Story and Video Descriptions
Using data on women and business-ownership, this short
video shows the potential of women entrepreneurship globally.
The Women Entrepreneurs
Country: Nevada, USA
By keeping an eye on the bottom line, Laura has grown her tiny idea into a major success.
✦Growing up, Laura learned to be independent, receiving very little support from her divorced parents and putting herself through school.
✦In 2000, Laura and her husband were working for dot.com companies and knew that the bubble was about to burst. She took up knitting as a hobby and decided to open an yarn shop, hoping to make $30,000.
✦Today, Jimmy Beans Wool has 400 orders a day, making $7 million in yearly sales with 99% of the business being online.
Laura Zander Quote: “The business challenge that has been the most difficult has been learning how to communicate with other people so that they can help with the work.”
✦Traci was born part Native American and pat Irish in Tulsa Oklahoma. She was 11 when her parents divorced, so Traci learned hard work from a very young age.
✦In 2001, Traci was married, had a new born baby and was laid off. She and her husband decided to start an e-waste recycling company, with Traci being the boss.
✦Unethical partner caused her business to take a big hit, but Traci stayed true to her high standards in recycling. Her diligent work and instilled passion to preserve Mother Earth helped her recover.
Traci Phillips Quote: “I think it’s important for people to get up every day and do something that they believe in and are proud to do.”
Country: California, USA
Elizabeth persevered through unbelievable challenges and now thrives as a leading entrepreneur serving up magniﬁcent quiche.
✦Elizabeth was raised in Tennessee, the youngest of 16 children. Her father died when she was 9, and she found solace in helping her mother cook nightly meals.
✦Elizabeth was sexually abused and by 16 had two children. In her late teens she worked in a restaurant – waitressing, cooking and developing menus.
✦When she realized ‘I can do this too,’ she started Magniﬁcent Quiche, selling her ﬁrst quiches at a county fair. Today she sells thousands of quiches each week, and supplies hotels including Ramada and Marriott.
Elizabeth Woods Quote: “Do I stay a victim or do I become victorious? And I choose to not be a victim.”
Country: Maryland, USA
Sheela’s harrowing experience getting her green card led her to start her own business specializing in immigration law and to launch the most popular law firm website in the world.
✦Sheela came to the U.S. from India to attend Harvard Business School. After graduating, she worked at large corporate firms in New York and Baltimore.
✦Sheela’s experience obtaining her green card was “very painful, very slow, very stressful,” so she decided to start her own immigration law firm to help others through the process.
✦A wake up call, when most of her employees quit within days of each other, made Sheela reconsider her management style and her firm flourished. Today, Murthy.com is the most visited law firm website in the world.
Sheela Murthy Quote: “I was hiring part-time employees initially and then full-time paralegals. And making sure that I didn’t overpay people, which in hindsight wasn’t very wise.”
Country: New Jersey, USA
After she lost her job three years ago Deborah Olivo created VidaAire, an organic sanitizer that’s an alternative to the Purells and Lysols of this world. By mixing essential oils in her kitchen, Deborah discovered an untapped market niche.
✦Inspiration came to Deborah from memories of her immigrant grandmother, who grew herbs on her ﬁre escape.
✦Deborah’s been through troubled marriages, as well as major emotional and ﬁnancial struggles, but never gave up.
✦She was crippled by fear for years, but now she’s unstoppable: a woman entrepreneur in control of her own destiny.
Deborah Olivo Quote: “I look in the mirror and I see the potential that I possess.”
Country: California, USA
Judi sells body parts — heads, legs, arms — as part of her business repairing, recycling, renting and selling used mannequins.
✦Judi’s business was born by accident — in 2000 she was surﬁng the web and came across some used mannequins for sale.
✦At the time, it was an established practice in the retail industry just to throw mannequins in the trash. But Judi found out there was a market for breathing new life into them and started her business.
✦Now, she saves 100,000 pounds of mannequin ﬂesh from being dumped into landﬁlls and has won an EPA award for her achievements.
Judi Henderson-Townsend Quote: “I realized these [businessmen] aren’t any smarter than I am. They just have a lot more conﬁdence.”
Country: Iowa, USA
Determined to create positive social change, Talia started RandomKid to help kids help others.
✦Talia was ten years old when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast; she was determined to help, despite her age.
✦She spearheaded a movement that had kids all over the country trick or treat for relief funds on Halloween. Collectively, they raised $10 Million.
