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9 Self-Made Women Entrepreneurs that Broke The Mold

Sara Blakely

The world is slowly changing as more people begin to embrace the idea of female leadership. Every day, women are making huge strides in countless industries. They’re building new businesses, raising money, speaking up, and leading the charge in traditionally masculine fields.

Perhaps there’s no better example than that of Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of apparel brand Spanx. In 2012, she landed on the cover of Forbes for being the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. The magazine also listed her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world two years later.

Yet, Blakely started from almost nothing. Her first real job was working in a chipmunk costume at Disney World. Then, she spent seven years selling faxes door-to-door. It wasn’t a fun or easy job by any means, but she put in the necessary hard work and got promoted to national sales trainer at age 25.

Then, something miraculous happened. Blakely cut the feet off one of her pantyhose and wore it under her slacks as underwear.

“This allowed me to benefit from the slimming effects of the pantyhose’s ‘control top’ while allowing my feet to go bare in my cute sandals,” she said. “The moment I saw how good my butt looked, I was like, ‘Thank you, God, this is my opportunity!’”

This revelation led to the birth of Spanx: thin, comfortable, and invisible undergarments. It was all uphill from there as Blakely built a multi-million dollar clothing empire.

Fortunately, Blakely is just one of many formidable, innovative, and hard-working female entrepreneurs who found success through unusual methods.  

So, how do they do it? What’s they’re secrets?

We sat down with 9 incredible female entrepreneurs, thinkers, and innovators to break down how they broke the mold to achieve wild success. Here are their stories:

1. Own your value.

Kristin Thomas
Being a woman in the masculine entrepreneurship world isn’t easy. Putting a price on the value of what you do can be incredibly hard, and most female entrepreneurs will lean on others to tell them their worth or slowly increase their price over time.

It’s always been vital for me to own my value early in my business, so it would be profitable and reflect the value my clients were getting. My intuition guides career, which led to an incredible career path; I turned a difficult autoimmune diagnosis into a successful six-figure health coaching business. Then, I fused my prior 10-year marketing career with my passion for health into what I’m doing now as a business coach for health and wellness practitioners. To me, running a successful business is as much about strategy as it is leaning on your own vision and gut instincts.

I’m now a business coach for health and wellness practitioners. To me, running a successful business is as much about strategy as it is leaning on your vision and gut instincts.

Kristin Thomas, founder of Thrive by Food and Health & Wellness Business School. She helps health and wellness coaches market themselves, find clients, and maximize their impact.

2.  Don’t be afraid to embrace your feminine qualities.

Kylie Chapman

Embracing our feminine qualities and capabilities, rather than competing with the qualities that men possess, creates a more harmonious environment. There are certain areas I think women excel in when it comes to leading in business: we communicate with results in mind, rather than assigning blame; we are more compassionate and sympathetic to others which lends itself to nurturing teams; we’re focused on personal growth, and have patience in spades. Not to mention, we’re fabulous multitaskers!

Kylie Chapman, co-founder of 7 Figure Surfer, a company that helps aspiring entrepreneurs with the coaching, ongoing training, and support they need to succeed.

3. Focus on your “why.”

Celinne Da Costa

When it comes to business, many entrepreneurs take a strategy-first approach, diving into the funnels, the launch strategy, the automation systems, and tactics. Don’t get me wrong — it’s so important to have structure. But few people ask themselves daily questions such as: why am I doing this, what is the impact I want to leave behind, and for whom?

My success strategy isn’t a strategy at all – it recognizes that every action I take must start from a significant “why” and vision. I built my business using my “why,” vision, and values as my North Star, and never losing sight of the humanity of it all. To me, a business is not a machine: it’s a tool to impact people’s lives for the better and evolve myself as a human.

Celinne Da Costa, certified life, motivational, social, and emotional intelligence coach, who helps entrepreneurs tell their stories and brand themselves. She is also a Forbes contributor who shares the voices of powerful women.  

4. Follow this simple process.

Yamilca Rodriguez

As a woman in a performance-driven company, you had to be the best or not survive in business. My strategy was first to listen and understand the goal. Second, I had to recognize our product’s users and what problem we were solving. Third, ask the right questions. If I followed those three steps, I could be seen, heard, and acknowledged as a leader in my category. They are super simple steps, and they were critical to my success in corporate and as an entrepreneur.

Yamilca Rodriguez, founder, and CEO of The Archetype Method, which offers consulting services, courses, and mentoring sessions to entrepreneurs. Her method uses marketing and psychology to help brands connect with audiences.

5. Have a solution-focused mindset.

Jodi Vetterl

Becoming a self-made entrepreneur was always part of the plan; however, I didn’t quite know how to achieve it. One bad boss later, I was ready to leave my 20-year career and create an exit plan. 

Once the plan was in place, I focused on that end goal: a monthly number I wanted to achieve to be financially independent. I let go of a much larger income; however, holding on that meant that I would never have the space to create and build what I wanted. 

There have been many obstacles throughout my journey into entrepreneurship, and I have overcome and grown from these obstacles.

