Famous Most Successful Companies Founded by Women

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The history of business is nearly often the history of males in business. Though many businesses have been and are founded every year by women – few women still seem to be able to make it to the top of the business food chain. There are many exceptions though and the following list of big businesses were founded in full or in part by women


1. The Body Shop


The most famous business of all ever started by a woman, Anita Roddick founded this cosmetics company in 1976 and the brand is global offering natural cosmetics, environmentally friendly goods and have a prestigious fair trade policy. Anita Roddick died in 2007 and the company is part-owned by cosmetics giant L’Oreal. In 1990, Roddick founded The Body Shop Foundation to support global environmental and social issues ‘ the company already had a large charitable fund but founded it to bring them all under one flag for global branding

2. Build-A-Bear Workshop


Now a global brand, this simple idea began in St. Louis, founded by Maxine Clark in 1997 it is now present in  Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand and United Kingdom. Its simple idea is to provide the raw materials for customers to build their own bears ‘ customise a design and have it presented to them at the end. The idea became successful in a short space of time and in 2007 purchased The Bear Factory from Hamley’s in London.

3. Discovery Toys

Lane Nemeth, Founder of Discovery Toys

Considered one of the most lucrative direct sales companies in North America, it was founded by Lane Nemeth in 1978 with a $50,000 loan from friends and family. It was a gamble for a woman whose family had relied on food stamps at one point but it ultimately paid off. She bought up stock of small-production toys and bought shrewdly ‘ educational, safe and popular. Her decision not to go for typical big sellers paid off and the company is now one of the most successful independent toy traders

4. Eventbrite


Online ticketing and events management is one of the biggest businesses of the internet era and this is one of the largest companies around. It uses social media platforms to promote events, promotions and ticketing sales. It was co-founded by husband and wife couple Kevin and Julia Hartz in 2006. It makes its money by charging organisers a percentage fee for advertising and also a standard 99c against every ticket sold ‘ it does not charge for free events. It has become so successful that it has a number of alliances with web giants such as WordPress and mailchimp to build widgets

5. Liquid Paper


At a time when typing errors were rife, and a full eight years before a similar fluid would become available for handwritten material, Bette Nesmith Graham was a professional typist who wanted to find a more efficient way to sort out errors than simply starting again on a new sheet. In 1950 she invented the fluid and gave it out to the typists at the bank she worked at. However, a fateful mistake (putting her company’s name into a letter) led to her losing her job and devoting her time to her new company. She never looked back

6. Flickr


The web’s largest and most successful photo sharing site began in 2004 and was founded by Ludicorp which in turn was founded by Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield. It was bought out by Yahoo in 2005 and after this went on to become one of the largest photo resources in the world. It has undergone many changes in its ten years and has managed each time to not just keep up, but grow as the web changes. Amongst her business interests, she is Chairman of the board of Etsy and is on the board of directors of Creative Commons

7. Estée Lauder


Estée Lauder is named after the wife of the pair of co-founders: Joseph and Estée Lauder who began producing cosmetics in New York in 1946: their range amounted to just four products. Within a couple of years they had opened their first store. Estée Lauder was no mere sleeping partner to her husband, she was a well-respected businesswoman and was the only woman to appear in the top 20 Time most influential business people of the 20th century. The company is still controlled by the Lauder family

8. American Red Cross


A number of countries already had a Red Cross (later organised under International Red Cross) and the American branch, founded in 1881, was as a result of Clara Barton hearing of the movement in Europe. After serving as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war, she returned home and established the charity. Its first task was to help survivors of the Great Flood in 1881 and later the Johnstown Flood in 1889. Barton was a formidable woman, considered one of the greatest figures in American history

9. The East India Company (British)


The world’s first corporation, whether you think its existence was a good or a bad thing (and modern historians tend to err on the side of it being a bad think considering the colonial power that went hand in hand with it), was started by one of the most famous women in history: Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was the first of its kind and successive East India Companies by other colonial powers were formed in its image. It was also formally dissolved by another famous queen: Victoria

10. Cisco


The IT powerhouse designs, produces and sells equipment for networks ‘ mostly for business systems. It is now considered one of the biggest players in the IT world and it ‘ contrary to the trends of a lot of tech hardware companies ‘ was co-founded by a woman. Sandra ‘Sandy’ Lerner along with her then boyfriend Leonard Bosack founded the company in 1984. They had both been employees of Stanford University computer support staff



Business needn’t be a barrier to women and clearly from the internationally successful organisations above, it isn’t. There are questions to be asked about why women who are successful in business are the exception rather than the rule. Many business leaders have their views but by presenting the women above, perhaps we will close that gap

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