Hallelujah — More Women Made Forbes’s Billionaire List
3:30 pm, March 4th | by Meredith Lepore
Forbes just released their list of the world’s billionaires and there are noticeably more women on it this year. Even better, many of these women are self-made, meaning they didn’t inherit money from their family or deceased husbands, or happen to be the Kardashians (I don’t care if they are self-made.) Thirty-five more women joined this year’s record-length list of 1,426 super-rich people across the globe. They now number 138, or 9.7% of the total. Last year, they represented 8.5% of the list of 1,226 billionaires.
The usual suspects made the list like Oprah and Meg Whitman, but some new notable ladies who earned their way on to the list include:
Tory Burch: Burch reached billionaire status at the beginning of the year and has built a remarkable fashion empire in less than a decade. This is her first time on the list! Though she had worked for Ralph Lauren and Harper’s Bazaar she felt pretty clueless when she decided to start her own company. “I’d never been to business school. I’d never been to design school. It was a risk. It was putting myself out there in a way that was opening myself up for criticism. I’m a sensitive person, so it was hard,” she said in a recent interview. But she worked past it, cold-calling people to ask if she could show them her image books. This was not a sketch book of her designs but rather a book of images she had collected over the years that showed what she thought was missing from fashion and stores. With some help from Chris Burch, her venture capitalist husband, she raised $10 million. She started working from her kitchen table. Soon her staff grew to 16 people and now she is in charge of 2,000 people. Her iconic brand is available at 49 free-standing Tory Burch stores across the U.S., 24 international stores and over 1,000 select department and specialty stores worldwide, according to Business Insider.
Pollyana Chu: Chu is the CEO of Kingston Financial, one of Hong Kong’s largest brokerage firms. She has a net worth of $1 billion. Chu told Forbes she didn’t know much about stocks and foreign exchange when she returned to Hong Kong in 1992 after attending college in California and working in real estate in the U.S, and yet she did pretty well.
Sarah Blakely: This lady is not only a billionaire but she is also the youngest person on the list at the age of 42. Spanx is a miracle undergarment company, in case you have been living under a rock for 10 years. In recent months four Wall Street investment banks separately valued Spanx at an average of $1 billion, a sum Forbes corroborated with the help of industry analysts. Blakely owns 100% of the private company, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn’t spent a nickel on advertising. Spanx now sells 200 products in 11,500 department stores, boutiques and online shops in 40 countries, Forbes said.
So where did the innovative woman come from? She started her first business in 1990, a kids’ club at the Clearwater Beach Hilton in Clearwater, Florida where she grew up, where she charged $8 a child for a few hours of babysitting while moms and dads tanned. After getting a degree in legal communications at Florida State she tried her hand at the LSAT’s but to no avail. She then worked at Disney World for a few months before cutting her teeth in sales at an office supply chain. Spanx was an idea born out of having a problem: she hated that the seamed foot stuck out of an open-toe sandal or kitten heel but she noticed that the control-top eliminated panty lines and made her tiny body look even firmer. She’d bought a new pair of cream slacks for $78 at Arden B and was keen to wear them to a party. “I cut the feet off my pantyhose and wore them underneath,” she says. “But they rolled up my legs all night. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to figure out how to make this.’ I’d never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn’t exist.” And the rest is history.