Entrepreneurs

Three female entrepreneurs who prove success is not always a straight line journey

Fi Bendall /

From a young age we are encouraged to think about plotting a pathway in life that gets us from Point A to Point B in an efficient and expedient manner. If only!

The truth is for most of us, the pathway to where we want to get to is an elaborate and sometimes absurd game of snakes and ladders. Even more so when you throw your hat into the ring as an entrepreneur.

However, once you embrace this idea, you can start to shed your unrealistic and limiting expectations and go with what really works for you. It may not be the path you originally thought you’d take, but it could be the one that takes you to greatness, just as it did for these successful female entrepreneurs.

Sara Blakely

These are some of the things Sara Blakely tried but failed at before becoming the founder of a billion-dollar company: lawyer, stand-up comedian, and Goofy at Disney World. She did, however, sell fax machines for seven years with some success. “It was great life training,” Blakely previously told Business Insider.

Blakely’s story is the classic case of the accidental entrepreneur. She invented a fashion product but was not a fashion designer and had never been involved in the clothing trade in any way at all. Instead, she applied the old rule of necessity being the mother of invention when she experimented with cutting the foot section off her pantyhose in order to get the benefit of wearing pantyhose without what she saw as the unsightly bit that spoiled wearing open toe shoes.

It was a mundane and almost comical start to what would eventually become Spanx, which is now a women’s hosiery and activewear company worth more than $US1 billion. When she shopped her invention around to hosiery mills in the beginning she was roundly shown the door. But her persistence and hustle meant she finally found a partnering manufacturer and distribution through Neiman Marcus.

Today, Blakely is personally worth $US1.1 billion and has business interests in a range of companies.

Sophia Amoruso

By her own admission, Sophia Amoruso was a little lost for direction at one stage in her life. A dumpster diving punk with zero in the way of conventional career ambitions, Amoruso recounts her strange journey from high school dropout to fashion mogul in her book #Girlboss: “Anyone looking for a sure bet, in business or in life, would never have put their money on me. But that didn’t dissuade me from betting on myself. In the end I beat the odds”.

Starting out as a strictly eBay venture, Amoruso built up Nasty Gal from a scungy lounge room operation into an e-commerce company valued at $300 million at its height. She did this all in the space of about seven frantic years, riding on the thrift store coat-tails of the e-commerce revolution and the retro tastes of her mainly Millennial customers.

More recently, Nasty Gal has hit rockier times, as Amoruso stepped down as chief executive in 2015 and the company filed for bankruptcy late last year. But having defied the odds once already, it would be a brave person who would bet against Amoruso flying high yet again.

Karlie Kloss

Being a supermodel comes with a certain set of expectations and becoming an advocate for coding is probably not one of them. However, a successful and lucrative modelling career has not stopped Karlie Kloss from pursuing her interest in software and web development, and passing on that passion to young women.

Kloss started modelling at the age of 14 and has modelled for some of the biggest names in the fashion game, including her time as a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 2011 to 2014. But in recent years it has been her somewhat left-field turn into the world of computer education that has garnered her applause from more than just the fashion crowd.

Kloss says she was always interested in maths and science as a kid, but her modelling career took over and she was unable to really pursue those interest, until 2014 when she enrolled herself in a Ruby on Rails programming course.

Inspired be her first foray into the world of programming, she teamed up with computer education provider Flatiron School to develop her Kode with Klossy program and scholarship. The non-profit now runs coding summer camps, awards career scholarships to young women developers and helps to foster the role of girls and women in tech.

Never miss a story: sign up to SmartCompany’s free daily newsletter and find our best stories on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.

Advertisement
Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

We Recommend

FROM AROUND THE WEB