookie company. When Fields started her company in the late 1970s, she had zero business experience. And she was just 20 years old. Not many banks wanted to invest in her company. Think about it: all she did was bake and sell cookies. That’s all it took. Nowadays you can enjoy her cookies and other baked goods across America and all over the world!
THE MODERN WOMEN
1. Oprah Winfrey
It’s hard to imagine modern culture without our media queen, Oprah Winfrey. This amazing woman went from a poverty-filled childhood in rural Mississippi to dominating tv, magazines, the internet, and, well, pretty much everything. Hers wasn’t an easy journey and she worked hard to get where she is now. Not only has she made it to the top, but she’s also helped others get there, as well. In fact, she’s what “the top” means for media moguls. Oprah is a classic American dream come true.
2. Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is so successful that her name has become a synonym for domestic perfection. She took what had been looked down upon as “women’s work” in the home and turned it into a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Her global empire spans media, home decor, furniture, and more. She continues to show us all that the domestic sphere can be so much more than menial chores and drudgery.
3. Sara Blakely
Before turning 30, Sara Blakely had created the Spanx brand of shapewear, now worth billions of dollars. Like many young entrepreneurs, she created her company to fill a need. In her case, that need was quality undergarments for women. Blakely handmade the very first Spanx garment, and before she knew it her clever product was sold in high-end stores all over the world.
4. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller
These two friends started the luggage company Vera Bradley in the early 1980s when they saw a need for more colorful, beautiful luggage. The company is now worth over $300 million. They use their global reach and resources to empower women and children all over the world. You definitely know a Vera Bradley bag when you see it!
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
1. Huda Kattan
Estée Lauder, look out: Huda Beauty is coming for you! Huda Kattan started by learning the art of makeup in LA. She later launched her blog and YouTube channel and quickly became a major beauty influencer. By 2013 she had launched her brand of fake eyelashes. And now? Kattan is CEO and chairwoman of the multibillion-dollar brand Huda Beauty.
2. Kimberly Bryant
These days it may seem obvious that anyone who wants to, can learn how to code. But that wasn’t always so. Kimberly Bryant launched Black Girls Code to help fill the gap between young girls of color who have the desire to learn STEM skills and the resources they need. Because of her, girls all over America can access the training and tools they crave to pursue the future they dream of. The future of computer coding is right here!
3. Reshma Saujani
Speaking of computer coding, let’s hear it for Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code! This amazing organization offers summer programs and afterschool clubs to girls interested in learning and developing computer programming skills. This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but for women like Saujani, opening up the world of computer programming to girls is a total game-changer.
4. Anne Wojcicki
Everyone and their fourth cousins can now have their genetics translated, thanks in part to companies such as 23andMe. Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s co-founder and CEO, started the company as a way to help everyday individuals learn more about their own health needs. Her company is now one of the world leaders in genetic research. This means greater advances in medical science for everyone – including you and your fourth cousin.
No matter what your field of interest or study, there are opportunities out there for you. Young entrepreneurs can and will make a difference in this world. Why not be part of that? Let the women we’ve mentioned above inspire you to follow your own entrepreneurial path and show the entire world what you can do!
The Kantner Foundation awards college scholarships to young entrepreneurs in Florida. Click here to learn more and apply.