There was a time when the kitchen and kids were the only forays where women showed initiative and creativity. As society progressed and got educated, people, especially females, started realizing the importance and need to be independent. As time passed, women began coming out of their homes and venture into the business world dominated by men. While some men appreciated the efforts that women were putting in against all the odds, but the majority of men could not swallow their ego and share their place with women. The result was a mixed reaction towards the women workforce, which was mostly negative. Nevertheless, this did not break the strong will of the women, and today, women are defining success and setting examples of how societal pressure can throw over if one is passionate and determined.
Singapore, like other developed and developing nations, is filled with such exemplary women. Indeed, the country is still fighting for equal opportunities for women and the minimum gender pay gap, but one cannot ignore the fact that some women have been able to fulfill their dreams and emerge a leader. This article is a tribute to the top 5 women entrepreneurs who have inspired thousands of women in Singapore and the World to strive harder for success.
Arianna Huffington – Huffington Post
Arianna Huffington is a Greek-American author and a businesswoman who is best known for co-founding The Huffington Post. She is also the CEO of Thrive Global, a best-selling writer, a syndicated columnist, and an ex-host at BBC. She currently serves on the board of many reputed companies like Uber, Onex, and Global Citizen.
Arianna was born in Greece. At the age of 16 she move to England to pursue her career in Economics from Girton College, Cambridge. She got elected as the first foreign president of the college debate society, The Cambridge Union, at the age of 21. She also spent a few years in India at Visva-Bharti University as a scholar.
Arianna has always questioned the theories and ideas that seem unfair and confusing. Her first resentment was in the form of a book called The Female Woman, which attacked the Women’s Liberation movement. During the 80s, she was actively writing for the National Review and compiling biographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso.
In the coming years, she gained popularity on the national stage as the wife of the Republican, Michael Huffington, and a reliable supporter of conservative causes such as the Republican Revolution. Another important event that happened around this time was her Emmy nomination as an outstanding writer. Ariana stayed active in politics for some time, before drifting away from the political moves to focusing on social cause. She protested against the NATO intervention in Serbia during the Yugoslav War, participated in the Shadow Conventions, and headed The Detroit Project that asked the automakers to start thinking about the future by manufacturing cars that use alternate fuel. Arianna has been an official speaker on various occasions, including the College Democrats of America (2004), radio program ‘Both Sides now With Huffington and Matalin’, California Democratic Party State Convention (2005), and a radio show in LA called Left, Right, and Center.
Huffington is on the Forbes first-ever list of Most Influential Women in Media, The Guardian’s Top 100 in Media, Forbes List Most Powerful Woman in the World, and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the World.
Sara Blakely – Spanx
Sara Blakely is a billionaire entrepreneur and founder of the intimate wear brand, Spanx. Born in Florida, Sara attended Clearwater High School and graduated from Florida State University and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Sara Blakely wanted to be an attorney, but after scoring low on the law school entrance test, she was forced to give up on her dream. She started her career with a job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Sara worked at the Walk Disney World for three months, from where she joined the office supply company Danka. She was offered a job in sales, and she was excellent at it. She got promoted to the role of national sales trainer at the age of 25. Her new role forced her to wear pantyhose. The discomfort of wearing pantyhose throughout the day did her experiment with her attire and eventually come up with a design that solved the purpose. She invested her savings and two years into developing a perfect pair of pantyhose that would not just serve as an intimate workwear piece, but also be comfortable. Once she was successful in doing what she intended, she went to North Carolina, where most of the hosiery mills were setup. She approached several manufacturers with the idea, but she got turned down every time. Days after her North Carolina trip ended, she received a call from a mill owner who was interested in her design. For the next one year, Sara worked with the mill owner to create the prototype. Once the manufacturing was in place, Sara got the design and trademark registered and was soon talking to Neiman Stores. In no time, seven different Neiman stores were selling her designs, and major chains like Bloomingdales and Saks were running after Sara for orders.
Blakely handled every business aspect on her own, right from marketing to logistics and product positioning. Her boyfriend later joined her in the business, and together they were able to expand the business even further. Oprah Winfrey, in one of her shows in November 2000, referred to Spanx as her favorite brand, after which the sales took a flight, and Blakely was finally able to quit her job and focus on Spanx. Spanx made US$ 4 million in its first year of operation, and US$ 10 million in the second year. In 2001, Spanx entered a deal with QVC, a home shopping channel, and made more than 8,000 sales in the first 6 minutes.
Sara Blakely is on the Time 100 list of 100 Most Influential People in the world and on the Forbes list Most Powerful Women in the world.
Denise Coates – Bet365
Denise Coates is the founder of the world’s biggest online betting company – Bet365. She is UK’s highest-paid executive and has an estimated net worth of $12.2 billion.
Denise is a graduate in econometrics from the University of Sheffield and started her career in the cashier’s department within the family bookmaking firm. She was good with the numbers, and as a result, she got the leadership of a few family-run shops at a very young age. Denise’s education and presence of mind helped her mine gold in the shops and acquired a loan from Barclays to buy a competitor. In 1995, Denise became the managing director of the betting shop estate, and it is from here that things turned up for her.
