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America’s Richest Self-Made Women

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In the last few decades, women entrepreneurs have risen through the ranks, making a name for themselves and creating revolutionary businesses. From beauty, food and lifestyle brands to tech and medicine, the richest women have proved they are a force to be reckoned with and have made a huge impact on society.

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The top 60 self-made women having a combined net worth of $71 billion, jumping 15 per cent more than in 2017 and one of them was recently named as the youngest billionaire in history. We break down how these richest inspirational women make their money

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Taylor Swift – $320 million

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest female artists of all time, with her album “Reputation” selling a record-breaking 2 million copies in its first week. Taylor’s 1989 tour smashed all records in North America, raking in a massive quarter of a billion dollars.

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Aside from music, Swift has become a force to be reckoned with, bringing in millions annually from endorsements deals with global brands including Keds, Diet Coke and Apple. Swift’s next tour has the potential to break her last record and make her the richest artist.

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Danielle Steel – $350 million

Almost every woman in the United States has at least one Danielle Steel novel on their bookshelf. The renowned romance author has published more than 130 books spanning her 40-year career.

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She has sold an unprecedented 800 million copies worldwide and for that she has treated herself to a $10 million mansion in San Francisco and Paris apartment where she gets her novel inspiration from. Steel has had five marriages and nine children. It’s not a shock where she gets her romantic ideas from. 

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Beyonce Knowles – $355 million

Named Queen B for a reason, everything Beyonce touches seems to turn into millions. Her On The Run II tour with husband Jay Z was pulling in $5 million each night. She signed a deal with Netflix for her Coachella documentary worth $60 million.

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Beyonce is also stakeholder in husband Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal. When Sprint invested $200 million for 33% of the company in 2017, the stake soared and significantly boosted Jay Z and Beyonce’s net worth making them the richest hip hop couple.

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Barbra Streisand – $400 million

With a career spanning over 50 years, it is no surprise that Streisand has created quite the empire from her career in music and films. When her touring revenue totals are combined, they go way into the hundreds of millions, as well as grossing $46 million for just 14 shows in 2016.

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Barbra has made some excellent decisions in real estate as it is expected that her $20 million Malibu home is now worth around $100 million. 

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Judy Sheindlin – $400 million

Better known as Judge Judy, the no-frills TV judge is loved by fans for being straight talking and quite brutal at times. Her show has been on the air for 22 seasons with over 10 million viewers tuning in each day.

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In 2017, she sold the rights to her extensive library for around $100 million, adding considerably to her overall net worth. Since 2012, Judge Judy has earned $47 million each year from hosting her TV show. 

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Adi Tatarko – $430 million

The CEO of home design website Houzz, Adi Tatarko, struck gold after coming up with the concept as she had difficulty finding inspiration in remodelling her house.

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Since 2009, Adi and her husband Alon have seen their empire grow rapidly, with the website attracting of 40 million unique users per month. Houzz attracts 1.5 million home design pros, hailing from 15 countries. It is expected that the couple own around one quarter of the lucrative company.

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Donna Karan – $470 million

The fashion designer started her fashion house DKNY in 1985 after working underneath designer Anne Klein. For over 30-years, Donna Karan was the head woman at the global fashion house, with stores in almost every city in the world.

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Her fortune also comes from trademark deals and selling her brand to LVMH in 2000. After stepping down from her fashion house in 2015, Donna Karan turned her attention to philanthropic work, working on a variety of worthy causes worldwide. 

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Huda Kattan – $500 million

After being bored in her job in finance, Huda Kattan decided to become a makeup artist and became a beauty blogger. In 2013, Kattan started Huda Beauty in 2013 with her two sisters after not being able to find false eyelashes that she liked.

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Bringing in $200 million in annual sales from lipsticks to eye makeup to bronzers, Huda Beauty sells it all. The company is now valued at $1 billion after private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners acquired a small minority stake at the end of 2017. She is one of the richest women in makeup.

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Vera Wang – $630 million

Best known from dressing everyone from Michelle Obama to almost every A-list star on the red carpet, as well as creating couture wedding gowns, Wang became a household name.

