Female entrepreneurs often have it tougher than their male counterparts when seeking to rise to the top in the business world. They often face barriers that would make a lesser person give up. These challenges can come in the form of discrimination or having a lack of capital. A number of female entrepreneurs have been able to overcome these challenges and rise to the top of the corporate ladder. Let's take a look at six female entrepreneurs that were able to build fortunes without a lot of cash.
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Oprah Winfrey's story is truly a rags to riches experience. She was able to overcome a childhood of extreme poverty to build a fortune valued at over $2.5 billion dollars. Winfrey's determination led to her becoming the first African American female news anchor before the age of 20 and eventually become the host of the wildly successful "Oprah Winfrey Show." She has managed to build a media empire through sheer determination and perseverance. Oprah Winfrey has the midas touch and has been able to find success in movies, television and literary works. She has used her significant resources to launch her own network titled, the Oprah Winfrey Network. (For related reading, see 10 Breakout Ideas For Small Businesses.)
Very few people knew that the Harry Potter creator used to be a broke single mother before she revealed it in an interview. Rowling relied on welfare to survive before coming up with her signature character, Harry Potter. All of her circumstances changed when she published her first novel in 1997. Harry Potter became an instant hit leading to several book deals, movies and toy product sales. Today, the Harry Potter series is one of the most popular franchises in the world. Rowling's creativity made her the first person to ever make it onto the Forbes Billionaire List by writing books.
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Ursula Burns did not let a poor upbringing deter her from her goal of becoming a female CEO. She excelled at math and science at a time when women were being dissuaded from taking these courses. Burns used her academic prowess to land an internship at Xerox. She proceeded to work her way up the company ladder using ingenuity and hard work. Today, Burns is the chief executive officer at Xerox which makes her the first African American CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. This is quite an accomplishment considering the fact that there are only 16 female CEO's of Fortune 500 companies. (For more, see The 10 Greatest Entrepreneurs.)
Indra Nooyi did not grow up poor but she did come from a self-described "humble middle class" environment in India. Nooyi has risen from her humble beginnings to be voted the most powerful woman of the year in 2010 by Fortune Magazine. She demonstrated her strong work ethic by working as a receptionist at night to find money to pay her college tuition. All of her work paid off as she landed positions at top firms Johnson & Johnson and Motorola upon graduation. Nooyi is now the CEO at PepsiCo earning more than $10 million dollars in compensation last year. (For more, see Becoming a CEO.)
The story of Zhang Xin is an inspiration to anyone anywhere. She grew up poor in China and worked as a factory worker for years until saving enough money to leave her homeland and attend college. After graduating from college, her fortunes changed as she went to work for investment firm Goldman Sachs. She eventually branched out and started her own property development company known as SOHO. Her property management company became wildly successful giving Xin a net worth of $2 billion dollars today. That is not bad at all for a self-made woman. (For related reading, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)
Olivia Lum has worked since her early years in Malaysia when she got a job as a rubber tapper to help pay her adopted family's bills. Lum managed to work during her formative years while attending school at the same time. She eventually rounded up $16,000 by selling her possessions to start a water treatment company called Hyflux. Lum's ambition made Hyflux a success and Lum a very wealthy woman. She is one of the 20th richest people in Singapore with a net worth of over $325 million dollars. (For related reading, see Start Your Own Small Business.)
The Bottom Line
As you can see from these examples, you do not have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to find success. These entrepreneurs were able to use their intellects and skills to reach the top of the business marketplace. (For related reading, see Female CEOs: What It Takes To Climb The Corporate Ladder.)