Talk about #womenwhohustle.
At The Story Exchange, inspirational women entrepreneurs are our business and our passion. But we have a special place in our hearts for the business owners featured below, who on top of being successful founders are also some of the most respected athletes, political figureheads, musicians and performers going.
We’ve gathered up nine of our favorite motivational quotes from these seriously successful, seriously famous role models. In just a few words, these well-known women share all that they’ve learned about perseverance, patience, and finding strength — in others, and in yourself.
Read on — then get to work.
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1. “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” — Ava DuVernay
Director, activist and founder DuVernay has often given opportunities to marginalized actors and creators as her own star has risen. Most recently, she also told the story of the Central Park 5, a group of teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping and assaulting a jogger in 1989. It’s inspiring work to behold, and it’s also a quality that many other successful women embody — for example, the social entrepreneurs featured in our Good on the Ground series. DuVernay would be proud.
2. “It’s your game; make up your own rules.” — Barbara Corcoran
The real estate entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” panelist started up and scaled her self-named business at a time when women were even less likely to be business leaders. Rather than let that discourage her, Corcoran created her own path. Not having other footsteps to follow in was challenging, but she turned it into an advantage and built a long-lasting career — not to mention, serving as a role model for others along the way.
3. “In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.” — Drew Barrymore
She’s best known as a performer, having landed feature roles in a wide range of films since childhood. But Barrymore is also the head of her own makeup line, Flower Beauty. Following decades of ups, and some rather public downs, Barrymore is now on sure, successful footing. And she’s found that stumbles and mistakes, and everything we learn from them, makes us stronger in the long run.
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4. “Every five years, I feel like I’m a completely different person.” — Jessica Alba
Alba is perhaps just as well-known for her acting work as she is for the giant, all-natural health and home goods business she runs. The multi-talented founder of The Honest Company shared these candid thoughts on growing and evolving as a person — a crucial skill for any would-be business owner, to be sure.
5. “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” — Oprah Winfrey
She’s an inspiration to countless people, women in particular. But the media mogul didn’t get to where she is overnight. After diligently working for decades to build a brand and a reputation for herself, she is now one of the most respected figures in the world. She notes that others can also achieve greatness, as long as they are willing to commit the time — even if that means taking years to get to where you’re going.
6. “Don’t let anyone work harder than you do.” — Serena Williams
Her impressive work ethic is one item on a long list of attributes that make Williams someone to look up to. Grueling training regimens, international travel and high-pressure games are a part of her everyday life — in addition to raising her daughter and investing in other hard-working women. Keeping up with that kind of schedule is difficult, but Williams is willing to put in the work to make it all happen. And that’s why she’s the GOAT.
7. “Your self-worth is determined by you. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are.” — Beyonce
It’s hard to be the queen if you don’t believe in yourself. That’s why singer and record label owner Beyonce encourages others to establish their identities themselves, and to find value from within. And as important as outside input is to entrepreneurs — be it from customers, investors or anyone in between — we can’t help but agree with Queen Bey.
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8. “The more you trust your intuition, the more empowered you become, the stronger you become, and the happier you become.” — Gisele Bundchen
She’s never just been a wife (to legendary quarterback Tom Brady). Bundchen, a world-renowned model, is one of the most recognizable faces in fashion and beauty. She’s also an entrepreneurial partner at Grendene, a synthetic footwear company that makes a killing from selling her sandals. And, she has her own lingerie line. All of that, she says, was achieved by believing in herself, and letting that faith embolden her.
9. “I love aging. Why would I want to be 21 for the rest of my life?” — Zoe Saldana
We may be biased here, as we just finished celebrating Fearless Over 50 business owners. But we love these words of wisdom from Saldana that remind us to appreciate where we are in our journeys, and to revel in the joy and security that can come with getting older. After all, the 41-year-old only recently started her Latin-American-focused media company, BESE.
What can you accomplish today?
[Related: 5 Women Who Became Young Billionaires — Including Kylie Jenner, Of Course]
This piece was originally published in July 2019 but updated to include a newly produced video.