It can be pretty hard to keep up with all of the lesser known holidays, like International Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Accordion Awareness month, and National Taco Day (REALLY, y’all? In Texas, we call that ‘Tuesday’). There are so many things to celebrate! But we couldn’t let National Women’s month finish without throwing a shout out to some women that are movers and shakers in entrepreneurship. Though this is your go-to blog for small business advice, today we’ll talk about some women that have grown their empire to be something much bigger.
Apollo Answering Service is and always has been a woman-owned business. Bernice Contello started Apollo in 1966. The business was later turned over to her daughter. The granddaughter of the founder, Kelly Cammack, now runs the business over fifty years after receiving that first phone call. You can read more about us over in our history, but today we want to talk about women entrepreneurs.
Stats on Women Entrepreneurs
There was estimated to be 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States at the end of 2016. If you think that sounds like a lot, consider that in 2007, the number of women-owned businesses was 7.8 million. That’s a 45% increase, while overall business increase has only been 9%. With that data, you have to admit: the future is looking far more female-run than ever before.
Struggles Women Entrepreneurs Face
You may or may not recall the viral article a few years ago about Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, discusses the concern for a woman’s ability to have a family and a successful career and to be able to be engaged with your family while building that career. She also discussed how U.S. policies are not in place for families to thrive. As a former high government worker, she would be aware of this more than most. The article caused friction to say the least–women agreed with enthusiasm or were vehemently against her.
But, not all women are moms. Regardless of a woman’s plan to have a family, there are still struggles that are unique to women business owners.
- There are fewer women leaders to emulate. There are less women entrepreneurs compared to their male counterparts, despite the recent surges that the above numbers represent. Whose footsteps do you follow? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, delivers a compelling TED talk on why there aren’t more female leaders in corporate America.
- Social conditioning encourages women to fulfill traditional gender roles. They find themselves catering to others’ goals and nurturing the people around them, rather than pursuing their own dreams. When a woman chooses to start her own business, it is looked at as “strange” or “selfish.”
- Sexism is still alive and well. There are many men out there that will automatically discount a woman’s opinion or undervalue the work of a woman.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Despite all this, one thing is for sure: women entrepreneurs have the same amount of drive, determination, and personal attitudes as their male counterparts.
Some of our Favorite Women Entrepreneurs
Now, that’s a household name. Rowling was an England native who moved to Portugal and found love, marriage, and a baby carriage. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last. The author was a single mom living in Scotland and accepting welfare checks while writing her first book. That book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, went on to be a smash hit in the U.K. as well as in the United States, where it quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. Her fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was the fastest selling book in history.
But, she didn’t stop there. She has an entire empire built around the franchise, including merchandise, eight full-length feature films, seven books within the series and many supporting books. In addition to the Harry Potter franchise, she has branched off into other story lines, including the newly released “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
J.K. Rowling is an awesome example of a woman surpassing expectations and building an empire. Watch her speak on failure at a Harvard Commencement.
Huffington was originally born in Athens, Greece. She had already authored her first book when she moved to the U.S. in 1980, and continued publishing after her move. She was once known as a conservative commentator. Later, she even had a stint in politics as she attempted to run as Governor of California against Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, that’s not what she’s known for at all. In fact, it’s nearly the opposite. She started a website that was meant to be a liberal response to The Drudge Report in 2005. This site is a news aggregate known as The Huffington Post. It is currently the 50th most viewed website in the U.S., and, politics aside, that’s a successful undertaking.
Winfrey is another woman on our list that comes from humble beginnings. Oprah endured a traumatic childhood in rural Mississippi, but still went on to graduate from Tennessee State University. She quickly found employment in the entertainment industry after moving to Baltimore. She started out hosting two daytime shows in succession and her acting career began with the film adaptation of the book, The Color Purple. That role earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Following that role, she was offered to host a namesake daytime television show.
Oprah was placed on 120 networks and grossed $125 million in its first year alone. She continued to star in films and her on-air “book club” sky rocketed many unknown authors to fame. Though she has since halted her role as a daytime talk show host, she did expand her empire to include a cable television channel, a monthly magazine and continues to act in films.
President Barack Obama awarded Winfrey with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Cher Wang was born in China, but studied at the University of California. She worked for a family company for a short stint before co-founding VIA Technologies, the manufacturer of motherboard chipsets, CPUs and memory. Her vision was to one day manufacture “hand held computers.” This dream came into fruition when she founded HTC. The company first got its start manufacturing notebook computers, but later went on to develop some of the first smart phones.
Forbes Magazine dubbed Wang the 54th most powerful woman in the world.
Many know Sofia Vergara as the Latin beauty, Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s ‘Modern Family.’ But, there’s much more to her. Born in Columbia, she began acting and modeling as a teen. She was married and divorced in her early twenties and moved to America to pursue her entertainment career as a single mom. Despite hardships, she reached success in those endeavors, eventually branching out from modeling and acting to starting her own clothing line, fragrance collection and beauty collection.
Not all of the women on our list started out with humble beginnings. Fürstenberg was born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin in Belgium in 1946. Though her mother was a concentration camp survivor, her parents were both well-off. She went on to marry Austro-Italian Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, heir to Fiat fortune, after they attended the same university. This made her a princess. She and her prince moved to New York in 1972. That same year, she opened her 7th avenue showroom and designed the iconic wrap dress. Her design was entered into the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection the following year. Three years later, her company was selling 25,000 dresses A WEEK.
She continues to be one of the world’s most successful fashion designers forty-five years after her debut.
Beyonce Knowles first got her feet wet in the entertainment business as young as seven years old. She was born and bred in Houston, Texas, just like Apollo Answering Service! She used her skills in singing and dancing to win over the hearts of judges in local talent shows. Often, she beat out children that were twice her age! Knowles began getting noticed on a national level as a part of a girls’ singing group, Destiny’s Child. She later launched a solo career, but she’s more than an entertainer. She is one of this year’s Forbes’ Most Powerful Women, and deserves it. On top of her music career, she owns her own entertainment and management company, Parkwood Entertainment (which has signed three new artists–all women!). She is also an investor and owner of the clothing brand label, Ivy Park.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is an entrepreneur from India. She started Biocon, a large biotechnology company. Biocon is Asia’s largest insulin producer. As the Managing Director and Chairman of the company, she is the richest woman in India. Mazumdar-Shaw was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honor, for her outstanding contribution to bio science.
Celebrating all women
As you can see, women of every size, shape, color and background are dominating industries left and right. From fashion, tech, entertainment, and literature. You can see that the future is female. If you’re a woman who is considering taking the leap and starting her own business, there are tons of resources on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. You can also learn from like-minded women through the #girlboss movement.