August 2015

Advice from the World’s Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Author: Kent Thune

What is the secret to success for women entrepreneurs? Would you guess money? A great idea? Good timing? Luck? You may be surprised that the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs rarely give credit to any of these for building a profitable and lasting business.

After sifting through dozens of success stories and wise quotes from some of the most powerful businesswomen today, we found a few key attributes that are common in their advice and words of wisdom that can be helpful to other women looking to follow their path.

Be true to yourself. Let’s start with Oprah Winfrey, who is often hailed as the “Queen of All Media,” as well as one of the most influential people in the world. She is undoubtedly an icon of entrepreneurship. From her humble beginnings in rural Mississippi, Winfrey went on to become the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. She went on to start her own film and television production company, Harpo Productions, Inc. She is also an actress, philanthropist, and a publisher.

But Winfrey may be best known for the wisdom she shares on life, leadership, and coping with adversity. Her advice to women and to anyone wanting to reach their full potential is commonly about finding purpose and acting authentically. Here’s her advice: “Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself.”

Don’t be afraid to fail. J.K. Rowling is another female billionaire who hardly needs an introduction. Her success story is nearly as magical and famous as everyone’s favorite teenage magician, Harry Potter, whose adventures leapt from Rowling’s imagination onto the pages of what would be a literary sensation that captivated the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and six subsequent books have now sold over 500 million copies worldwide. A film franchise and theme parks have kept the profits rolling in, making Rowling richer than the Queen of England.

But it was more than Rowling’s literary magic that transformed her from a destitute single mother on welfare into a best-selling author. What’s her secret to success? It was the realization that failure can be a necessary step toward changing one’s life for the better. In Rowling’s words, here’s her life lesson: “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believed I truly belonged.”

Embrace the unknown. You don’t need to be loaded with knowledge, experience and money to find success. In fact, possessing too much of those things can be an impediment. For evidence of this universal truth, look no further than the youngest female self-made billionaire, Sara Blakely.

At age 29, Blakely invested her entire life savings, $5,000, trying to come up with something flattering to wear under her white slacks. Six months later, the one-time greeter at Disneyworld and fax machine salesperson found her new line of shaping underwear named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things.

Her now famous hosiery company, Spanx, went from a one-product wonder sold out of her Atlanta apartment to a powerhouse with $250 million in annual revenues. A must-have wardrobe item for women; Spanx has also expanded into a line of undergarments for men.
So how can a woman in her 20s create a business empire? Blakely shares this philosophy: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently than everyone else.”

Confidence, Confidence, Confidence! You may have recognized a common thread tying these words of wisdom together. If all of the advice from these successful female entrepreneurs could be combined into one word, that word would be confidence. When you are confident in what you do, you enable yourself to act authentically, and the fear of failure dissolves.

Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, co-authors of the book, The Confidence Code, did extensive research and interviewed some of the most successful female business owners in the world; they found that women are generally less self-assured than men and that this lack of confidence can negatively impact their ability to succeed.

One such world renowned business figure is Diane von Furstenberg, who is best known as the iconic fashion designer behind the famed, chic wrap dress. She is also a successful entrepreneur and founder of DvF, a multi-million dollar global luxury lifestyle brand.
Here is von Furstenberg’s advice: “You cannot minimize the power of confidence.

Confidence about business and who you are. You can say the same thing, but if you say it with confidence, it sounds different. You can’t fake it.”

When you act with confidence, you can embrace the idea of failure, which is not really failure in the conventional sense—it’s an opportunity to learn, which is fundamental to success.

Confidence also emanates from finding one’s purpose. It’s the act of being comfortable in your own skin. When you can be your authentic self, all of your greatest attributes rise to the surface. No one can be better at being you than you. This is central to all of the advice offered by these amazing women, and it is the core of success in all aspects of life. 

Kent Thune is a money manager and the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is a firm believer that the world will be a better place with more women leaders. He is also a freelance writer and is currently working on a book to be published later in 2015. Follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at or follow him on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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