✦Talia co-founded RandomKid, which has mobilized 12 million youth from 20 countries to provide aid on four continents.
Talia Leman Quote: “Why should I vote, or why should I put the coin in the can? Just simply because I can. And I think that that’s really the best reason to do anything.”
Country: Texas, USA
Latina trailblazer Nina Vaca resurrected her IT company from the ashes and turned it into a major industry player.
✦Nina’s family emigrated from Ecuador the U.S. and from a very young age, Nina worked at her father’s travel agency in LA.
✦After a tragic incident, Nina’s father passed away. The family sold the business, moved to Texas and Nina enrolled in college.
✦After briefly working for a big New York City tech company, Nina moved back to Texas to be close to her relatives and launched Pinnacle Technical Resources.
✦The economic downturn after the 9-11 terror attacks almost put her out of business, but Nina repositioned her company and within a year, earnings soared to two million dollars. The snowball effect continued through the years and today, Nina has her sight set to reaching the one billion dollar mark.
Nina Vaca Quote: “When nobody is purchasing what you have to sell, you have to reinvent yourself.”
Country: Virginia, USA
Nada Kiblawi was born in a refugee camp, lived through regional wars and finally found a safe haven and economic independence as an entrepreneur in the U.S.
✦Nada was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, where she lived in “miserable” conditions in two rooms shared by her, her six siblings, and her parents.
✦Determined to get herself and her family out of poverty, she applied to the American University of Beirut, and became the first female electrical engineer to graduate from there.
✦In 1982, Nada was married with three children, when Israel invaded Lebanon once again and Nada decided to move the family to safer grounds in the United States. She found a job in St. Louis, MO and quickly gained recognition in the electrical engineering field.
✦She opened her own company to offer better customer service to her clients, which include some of the world’s top companies.
Nada Kiblawi Quote: “Having the humiliation that we were subjected to every second of our life, that didn’t give me high self-esteem but it gave me the push to succeed.”
Country: California, USA
Joy left her Internet job to return to her steel industry roots and handcraft eco-jewelry, determined to make stylish jewelry that’s also sustainable.
✦Joy was raised in a small blue-collar town outside of Pittsburg, PA in steel country, and many of her family members worked in the mills. In college she studied ﬁne arts before taking on a dot.com job.
✦She wanted to work with her hands and took jewelry-making classes. She excelled and started her own company in 2005 with a focus on environmentally friendly resources and production.
✦Joy sells about 3,5000 pieces of jewelry each year and her designs have been featured in fashion magazines and are worn by celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Eva Longoria and Anne Hathaway.
Joy Opfer Quote: “I was very naïve actually when I started my business … I had no idea how much I didn’t know.”
Country: New York, USA
Hanny left her religious roots behind and parlayed her love of fashion into a furniture restoration company.
✦Hanny grew up in an ultra-Hasidic home. At 19, she married a conservative Orthodox man. By 21 she was divorced, shunned by her family and friends.
✦Three years later, after meeting a furniture repairman – who she would later marry – Hanny started MOD, a furniture repair company. Soon she saw that it would not make the kind of money she wanted.
✦Hanny reinvented MOD as a re-upholstery business and now is struggling to keep up with demand. One of her latest clients is The Waldorf Astoria.
Hanny Lerner Quote: “I had to learn how to be respected by people who are twice my age and of the opposite sex.”
✦Xiaoning grew up in China in the 1960’s when the country was closed to the outside world. Influenced by her mother’s interest in Western culture, Xiaoning listened to English language radio and picked up the language.
✦Her language skills landed her a job at IBM. A few years later she met and married a German man. The couple moved to Europe and then to Xiaoning’s dream country — the U.S.
✦While spending time with her newborn son in New York City parks, Xiaoning was approached by a lot of families with adopted children from China, who were curious about Chinese culture.
✦Xiaoning started importing books, clothing, and Chinese arts and crafts to sell in the U.S. over the Internet. Today, her company occupies a large office warehouse in Midtown Manhattan and offers over 8,000 products.
Xiaoning Wang Quote: “It’s not about making money, it’s about something meaningful.”
Country: Virginia, USA
After Becky became a mother she started her own pet care business to spend more time with her growing family.
✦While pregnant, Becky realized that her working hours as
a medical technician were too long to raise her child.
✦She decided to start a business involving animals because they were her ‘ﬁrst love’ having grown up on a farm. With her baby strapped to her back, she began walking dogs and the business took off.