Perseverance, and passion, combined with a solutions-driven mindset, have been critical to the reward of creating something from scratch into something that changes peoples’ lives while blowing the lid off the income ceiling that was only contriving limits. If you have a passion and desire to grow a seed into a tree, make a plan, set your goal, and go for it! 

Jodi Vetterl, author of Beyond the Banks: Success Strategies in Real Estate as a Private Lender, which talks about how using the same lending strategies that banks use can help you achieve financial freedom.

6. Learn to love your uniqueness.

Kathi Tait

My story begins at age eight when my precious older sister and best friend passed away. I was heartbroken and bewildered as she suddenly disappeared from my world. This emotional event was not resolved for me and it triggered a physical manifestation of my pain which meant that out of blue my hair started falling out.

The hair loss caused people to see me as different and I was teased and ostracised by others. But more importantly, I grew up believing I would never be ‘normal’ and so I spent my life self sabotaging my health and relationships. But I hid it well and educated myself, had a successful career, and business, but I wasn’t living authentically. I was hiding under a wig, dutifully following social norms to fit in.

Around the time I turned 40, I realized I needed to stop hiding if I was ever to be truly happy and successful. So I came out of my shell, learned to embrace my uniqueness, and used it to create a brand known for defying social norms, inspiring self-acceptance, and helping others achieve personal growth.

Kathi Tait, author, speaker, transformational coach, award-winning management accountant, and founder and CEO of Baldwarrior Movement, which helps spread awareness about alopecia and builds self-confidence and body positivity. 

7. Do things your way.

Ondi Laure

Breaking the mold into the masculine-dominated agriculture business was the most empowering and liberating experience of my life. Having lived and raised my family on a cattle ranch in rural Wyoming as a “rancher’s wife,” I found myself as a single mom managing 28,000+ acres and 400 mama cows. 

I realized that I didn’t need to do things the masculine way because I was working in a masculine-dominated business. I found success in doing things my way: the feminine way. To me, the feminine way encourages gentleness, creativity, and empathy. Practicing these qualities helped me thrive in the agricultural field with wild success.  

Ondi Laure, founder of author coaching business Story Launcher and Persona Publishing, which helps people write best-selling books to attract clients.

8. I aligned my work with my soul’s mission.

Kathy Gibson

Having spent a large part of my career in the male-dominated videogame sector as a Director of HR, I’ve come to appreciate the value of the feminine, alongside the opportunity equity, diversity and inclusion can bring to humankind. It felt as though I was steadily moving towards greater alignment with my soul’s mission each year. Navigating my spiritual-dreamer-self and my nagual real-life self, I was desperate to cultivate a better balance in my life and actualize my dreams. 

I worked on technology workforce development projects that eventually enabled me to project manage a large scale Provincial D&I project with the HR Tech Group. My government relations and sector consulting work were in direct alignment with my life’s purpose. 

Breaking down barriers, lifting others’ voices, and cultivating change are what make my heart sing. I found Shamanism which helped me get in flow with the universe and broke down all that had been indoctrinated into me. It helped me live a more beautiful life. It was destructive and painful to annihilate all that no longer served me. But I found light and peace with the surrender on the other side. Living authentically in my passion, finding, and now being guided by my female intuition has been an immense gift. 

– Kathy Gibson, CEO of Catchy Consulting Inc. is a champion of diversity and inclusion and focuses on impact change within government policy and employers she partners with. Project Manager of the Diversity & Inclusion Resources HUB

9.  You don’t need to be a starving artist.

Jen Rudolph

Too often actors think that just because they went to a great school and are “ready to work” as if they’ll suddenly get called in by casting directors and/or get signed by an agent or manager. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Casting directors are looking for is proof of concept and to see if your product already has success in the marketplace. Why? Because they are investing in you and only getting a small percentage which means YOU have to do most of the work. What that means for actors is you have to come to the table with your brand and packaging already super dialed in so that you “fly off the shelves” AND with a uniqueness that makes it impossible for the industry to ignore you.

The myth of “being discovered” must be debunked. Nobody is coming. There is no lifeboat. YOU are the lighthouse. You can be the greatest actor in the world but if nobody knows about you, it won’t matter. Your marketing is everything.

Actors: You are a small business owner and entrepreneur – your art is your product. You are in charge of your marketing, branding, production, PR, finances, and YOU NEED CAPITAL to get off the ground like any business. The “starving artist” mentality is a means of disempowering yourself and not taking responsibility for your destiny.

Define what makes you unique and you will make it impossible for casting directors not to notice you. We are in a friendly buying market. The market will always tell you what you need to know. If you aren’t getting called in or booked, it means your messaging is off and/or your product’s impact isn’t clear.

Jen Rudolph, creator of “The 2% Signature System,” which helps aspiring actors become part of the 2% who get called for roles.  

Patrick W. Dunne is a freelance writer and the Head Journalist for Unstoppable Branding Agency, a PR & media firm that covers disruptive stories of experts, authors, and speakers.

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