By David Lidsky
Breedlove made her own scalp conditioner, barnstormed African-American communities to demonstrate it, and later set up a college to train “hair
culturists” to sell her goods.
The impact: She built the template for success in
the cosmetics business. In 2016, Sundial debuted
a hit line of Madam C.J. Walker–branded products.
Faulkner was among the first to see the potential
for how tech could revolutionize healthcare. She
started with bookkeeping software but struck
gold with electronic medical records for Windows.
The impact: Microsoft has its own healthtech initiative (as do Apple and Google), but the giants
still envy Epic’s $2.5 billion in annual revenues.
Once described as a “one-woman sales merchandising promotion administrative force,” Handler
bet on TV ads, created pioneering sales-tracking
and forecasting tools—and dreamed up Barbie.
The impact: Handler focused on design and marketing while outsourcing manufacturing, a new
business model that Apple would later adopt.
Two recent Korean immigrants opened “Fashion
21,” appealing to women with designs popular in
Seoul. Chang’s merchandising savvy generated
$700,000 in year one on an $11,000 investment.
The impact: Forever 21, as it became known,
was the first to offer Americans fast fashion and
is now a $4 billion giant with almost 800 stores.
As the cofounder of the first indie TV production
company, Ball had the power to cast her real-life
husband (and Desilu cofounder), Cuban-born
actor Desi Arnaz, in I Love Lucy.
The impact: Ball was later the first to syndicate
reruns, creating a multibillion-dollar system that
persists to this day, even on streaming platforms.
In 1981, Dubinsky joined Apple because it epitomized the future. Ten years later, she had a hunch
about handheld devices and cofounded Palm.
The impact: Dubinsky brought to market the
PalmPilot, then the best-selling gadget of all
time. In 2003, she launched the first smartphone,
creating today’s mobile computing world.
A self-described cookie addict, Nidetch discovered that communal support helped her lose
weight. She turned her “little group” into a business model built on self-empowerment.
The impact: Nidetch leveraged social networks
to develop a lifestyle brand. In 2015, self-help
queen Oprah Winfrey bought a 10% stake.
Peng, an Alibaba cofounder, grew Alipay (its digital payments division), then merged it with the
small-business financial services business she created within the Chinese commerce titan.
The impact: Ant is valued at $60 billion and has
more than 450 million users, and Peng is expanding its fintech services worldwide.
Wells, a rising star in advertising’s Mad Men era,
built a fast-growing indie agency, took it public,
and won over clients with dazzling bravura.
The impact: Wells used irony to elevate underdogs and pioneered experiential branding
(revamping airlines’ ads and their service)—ideas
that now pervade all of modern marketing.
As a 19-year-old, Matthews invented a soccer
ball that generates kinetic energy to bring electric light to a small home. A decade later, she pivoted her startup around the idea.
The impact: Uncharted Power now also makes
kinetic road materials and sidewalks that power
microgrids in African nations such as Nigeria.
Jin Sook Chang,
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