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Straight out of college, Wang became the youngest editor for Vogue, staying with the fashion magazine for 17 years before working for Ralph Lauren and then starting her fashion designing empire. Zales, Kohl’s and David’s Bridal all license her brand and her designs are seen and worn around the world.

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Kylie Jenner – $900 million

The youngest yet richest of the Kardashian/Jenner clan started her beauty empire Kylie Cosmetics in 2016 with the introduction of lip kits. The younger generation flocked to buy Kylie’s products after seeing them plastered all over social media.

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In November 2016, her holiday collection sold out, crashed the website and brought in around $19 million in just 24 hours. Kylie has sold more than $630 million in makeup and her lucrative brand deals with companies including Puma and Calvin Klein have added to her label of being the youngest billionaire. 

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Sara Blakely – $1 billion

After needing some shapewear to wear under her slacks for work, Sara came up with the genius invention of Spanx. She invested a mere $5,000 into the idea and started selling the concept at Neiman Marcus.

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The company has come a long way and now sells the shapewear in 65 countries and Blakely is involved in all day-to-day operations. In addition, Sara has been a guest judge on Shark Tank and invests in other startups. 

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Peggy Cherng – $1.4 billion

Perry Cherng is the co-CEO of favorite Chinese fast food joint Panda Express. Brining in $3 billion in sales for over 2,000 locations. Panda Express first emerged in 1983 as Peggy left her job in engineering to help her husband open Panda Express’ first Los Angeles location in the largest mall in the city.

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From her engineering background, Cherng built the company systems to track customer feedback and streamline operations. They also own stake in other chains including  Urbane Cafe, Just Salad, Uncle Tetsu, Pieology and Ippudo.

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Katie Rodan – $1.5 billion

Dermatologist Katie Rodan along with business partner Kathy Fields created acne treatment Proactiv and launched skin-care company Rodan + Fields. Due to the success of the company, private equity firm TPG spent $1 billion to buy a 25% stake in Rodan + Fields in 2018.

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2017 was the companies biggest year as the revenue of Rodan + Fields grew 50% to $1.5 billion. In 2018, they borrowed $600 million in junk bonds and used it to pay the founders of the company a dividend. They are among the richest in dermatology.

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Jin Sook Chang – $1.5 billion

In 1981, Chang relocated to the United States, became a hairdresser and barely made minimum wage. Three years later in 1984, Chang and her husband used $11,000 in savings to open a 900 square foot clothing store in Los Angeles named Fashion 21.

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The store later expanded rapidly and changed its name to Forever 21. Chang is the chief merchandising officer and the couple’s two daughters also work at the company in merchandising.

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Sheryl Sandberg – $1.6 billion

Since 2008, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sandberg has been integral in increasing revenue. Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg spent six years as vice president at Google, developing their advertising programs.

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Sandberg has also worked on a number of her own projects including founding a nonprofit named after her bestselling book, Lean In. In 2017, Sandberg released her second book focusing on grief and resilience. In recent years, Sandberg was forced to defend Facebook’s work in battling election meddling.   

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Celine Dion – $430 million

As one of the biggest and richest superstars, Celine Dion has made an absolute fortune from her music and performances. Her Las Vegas residency has grossed close to $700 million, making her among the highest paid headliners in the Nevada city.

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Between her touring and making new albums, as well as recording music for blockbuster movies, Celine has amassed a fortune in her almost 30-year career. She is about to embark on a new North American tour which will of course bring in millions. 

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Oprah Winfrey – $3.1 billion

Oprah Winfrey show started in 1986 and ran all the way through to 2011, making her the queen of talk shows and beginning her vast empire. Oprah went on to launch her cable channel OWN, and her 25.5% of the network is worth around $75 million.

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As a brand ambassador and shareholder of Weight Watchers, she owns 8% of the company and recently she signed a multi-year deal with Apple to create original programming for all of their tech products. Oprah is one of the richest women in the world. 

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Scarlett Johansson – $140 million

Scarlett Johnasson is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed actresses. She has starred in blockbuster movies including Ghost World, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation. Since shooting to stardom, Johansson has become one of the most highly paid actresses, and most recognized women in Hollywood.

