It’s the American dream: a regular mom becomes a super successful entrepreneur and is suddenly a household name, not to mention extremely wealthy. Here are the stories of eight inspiring mompreneurs.
In the 1950’s, the only dolls for kids were baby dolls or paper dolls. There were no dolls for kids to use to act out adult rolls. Ruth Handler noticed her daughter Barbara would play with baby paper dolls and pretend they were adults. So Ruth created Barbie dolls, named after her daughter Barbara. The Barbie doll debuted at the New York toy fair in 1959, and has generated billions of dollars and plenty of controversy since then. Ruth Handler also co-founded Mattel, the company that produces Barbie dolls.
Interestingly, Ruth Handler was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1970’s. After having a mastectomy and being unable to find good breast prosthesis, she again started another company, Ruthton Corp. The company made “Nearly Me”, realistic breast prosthesis. She sold the company to a division of Kimberly-Clarke in 1991.
Mary Kay Ash
After 25 years of sales experience, Mary Kay Ash used $5,000 of her savings to open a cosmetics company with the help of her son, Richard Rogers. The year was 1963, and Mary Kay Cosmetics made $200,000 in profit within one year of starting. The company has been a huge success ever since, and it now operates in more than 30 markets. Although Mary Kay Ash died in 2001, her son Richard still continues to grow Mary Kay Cosmetics.
J.K. Rowling, though not an entrepreneur in the traditional sense, was a single mom living on welfare while she wrote her first Harry Potter book. She has since released a total of seven books in the series, with the last four setting consecutive records as the fasting selling books in history. Harry Potter is now a global brand, worth an estimated fifteen billion dollars. Forbes magazine lists Rowling as being the first US dollar billionaire by writing books.
Paula Deen had a rough start in life: by age 23, her parents had both died, her husband had left her, and due to her agoraphobia, she would not leave her house. She overcame her illness. Because she could cook well, she eventually opened her own catering business with the help of her two sons, Jamie and Bobby. She has since successfully published numerous cookbooks, has her own shows on the Food Network and operates two restaurants. She also appeared in the film Elizabethtown in 2005.
Julie Aigner Clark
Julie Aigner Clark was a high school teacher who left her job after having her first baby. Realizing there were no fun, educational videos for baby, she saw a niche. With the help of her husband, they borrowed film equipment and began making the first Baby Einstein videos in 1997 in their basement. The videos were a huge success, and by 2000 the company was worth $10 million dollars. Disney bought Baby Einstein in 2001. Julie continues to be a spokesperson for the company.
At age 20, Debbi Fields was not content to be a housewife. She had always enjoyed baking cookies for her family, and she decided to open her own cookie shop. Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery opened in Palo Alto, California in 1977. Halfway through the first day she hadn’t sold any cookies, so she went outside and handed them out for free. Customers came back, she eventually changed the name to Mrs. Fields Cookies, and by 1990 she had franchised her business. In 1993, she sold the company to private investors.
Before the late 1990’s, most maternity wear was either frumpy and baggy, or babyish and ugly. Liz Lange set out to change that. She began making Liz Lange Maternity clothes with the idea that maternity clothes should be chic or even sexy. She wanted pregnant women to feel better about themselves, and by making more fitted clothes, she accomplished that. She operates three of her own boutiques, as well as selling her line at Target stores. She does all this with the support of her husband and two children. Additionally, she has forayed into the sound industry, with one of her product leading to stellar reviews (check it out at Edifier R1280db Review)
While her husband was away and she was left with her two young children, Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1971. She sold only fifteen products at the time, and they were made with ingredients from cleansing rituals she had seen from her travels. The store was a huge success, and Roddick was in the process of opening a second store when her husband returned ten months later. The company became publicly traded in 1984, and it became a subsidiary of L’Oreal Cosmetics in 2006. It operates in 50 markets globally today.