✦Today Becky employs 85 people and says the ﬂexibility of owning her company has allowed her to spend more time with her children.
Becky O’Neil Quote: “When I wanted to start a business the best advice I got was to go back to what you loved as a child.”
Country: Virginia, USA
From hostile religious groups in Iraq to community boards, Alma gets people to talk and resolve their problems.
✦An immigrant from Jordan, Alma was living in the United States with her husband and three kids, getting her Ph.D. in conflict resolution, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
✦Deeply affected by the attacks and what followed, Alma helped organize meetings of friends, colleagues and members of immigrant groups to talk about the tragic events and how to heal.
✦Her experience led her to start Kommon Denominator, a conflict management consulting firm, that helps people from even the most hostile regions in Iraq sit together, talk and find common ground.
Alma Jadallah Quote: “The measure of success for me and my work is [when] I had really given people the tools, so when I’m not there they’re able to move forward.”
Country: New York, USA
Despite styling hair for many years, Ana lacked the conﬁdence to start her own salon. After founding Kika, her only fear is not spending enough time with her loyal
✦Ana was born in Colombia and immigrated to the U.S with her family as a child.
✦Ana opened Kika in 1999 but she was burned by employees who stole her clients.
✦Undeterred, Ana keeps moving forward, grateful for her loyal customers (and has new
employees sign non-compete clauses). Her team sees about 150 clients a week and is offering new services.
Ana Perez Quote: “People conﬁde in you, talk to you, and being able to not only make them beautiful, but also give them a word of hope and advice. That’s for me, the ultimate.”
At 21, Jocelyn took over her family’s small sauce-making business to provide for her ﬁve younger siblings. Today she runs a major international corporation.
✦After Jocelyn’s father died while she was a student, she took over his struggling business, in an industry dominated by men.
✦She had to learn about the business and get tough fast because many did not take her
seriously. For years she worked to get the business back on it’s feet and expand to new markets, while raising a family.
✦Today, Jocelyn’s company is a supplier to major companies including The Hyatt and
McDonalds. She has 200 employees and exports her product to 30 countries.
Jocelyn Chng Quote: “I feel that success is the journey. It’s not about the destination. It’s about how we enjoy the journey.”
A dramatic family crisis led Pat to quit her job in advertising and strike out on her own starting an edgy social media company.
✦Growing up, Pat’s parents sold duck rice at the airport, and she used the venue as her personal playground. She later studied marketing at university.
✦Pat became an advertising director at a top ad ﬁrm, but when her father became gravely ill, she was concerned there was not enough money for his care, and decided to strike out on her own.
✦She started her agency, Goodstuph, in 2010 and her clients include the president of Singapore and Ben & Jerry’s.
Pat Law Quote: “If you’re starting your own business, make sure it’s related to your passion.”
Lyn Lee’s love of chocolate inspired her to start a company that sold just one product, her own version of the perfect cake.
✦After graduating from university, Lyn would meet with her friends to share business ideas. The one thing that inspired her was chocolate. She opened her ﬁrst Awfully Chocolate store and sold just one type of cake from a single recipe.
✦Lyn became an entrepreneur so she could have the ﬂexibility to raise her three children on her own terms.
✦She now has several Awfully Chocolate stores in Singapore and is franchising, selling her product globally. Lyn employs 90 people and has expanded her product line beyond chocolate cake.
Lyn Lee Quote: “I really wanted to try being my own boss because I wanted to be able to raise my kids and be with them when I wanted.”
When Violet left her corporate job to be a matchmaker, everyone – including her parents and friends – said she was crazy. Now she’s behind Asia’s premier dating service.
✦Violet’s father was a used car dealer and her mother was a tailor. They knew that business ownership was hard and groomed Violet to work in the corporate world, sending her to a top university in the UK.
✦She returned to Singapore to work for Citibank. There she noticed many colleagues who were single, working long hours and looking for a spouse. The practice of lunch dating in the West piqued her interest.
✦She started Lunch Actually in 2004 and has since expanded into Hong Kong and Taiwan. She’s behind hundreds of marriages and has set a goal of one million marriages on her watch.
Violet Lim Quote: “I’ve always wanted to make a difference. So rather than putting a goal to say how much money I want to make, it’s about helping people.”
Elim started her company selling imported clothing and accessories after she literally sold the shirt off her back at an incredibly high price.
✦Elim grew up rebellious from the start, passing in school but without ﬂying colors. In the 1980s she moved to London and trained as a hair stylist.