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Adding to her net worth, she signed many lucrative endorsement deals with brands including Soda Stream, Harry Winston and Dolce and Gabbana. However, her biggest deal and most profitable role was in Marvel’s Avengers as the superhero Black Widow.

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Jessica Iclisoy – $330 million

When Iclisoy was pregnant in 1990, she noticed that most of the baby products available contained harmful chemicals. Instead of feeding her baby these toxic products, she started to mix her own formulas in her kitchen.

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Five years later in 1995, she borrowed $2,000 from her mom to launch California Baby. In 2016, she recorded sales of $80 million from 90 non toxic organic baby products, sold at Whole Foods and Target. Jessica has never brought investors into her business. 

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Nora Roberts – $390 million

The famous romance author has published over 225 and over the last 30 years, an average of 27 Nora Roberts books were sold every minute. Roberts was the third author to sell more than 1 million Kindle books, all amassing to her $390 million fortune.

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The best-selling author started writing when she was snowed in during a blizzard. Her first book was published in 1981 and went from strength to strength from then.11 of her novels have been adapted for TV. 

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Anne Wojcicki – $440 million

Wojcicki left her job on Wall Street to pursue her dreams and go to medical school, however she decided to switch direction and start 23andMe in 2006. The pioneering direct-to-consumer DNA testing company has gone from strength to strength in the last decade.

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However, they saw a setback in 2013 when the FDA banned its health-related DNA tests due to concerns of accuracy. Recently, 23andMe won approval for ten genetic risk tests. The company has been valued at $1.75 billion with backers including Google.

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Kendra Scott – $500 million

Kendra Scott started making jewelry out of her spare bedroom in Austin, Texas when she couldn’t find affordable gemstone jewelry. Her business later expanded into 79 Kendra Scott stores, all with Color Bars where customers can make up their own jewelry.

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Later she branched out into home decor including bedding, home goods, candles, trays and boxes. Her jewelry company has been evaluated at $500 million by investors and Scott holds the majority stake in the company. 

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Tory Burch – $800 million

Fashion designer Tory Burch has grown her lifestyle brand from clothing to shoes and accessories to watch fragrances. Prior to starting her own brand, Burch worked with designers including Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang, drawing inspiration for her own brand.

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The company is reportedly valued around $3.5 billion and Burch has a personal fortune of $800 million. In 2009, Burch established her Tory Burch Foundation which aims to empower women entrepreneurs through mentorship programs.

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Kit Crawford – $850 million

Kit Crawford’s husband Gary Erickson got the idea for Clif Bars in 1990 on a day-long, 175 mile bike ride, for which he packed plenty of energy bars. Kit was on board immediately and they started to come up with recipes for the bars.

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The couple own 80% of the company, it is sold in 14 countries. They stepped down as co-CEOs in 2013, but still remain board co-chairs. They also run Clif Family Winery in Napa Valley and venture firm White Road Investments.

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Anastasia Soare – $1 billion

Eyebrow queen Soare has touched the brows of every A-lister in Hollywood. She built her empire by applying the golden ratio to eyebrows, making her the best in the business. In 2000 she launched a range of eyebrow products under the name Anastasia Beverly Hills.

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When Soare’s daughter Claudia started to promote the brand on Instagram it really took off. The company sells over 480 products in over 3,000 stores with revenues estimated at over $200 million. 

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Carolyn Rafaelian – $1 billion

Rafaelian founded bangle brand Alex and Ani in 2004 and thanks to her majority stake in the company, she has a net worth of $1 billion. Named after her two daughters, the Rhode Island native began making fashion statements out of bangles until it expanded into a huge business.

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Carolyn’s factory used to be her father’s, an Armenian immigrant, where he made American flag pins and costume jewelry. Aside from jewelry, Carolyn owns over 30 properties, most are located in Rhode Island.

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Lynda Resnick – $2.4 billion

Snack and drink giant Wonderful Co. is owned by Lynda Resnick and her husband Stewart. The company own notable brands including Pom Wonderful, mandarin Halos, Wonderful Pistachios and Fiji Water.

