The entrepreneurial journey of these self-made women to join the mega-rich billionaire club has been no easy feat! Fueled by a creative spirit and innovative mindset to defy all odds, these pioneers of businesses have forged unique paths for themselves.
From owning cosmetic brands to leading pharmaceutical and software development companies, these women have made a unique mark for themselves while inspiring millions of others across the globe.
As they continue to scale new heights and attain financial milestones one after the other, here are 10 self-made women billionaires from around the world.
Barbadian singer and entrepreneur Robyn Rihanna Fenty, better known as Rihanna, recently joined the exclusive self-made women billionaire club with a net worth of US$ 1.7 billion. Currently, she is the world’s wealthiest female musician and the second-richest female entertainer after Oprah Winfrey, thanks to her brand of cosmetics Fenty Beauty — co-owned by French luxury conglomerate LVMH.
The staggering success of Fenty Beauty, valued at US$ 1.4 billion, makes up the bulk of her fortune while the Savage X Fenty lingerie company, where she has a 30 percent stake, contributes US$ 270 million to her net worth.
With a net worth of US$ 2.7 billion, Winfrey amassed a fortune in a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap self-made fashion while overcoming poverty and discrimination, among many other obstacles.
Her career, as the first African-American anchor, began when she was 19 years old. After being a part of a couple of talk shows, she landed a gig to host WLS-TV’s show AM Chicago in 1984, which went on to become the number one talk show in the US.
Her career pivoted and the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran for 25 years, earning her profits of US$ 2 billion. In 2008, her channel OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network was launched as a joint venture with Discovery Communications. She had bought a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers International Inc in 2015, which has been now lowered to 7 percent.
Whitney Wolfe Herd
In February 2021, the American entrepreneur became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world, according to Forbes, after the dating app Bumble went public the same month. With an estimated net worth of US$ 1.3 billion, Wolfe Herd has a 21 percent stake in the company.
Along with being Bumble’s CEO and co-founder, she also heads the dating-focused social network, Badoo. As of March 2021, both the apps combined have a 2.8 million-paid subscriber base across 150 countries. Wolfe Herd had begun her journey as a Tinder executive.
Kim Kardashian West
The reality TV star and entrepreneur earned a spot on the 2021 World Billionaires List and ranks 24 (as of 9 August 2021) among America’s Self-Made Women 2021 by Forbes.
Her net worth stands at US$ 1.2 billion, from US$ 780 million in October 2020, thanks to her cosmetics firm KKW Beauty and the shapewear label Skims. Other sources of her income include brand deals, small-scale investments, endorsements and reality television.
The founder and CEO of Lens Technology, Zhou Qunfei had to drop out of school to support her family and work as an assembly worker in a watch lens factory. However, she took up accounting classes at night and kept her entrepreneurial spirit alive.
With mere savings of US$ 2,500, she plunged into her first business of making watch lenses in 1993. Over the next decade, the company prospered with its share of ups and downs, and Lens Technology finally went public in March 2015. Currently, her net worth is valued at US$ 13.2 billion, as per Forbes. Her clients include prominent names like Tesla, Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Microsoft, Nokia and LG.
The founder, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s net worth is estimated at US$ 3.9 billion, according to Forbes, and she is India’s richest self-made woman. Shaw forayed into the pharmaceutical business in 1978 and established Biocon with just three employees after she faced disappointment and discrimination in the brewery business.
However, Shaw seized the opportunity and capitalised on the newly-evolving biotechnology market by manufacturing and supplying enzymes to the US and Europe in 1979, which started in a shed in Bengaluru. The company went public in 2004 and crossed US$ 1 billion the day of its listing.
Biocon is now conducting phase four trials of the drug Itolizumab used to treat moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. The company set up its subsidiary Biocon Sdn Bhd in 2010— Aisa’s largest insulin manufacturing plant — in Malaysia.
In 1997, Indian business magnate Radha Vembu started her career as a product manager at the Indian software development company Zoho Corporation. Currently, she holds this designation even though she heads Zoho Workplace and looks after a team of 250 as well as the products made by the company. Originally named AdventNet, the company was founded by her older brother Sridhar Vembu in Chennai in 1996.
With a net worth of US$ 1.5 billion, she is also on the board of Janaki Hi-tech Agro Private Limited and Highland Valley Corporation Private Limited.
Whitman enjoys the number third spot on America’s Self-Made Women 2021 list by Forbes with an estimated net worth of US$ 6.1 billion. She parlayed her legendary role at e-commerce giant eBay Inc., taking its profits from US$ 5.7 million in 1998 to US$ 8 billion in 2008, as the CEO of the company.
She served at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (2011 to 2015) as the chief executive and went on to work as the CEO of Quibi (2018 to 2020). She also holds the position of a board member at Procter & Gamble and Dropbox.
The Chinese entrepreneur co-owns Hong Kong’s Biel Crystal Manufactory founded in 1987 with her husband Yeung Kin-man. With a whopping net worth of US$ 9.1 billion, the primary source of her wealth is the glass screens manufacturer for smart gadgets, which is the largest supplier to major brands like Apple, Samsung and Sony.
She also co-owns the real estate firm High Grand Development with Kin-man.
Wu is one of the prominent Chinese self-made women billionaires who had humble beginnings working as a factory worker. However, she went on to become a journalist before co-founding Longfor Properties (now known as Longfor Group Holdings Limited) with her ex-husband Cai Kui in 1993.
Longfor Group’s diverse real estate ventures into commercial properties, rentals, housing agencies, décor services and other similar urban projects in more than 100 cities across China. She currently enjoys an estimated net worth of US$ 14.1 billion, according to Forbes.
(All net worths as of 9 August, 2021)
(Hero and Featured image courtesy: Hector Retamal/AFP)