✦When she returned to Singapore three years later, she started her own hair salon. Customers were interested in the unique fashion items and accessories that she had picked up in the UK.
✦She started 77th Street to meet that demand, initially cross subsidized by her hair dressing business. Now she has several stores in Singapore, as well as a store in Beijing, China and has 50 employees.
Elim Chew Quote: “It’s not about how well you do in school, because I never did well.”
Rose ran away from home as a teenager and began selling shoes. She learned the hard way, on the job, and today sells thousands of pairs of shoes each year.
✦Rose grew up in Malaysia and had a difﬁcult relationship with her father because at the time “girls are not popular, boys are superior.” She ran away to Singapore and worked as a waitress.
✦Within a few years, Rose was married, had a son and then decided her to start her own
business, selling shoes.
✦Suppliers took advantage of her, taking her money without delivering the products she ordered, but Rose just got smarter. Today she sells over 10,000 pairs of shoes each year.
Rose Yeong Quote: “Whether you’re married or single, and especially if you’re married, it’s very, very important that you’re independent.”
Country: Hong Kong
Melissa runs a cutting-edge biotech ﬁrm based on ethical principles and disruptive ideas.
✦Growing up below the poverty line, Melissa learned to be resourceful early on and started her ﬁrst business as a teenager.
✦After working in investment banking, she started Filligent, which developed the bio mask (an antimicrobial face mask that kills viruses or bacteria upon contact.)
✦It’s been used in disaster relief in Haiti, Pakistan, Japan, and across Asia in HIV hospices. Since last year, it’s available in Walgreens in the U.S. Her company has several patents and continues to innovate.
Melissa Mowbray-DʼArbela Quote: “Being a woman in business … sure you’re treated differently. So I decided ’embrace that’, use it to your advantage.”
Country: Hong Kong
Puifung is on a mission to make trade more equitable. She pays farmers a fair price for their crops, which she uses to make drinks and snacks.
✦Puifung’s parents were born in China and moved to Hong Kong seeking a better life. While in secondary school there, Puifung learned about the Ethiopian famine and began organizing.
✦Afterward graduating from college Puifung worked for Oxfam, where she learned that farmers in developing countries often had to sell their produce at a loss.
✦In 2004, Puifung started Fairtaste, a social enterprise, to bring fair trade – the practice of paying a ‘fair price’ to farmers and producers – to Hong Kong. She is adding new products on offer and is looking to expand Fairtaste throughout Asia.
Puifung Leung Quote: “Where this is risk, there is opportunity.”
Country: Hong Kong
Adrienne is taking the lessons she learned from her family’s traditional retail business to the web selling luxury items on her high-end e-commerce site.
✦After college, Adrienne worked at her mother’s high-end fashion company, heading up the company for about ten years.
✦In 2009, she started Shouke, a multi-label designer, fashion, and lifestyle e-commerce website with online ﬂash sales, which offer customers a limited time frame to make purchases.
✦ She is working to crack the highly competitive yet lucrative e-commerce luxury market in China. Adrienne brings her mother in to consult, calling her Shouke’s ‘secret weapon.’
Adrienne Ma Quote: “It’s a huge learning curve. Hopefully, I come out of it above the waves. If I get dragged under for a while then I’ll try and pedal myself up.”
Country: Hong Kong
Lysanne produced Hong Kong’s ﬁrst local wine in 2007, thousands of miles from a vineyard. Using innovative technology, Lysanne imports grapes from all over the world
to make her own wines.
✦Lysanne was born and raised in Canada. At 27, she sold her car and house, left her boyfriend behind and moved to Hong Kong.
✦When she started 8th Estate Winery she didn’t have much support, but over the years has built up a network of ‘very strong female entrepreneurs’ to help her.
✦She imports frozen grapes and uses them to produce between 40 to 60,000 bottles of wine each year.
Lysanne Tusar Quote: “Yes it’s going to be scary, yes it’s going to be frightening. But if you don’t do it, I think the long-term regret would be far more frightening and far more scary.”
Country: Hong Kong
Anna’s has spent the last 30 years working 14-hour days to build up her restaurant empire.
✦Anna grew up working in her father’s restaurant.
✦She has opened a number of themed restaurants and introduced new cuisines to Hong Kong.
✦Anna has 40 restaurants and 1,000 employees.
Anna Chau Quote: “I don’t make lots of money. I just see people happy eating in my restaurant, and I think ‘this is enough for me.’”