“Entrepreneurship has no age limits… it thrives on hope and inspiration. Those who choose to participate can only make the world a better place”
Debbi Fields (Mrs Fields Cookies)
And each and every one of these five female entrepreneurs did change the world for the better and in doing so left a legacy for women like you and me to build our own dreams on.
Madam CJ Walker 1867 – 1919
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it!
Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them”
Madam CJ Walker
Madam CJ Walker was the first of her siblings born outside of slavery and into freedom. Many years later she took a big step forward and created her financial freedom.
Starting out as a single mother earning $2 per day she decided to create her own line of hair care products for black women.
Her company grew and grew as she challenged the accepted standards of white femininity.
She became the first self-made female millionaire in US history. She was known for her entrepreneurial success but her pursuit of racial equality and philanthropic giving elevated her to legendary status.
Lydia Pinkham 1819 – 1883
“The face that launched a thousand ads”
Sammy R Danna
Born in 1919, the 10th of 12 children, she turned her herbal remedies into a thriving business bringing women’s health issues to the fore in the process.
Lydia was one of the frontrunners of social media, displaying her image on her products and inviting her potential customers to write to her for a personal response to their concerns.
She began mass marketing her famous Lydia E Pinkham Vegetable Compound for Women, in 1876 and it became one of the best known patent medicines of the 19th century. In fact descendants of the product are still available today.
Her legacy of being a shrewd business woman and marketer is underpinned by the recognition that she was one of the first crusaders for women’s health issues.
Elizabeth Arden 1878 – 1966
“It’s remarkable what a woman can accomplish with just a little ambition”
Florence Nightingale Graham, a Canadian, American Businesswoman, founded the first Elizabeth Arden salon in New York City in 1910 and built a cosmetic empire from these modest roots.
Despite having only one salon in 1910 by 1915 she was selling her products internationally and by the time of her death in 1966 there were more than 100 Elizabeth Arden salons around the world.
Florence was a pioneer of making make-up acceptable for the general population.
More notable though was that she was a dedicated suffragette. She famously supplied red lipstick to the 15,000 suffragettes marching for women’s rights in 1912 in furtherance of their solidarity.
Clearly she was also the frontrunner of using makeup as a statement as well!
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel 1883 -1971
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself”
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the illegitimate daughter of a poor French peddler and a shop girl became the founder of what is today a $10 billion company.
She was attributed with freeing women from the suffocating styles of the time and introducing a more elegant, simple, dark, masculine look that would make her famous throughout Europe and the USA.
Her rags to riches story is the stuff of a romantic soap opera, but irrespective of her colourful history she was a shrewd businesswoman who built an empire on her own terms with grit, passion and perseverance.
Dame Anita Rodderick 1942 -2007
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito”
The founder of the Body Shop, a well loved and fondly remembered British human rights activist and environmental campaigner.
She was a strong proponent of businesses being moral leaders and walked her own talk through the Body Shop’s clean earth concept and the establishment of the Children on the Edge, a charitable organisation which helps disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
So committed was she to her charitable endeavours, that on her death she left her entire £51 million estate to charitable ventures.
These ladies leave me filled with awe at their bravery, their persistence and the unforgettable impact their entrepreneurial spirits have had on earth. They inspire me to make one small mark of my own!