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Secrets to success from self-made women

Women's position in society has changed remarkably over the last five decades. The era of modernization and the rise of women economic empowerment gave women the opportunity to leave the domestic space and enter the corporate world.  Today, more and more women occupy jobs traditionally associated with men, with some even becoming sole breadwinners in their household.

The labour force, however, still shows inequalities today.  Statistics by the United States Department of Labour indicate the rate for women's participation in the labour force is expected to reach 57.2 percent by 2020 as opposed to the 96.7 percent for men.  A recent report by Catalyst.org also reveals that women earned 82.5% of men's salaries in 2014. This confirms that the gender pay gap is real and that women still face discrimination in terms of age, ethnicity, education and economic background.

As such, many women choose to start their own business, but even this initiative is not without its challenges.  To get a business underway can be tricky for women as they often lack the financial resources and networking opportunities.   

Despite these obstacles, a few women have shown that it is not impossible to make it all by oneself in the business world. Because 1st for Women is all about putting ladies first when it comes to business insurance, we bring you inspiring stories of five self-made female entrepreneurs who have made it to the top and the secrets to their astonishing success.

Elizabeth Holmes CEO of Theranos

"I wanted to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels, regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender."

When Elizabeth Holmes started selling C++ compilers to universities in China at a very young age, she already showed entrepreneurial promise.  However, it was only when she enrolled at Stanford University to study chemical engineering that things began to fall in place for her.  After coming up with an idea for blood testing technology, Elizabeth decided to drop out of college to pursue her dreams of starting a blood diagnostics company. She initially ran the company from the basement of a sorority house, but went big later on, naming her business Theranos. The company is now worth $9bn with Elizabeth owning a 50 percent share. She is currently the world's youngest self-made female billionaire.

Amanda Hockings best-selling author

"I've spent twenty-six years writing, and eight years studying what it takes to make writing my career. I write commercial fiction, with nice covers and good prices. And I happened to publish during an e-book revolution. So if you want to know the secret to my success”it's all right there.

Amanda Hockings revolutionized the book publishing industry when she self-published her novels on Amazon.com.  Like her British counterpart, JK Rowling, Amanda was completely broke when she started out writing fiction and was also rejected by several traditional book publishers.   She was determined to get her books published or, at least, to make enough money to attend a Muppets show in Chicago.  Amanda risked the road less travelled and uploaded her books on Amazon. Within a year the books earned her $2.5m and an option to turn her Trylle trilogy into a major Hollywood film.  

Alakija Folorunsho founder and executive vice-chairman of Famfa Oil Limited

"It has not been a rag to riches fairytale. It has not been an overnight phenomenon like some cases which you find here and there all over the world. For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted my own business. Hard work… I am trying to tell you how I got to where I am if you want those billions. Hard work, diligence, persistence… days where you nearly gave up but I chose not to give up."

It may not be a typical rags-to-riches story, but Alakija Folorunsho's journey from secretary to oil tycoon is an inspiring one nonetheless.  Although she had a relatively wealthy family, Alakija chose to venture independently from her family's money.  She started out in the business world with her own fashion label, Supreme Stitches, which did extremely well.    This didn't stop Alakijah from achieving greater things. Her connection with Maryam Babangida, wife to Nigeria's former military president, gave her an opportunity to endeavour in the oil industry with no experience at all. She was awarded an oil-prospecting license and began searching for oil with her new company Famfa Limited.  Her company is now one of Nigeria's biggest oil block production companies.  Alakija is Nigeria's first female billionaire and Africa's richest woman with a fortune of $2.5bn.

Sarah Blakely founder of Spanx

"Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don't be afraid to fail. If you believe in your idea 100% don't let anyone stop you"

When Sarah Blakely cut off her pantyhose at a private party, little did she know it would make her a billionaire in just 15 years. Sarah was a salesperson selling fax machines door to door when she came up with an idea that would revolutionize the hosiery industry. With only $5000 in personal savings at her disposal, Sarah started her Spanx brand which ultimately went on to become a multi-million dollar company. In 2014, Forbes named her as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world. 

Denise Coates founder and chief executive of Bet365

"I probably had a few [meetings] at first where I had to put somebody right but I knew my business, so it wasn't a problem … I just wanted to get on with making my business successful. I've never dwelled on the fact, or thought about the fact, that I was a woman."

Denise Coates worked as a cashier in her family bookmarking business Provincial Racing before she went to the University of Sheffield to be trained as an accountant. After she completed her studies she returned to her father's betting shops and became managing director of the estate.  In 2000, Denise started an online betting site which has grown to become one of the world's largest online gambling companies.  Denise has a 50.01 percent share in the company and a personal fortune of about $2.5 billion, making her the 723rd richest person in the world according to Forbes.

We've shared some interesting tales of fortune with you… all about women that made it to the top, in their very own ways. Though the route they all took was slightly different, simple principles like hard work and perseverance lies at the premise of it all.

Louis Pasteur once said, that chance favours only the prepared mind. These women all prepared themselves methodically for the success that they sought, through hard work and perseverance. And so the question remains - if they could do it what's stopping you?

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