It’s easy to hear the words “female entrepreneur” and automatically think of the likes of Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani and Tyra Banks who, with countless fashion, beauty and media empires between them, have well and truly conquered the business world. Whilst there’s no denying that all of these women are incredibly inspirational in their own right, I can’t help feeling that their celebrity status makes it all seem a bit out of reach for anyone else. It’s important to recognise that what got these women to the top was not beauty, fame or glamour, but passion, drive and a hell of a lot of hard work – in other words, the glass ceiling is yours for the smashing, celebrity or not. On that note, here are some more seriously successful femmes who are taking entrepreneurship to a whole new level.


Zhang Xin: The Property Mogul

As co-founder of Beijing’s largest real estate development company SOHO, and with an impressive net worth of $2.6 billion to her name, Zhang Xin’s place at the top of this list is pretty self-explanatory. However, there is a lot more to her story than a clever business idea and a whopping great fortune. Born in Beijing and growing up without a father, Xin spent her teenage years doing 12-hour shifts in Hong Kong sweatshops. After learning English at secretarial college and saving up for a plane ticket, she came to the UK where she went on to graduate from Cambridge University with a master’s degree in economics. As a result, her company is now credited with having developed one fifth of Beijing’s Central Business District. It’s not how you start but how you finish, ladies…

Kathryn Parsons: The Tech Guru

33-year-old Kathryn Parsons is taking the typically male-dominated tech world by storm, and for that she deserves major kudos. While working in the tech industry, first at Ogilvy and then for her own advertising company, she noticed a significant skills gap in the area of coding and wasted no time in seizing her opportunity. In a bid to “spread digital enlightenment” to all, Parsons co-founded Decoded, whose Code in a Day programme launched in 2011 as a workshop for 10 people and has since gone global. What can we learn from Kathryn? Girls absolutely can tech. End of.


Jenny Dawson: The Foodie

Rubies in the Rubble is the brainchild of 27-year-old Jenny Dawson, a passionate entrepreneur who ditched the world of hedge-funding and set out on a pretty admirable quest to tackle food waste instead. Founded in 2011, this socially spirited business makes delicious chutneys and jams out of surplus fresh fruit and veg, and earned Ms Dawson the 42nd Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award, which celebrates up and coming female entrepreneurial talent. Jenny’s story is a welcome reminder of how important it is to do something you actually care about … and that anyone who can turn a love of food into a high-flying business deserves major respect.

So there you have it – not being Beyoncé is no longer an excuse. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to take the form of conquering the property market or tackling major global issues either, with plenty of successful businesses starting off as a simple side project. Whether starting your own online shop via ecommerce hosting sites such as this, or running a mobile beauty business around your 9-5, being an entrepreneur is about doing what you love and not losing sight of either your personal or your career goals.

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