Coates purchased the domain name Bet365 in the year 2000 and spent a year building a robust betting site. She borrowed a considerable sum of money as a loan from the bank against the collateral of family betting shop estate to fund her dream of an online betting empire. Later, these shops got sold off to repay the loan and further fund the operations of the new business model. The family betting estate was one of the largest employers in the region. When Denise decided to base Bet365 in the same place, she was awarded CBR in 2012 for serving the community by keeping the base of the website in the city of Stoke.
In no time, Bet365 became the world’s largest gambling platform and made $2 billion in revenue. Since Denise Coates is a significant partner in the firm with a 50.01% share, she became one of the highest-paid executive officers of the world. Coates was paid a whopping £217 million in 2017 and £265 million in 2018 in salary.
Coates also runs a charity foundation called Denise Coates Foundation under the English Law. Her foundation helps other charities run their programs successfully within the UK and outside. Through the charity programs, Denise funds Oxfam, CAFOD, Douglas Macmillan Hospice for cancer patients, relief programs for victims of natural calamities, and university and theatre scholarships.
Denise Coates has been inducted to the Sports Betting Hall of Fame for her leadership in the gambling industry and has been included in the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio.
Debbi Fields – Mrs. Fields Bakeries
Debbi Fields is the founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries, which is known all over the United States of America for its delicious cookies. Debbi started her journey from a baseball field, where she used to earn $5 an hour and spend all of it on getting the ingredients for her cookies.
Debbi graduated from Alameda High School at the age of 17 and later attended the Foothill College for two years in Los Altos Hills, California. She then went on to marry Randall Keith Field from where she borrowed the name for her company.
Debbi had no plans to start a business. She was a happily married woman who loved looking after her husband and her home. However, when one of her husband’s clients asked her about her job, she said that she is trying to get ‘orientated.’ The man stood up, took out a dictionary, and handed over it to Debbi. “The word is oriented. If you can’t speak the English language, you shouldn’t speak at all,” he said. Debbi was embarrassed, and she decided that she wanted to be ‘somebody.’ Debbi’s dad had always told her to do something she is good at, and she was good at baking cookies. She followed her passion, and soon she was on her way to becoming the ‘somebody.’
However, it wasn’t that easy. Debbi went to several banks, describing her business plan and helping them with her product. She faced rejection from everywhere. Her family did not show any faith in her idea, but instead of breaking down, Debbi got even more determined. Then, one beautiful day, Debbi was finally able to secure a loan and invest in a store. She made $75 on her first day. She taught herself about the business and how things work.
Determination and discipline helped Debbi Fields taste success. She always makes decisions that are in the best interest of the company. She doesn’t believe in buying expensive things. Instead, she focuses on investing in something that makes her happy.
These days, Debbi Fields is the spokesperson of the brand that she started. She does not run around baking and marketing cookies as she did back in the day, but to this day, the company works in the same fashion that Fields started. Debbi is working on a new cooking book and a television show about mentorship.
Sofia Vergara- Latin World
Sofia Vergara is an American-Columbian actress and presenter who rose to fame while co-hosting television shows for a Spanish channel. Her first notable mainstream movie job was in the movie Chasing Papi (2003). Sofia was the highest-paid actress in American television in the years 2012, 2013, and 2016.
Sofia was born in Barranquilla in a roman catholic family. At Columbian university, she studied dentistry for three years. However, she gave up her career in dentistry just two months before her final semester to pursue the opportunities in modeling.
She got her first opportunity when a photographer approached her on a Colombian beach. After receiving permission from her catholic schoolteachers, Sofia said yes to her first assignment. At the age of 17, Sofia Vergara featured in an ad for Pepsi, which was aired all over Latin America. However, unrest in Colombia forced her to move to America. Unfortunately, she lost her brother in the uprising.
With some amount of experience in the world of glamour fuelled by dreams to make it big and an itch to help several other struggling Hispanic women like her, Sofia started entertainment marketing firm and premier Hispanic talent management in the USA. This firm was named Latin World Entertainment. The company offers an all-round approach and solutions to clients in the entertainment industry.
Sofia got her first significant role in the movie The Three Stooges in 2011. The following year, she featured in a YouTube series Vida con Toty and emerged as the highest-paid actress as per Forbes. In the same year, People Magazine included her in the 50 most beautiful people, and Billboard called her one of the most influential Latin women in Hollywood.
Sofia is a star in ABC sitcom Modern Family, for which she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Primetime Emmy Award from 2010 to 2013.
She has appeared in videos supporting the human rights campaigns, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, recently announced as the newest judge on America’s Got Talent, and her agency is known as the top Hispanic talent management company in the states. Sofia Vergara was among the top 50 World’s Most Powerful Woman in the world as per Forbes.
These women have shown how determination and passion can get used to overcome any hurdle in life. Irrespective of whether one has leverage or not, planning and execution can do wonders that cannot get explained. Their stories are indeed an inspiration for not just women but also men who have been putting in efforts to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Another factor that works in favor of women in Singapore is the government policies that promote the start-up culture in the country. With easy access to finances and other resources, women in Singapore have the perfect conditions to launch their start-ups and find success.