When it comes to business acumen, few have overcome immense challenges to rise to the top like women. While men continue to dominate the business world, there are over 10 million woman-owned businesses in the US with revenues of upwards of $2.5 trillion—yes, TRILLION.
With women in charge of most household budgets, it’s no wonder that many of us have also decided to start businesses and invest in our dreams.
I don’t know about you, but there’s no better motivator than being able to study the example of someone who’s already made it.
And while there’s been a lot of discussion and dissection about black women over the past few years, I want to highlight some fierce and fabulous black women in the business world and the lessons I’ve learned from watching them work their way to the top.
Lesson # 1: It pays to inspire others
No one has capitalized off of inspiring others to “live their best life” like Oprah Winfrey. While Oprah started her talk show days covering the same sensationalized topics of her former peers, she became OOOOPPPPPRRRRAAAAAAHHHH (yes, you must scream it) when she switched formats and got in touch with her spiritual side.
Over the years, Ms. Winfrey has not only amassed millions of followers, but through her media company (HARPO), and now TV network (OWN), she also has a net worth of approximately $2.7 billion dollars.
While many women have found it difficult to balance career and family, and the stories of successful—yet lonely—black women have seemed to come pouring out of the woodwork over the past few years, award-winning showrunner Shonda Rhimes hasn’t let her career derail her desire to be a mom.
After penning scripts like Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Rhimes felt it was time to start a family. In 2002 she adopted her daughter Harper, and in 2012 they added another baby, Emerson Pearl, to the family.
And because childcare is an issue, even for millionaire moms, Rhimes built “offices” for her daughters in her Shondaland offices. Now that’s bawse!
After Madam C.J. Walker lost her hair, she began experimenting with different ingredients to find a solution. What she created was the basis for a burgeoning beauty line, which led her to become the first female self-made millionaire in America.
While Madam Walker could have continued to profit hand-over-fist from her operation (and she did), she decided to teach other black women how to start businesses and realize the same sort of financial freedom.
By all accounts Mellody Hobson has it made. She is the president of the largest black-owned investment firm in the nation (Ariel Investments), and sits on the board of such companies as Starbucks, Groupon, and DreamWorks SKG. Despite her booming portfolio, Hobson is also a serious philanthropist.
Hobson, a staunch proponent of education, sits on the board of After School Matters, a non-profit that provides Chicago teens with high quality, out-of-school time programs. She also works closely with the Chicago Public Education Fund and The Field Museum in Chicago.
Lesson 5: Stay positive, no matter what
Love her or hate her, Beyonce has successfully positioned herself as one of the most profitable artists of the decade, amassing a net worth of around $300 million. While she has some of the most dedicated fans on the planet, Beyonce also manages to engender some of the most ardent critics as well.
Despite having her every move dissected and questioned—down to whether or not she actually gave birth to her daughter, Blue Ivy—Beyonce manages to continue to remain positive. Whether it’s her nature, or just immense brand discipline, Bey has managed to sidestep the social media faux pas of her peers and continue to stay upbeat, even while she’s being raked over the coals.