The 10 Most Powerful Woman Founders In The World And How They Built Their Empires

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Their combined net worth is US$57.5B—more than double the GDP of Iceland!

Even though men dominate the world's biggest companies, women are starting to catch up. Just take a look at the world's richest woman founders.

They all come from very different backgrounds. Some were high school dropouts. Some partnered with their spouses to build their fortunes. But what the richest woman founders all have in common is the vision and drive to build an empire from virtually nothing and make their marks in the world.

Richest woman founders

Here, we've rounded up the 10 richest woman founders in the world, according to their latest reported net worth in US dollars. Find out how they made their fortunes and see if you can follow in their footsteps!

10. Judy Love—$2.9 billion

Co-founder and Executive Secretary, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, USA

The 10 Most Powerful Woman Founders In The World And How They Built Their Empires
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After her parents gave Judy and her husband Tom $5,000 as a gift, they opened a gas station in Watonga, Oklahoma in 1964. They opened another 30 gas stations before merging their gas stations with convenience stores in 1971. Judy ran the company with Tom until she returned to college in 1975, and today, she still serves as Love's executive secretary. Love's now has more than 400 locations all over the US.

9. Johnelle Hunt—$3 billion

Co-founder, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, USA

The 10 Most Powerful Woman Founders In The World And How They Built Their Empires
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Johnelle and her husband, the late Johnnie Bryan Hunt, founded J.B. Hunt Transport Services in 1961. They started with five trucks and seven refrigerated trailers, and now, the company is the US’s largest publicly owned trucking company.

8. Giuliana Benetton—$3.4 billion

Co-founder, Benetton Group, Italy

The 10 Most Powerful Woman Founders In The World And How They Built Their Empires
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After a bright yellow sweater that Giuliana knitted caught the eye of her brother Luciano’s colleagues at a clothing store in Treviso, Italy, she and her three brothers founded the clothing company Benetton Group. Her family also invests in food & beverage, publishing, banking, and highway concessions.

7. Marian Ilitch—$5.4 billion

The 10 Most Powerful Woman Founders In The World And How They Built Their Empires
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Co-founder, Little Caesars Pizza, USA

Ilitch and her late husband, Mike, founded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959. Since then, their pizza company has grown into a $4 billion chain. Ilitch also owns the American football team Detroit Red Wings and Motor City Casino.

6. Diane Hendricks—$5.5 billion

Co-Founder and Chairman, ABC Supply, USA

richest woman founders
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The daughter of Wisconsin dairy farmers, Hendricks and her late husband Kenneth founded ABC Supply in 1982. Their company has grown to become one of the USA’s largest distributors of roofing, siding, and windows, with over 700 locations and $7.2 billion in sales.

5. Zhou Hongwen—$5.5 billion

Co-founder, Tomorrow Group, Hong Kong

Earlier this year, Zhou and her husband Xiao Jianhua made the news after he was abducted from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. After Xiao first disappeared, earlier statements said he was getting medical treatment “overseas”, when in fact he was on the mainland. He is said to be“assisting” authorities in an investigation, South China Morning Post reports. While he is absent, Zhou has taken over their company Tomorrow Group, which is involved in banking, insurance, real estate, coal, cement, and rare earth minerals.

4. Chen Lihua—$5.6 billion

Founder and Chairman, FuWah International Group, China

richest woman founders
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Also known as Chan Laiwa, Chen grew up in poverty and was forced to drop out of high school. After starting a furniture repair business in the 80s, she moved to Hong Kong to start a buy-and-sell furniture business. She became wealthy enough to purchase 12 villas, then moved to Beijing to pursue a real estate business. In the 1990s, she started FuWah International Group, which is involved in real estate, agriculture, tourism, electronics, hospitality, and more.

3. Wu Yajun—$7.2 billion

Co-founder and Chairman, Longfor Properties, China

richest woman founders
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She started her career as an engineer, then switched to real estate journalism before she and her husband started their own real estate development company Longfor Properties, which reported a revenue of over $8 billion in 2017. Wu divorced her husband in 2012 and ended up with a 43% stake in the company.

2. Pollyanna Chu—$9.4 billion

Co-founder and CEO of Kingston Financial Group, Hong Kong

richest woman founders
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After starting a real estate business with her husband Nicholas in California, Chu was urged by her father to return to her native Hong Kong to capitalize on the country’s burgeoning market. Even though they knew little of finance, they founded Kingston Financial Group (named after their only child Kingston). In 2011, the couple incorporated Kingston into Chu’s father’s hotel company Golden Resorts.

1. Zhou Qunfei$9.6 billion

CEO and Founder of Lens Technology, China

richest woman founders
Image: Youtube

At 47, Qunfei isn’t just the richest self-made women in the world, but also the youngest on this list of richest woman founders. That isn’t the only remarkable thing about her--Qunfei was a high school dropout whose first job was working on the floor of a watch lens factory. When she was 22, she founded her own watch lens company in 1993, reports Time. Now, her company Lens Technology makes glass screens for iPhones. After her company’s IPO in 2015, she became an instant multi-billionaire.

Sources: Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Business Insider Nordic, Forbes

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