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Wonderful Co have recorded sales of over $4.2 billion. As well as leading the international company, the couple also own thousands of acres of almond, pistachio, orange and pomegranate orchards in California, Texas and Mexico. As well as being one of the richest couples, both Lynda and husband Stewart give their time to many philanthropic projects.

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Doris Fisher – $2.8 billion

Clothing retailer Gap is one of the most well-known brands around the world. Fisher co-founded the company with her husband Don in 1969 when they couldn’t find well-fitting jeans.

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The couple raised $63,000 to open their first store in San Francisco which expanded from then on. From its inception until 2003, Doris acted as the company’s merchandiser before sitting on the board. The couple’s three sons are also billionaires. Doris and her husband divorced in 2009. Fisher is one of the richest women in the world.

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Liz Elting – $330 million

In 1992, Elting co-founded translation company with her then fiancé, Phil Shawe in a college dorm room. The couple ended up breaking up five years later in 1997 but remained co-CEOs. The relationship ended up turning bitter and they both sued each other in 2014.

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In order to settle the legal dispute, Elting complied with the court decision to sell her half of the company to her ex for $385 million in 2018. Today, Transperfect brings in around $600 million in sales and has 11,000 clients around the U.S.

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Janice Bryant Howroyd & family – $350 milion 

ActOne, the provider of workforce solution and temporary staffing was founded by Janice Bryant Howroyd who also acts as CEO. The company is valued at an estimated $925 million and was opened in 1978 in Los Angeles.

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With just $1,500, including a $900 loan from her mother, Janice managed to transform the business and turn it into a money making machine. The agency now has over 17,000 clients and 2,600 employees in 19 countries. 

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Jamie Kern Lima – $440 million

Jamie Kern Lima was a news anchor who started testing makeup to help cover her hereditary skin condition, rosacea, that causes blotchy, red skin. After coming up with a groundbreaking product, she sold her 300 products to L’Oreal for $1.2 billion in cash.

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Of the full amount,  Kern Lima banked around $410 million and remained as CEO of IT Cosmetics, making her the first female CEO in 108-years of L’Oreal. Since taking the money in 2016, she has invested in 12 women-led businesses. 

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Susan Wojcicki – $480 million

Since February 2014, Susan Wojcicki has been at the helm of Google and Youtube as CEO. She strongly advocated for Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube in 2006. Since then, the site is now worth around $90 billion.

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Wojcicki was one of the first people at Google, only the 16th employee hired in 1999 as the first marketing manager before going on to head all marketing and commerce. Success runs in the family as her sister Anne also made the richest women list as CEO of 23andMe.

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Madonna – $590 million

One of the biggest icons from the 80s and 90s, Madonna was known as the “Queen of Pop”. She is the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, accumulating $1.4 billion from her concert tickets alone.

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In 2016, Madonna’s Material Girl’s Rebel Heart tour grossed $170 million and her clothing lines and perfumes continued to bring in millions, adding to her overall net worth. Madonna also owns a share of music streaming service Tidal. As one of the richest artists, Madonna has an impressive fine art collection and prime Manhattan real estate. 

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Marissa Mayer – $600 million

Yahoo was suffering from falling numbers in ad revenue and web traffic in 2012 when Mayer took over as boss. Despite giving her expertise, she couldn’t stop the disappointing numbers so Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo for $4.48 billion.

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When the sale to Verizon was completed in 2017, Mayer resigned as CEO. However, the majority of Mayer’s fortune comes from her 13-year career at Google where she was among the first employees. In 2018, she co-founded Lumi Labs, an incubator in Palo Alto.

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Sheila Johnson – $760 million 

In 1979, Sheila Johnson co-founded cable TV channel Black Entertainment Network with then-husband Robert. In 2001, Viacom bought the channel for $2.9 billion which was followed by Sheila and Roberts divorce.

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After her divorce, she sold her shares in the company and invested the money in hotels in Florida and Virginia, as well as planes, real estate and horses. As one of the richest women in the world, Sheila knows how to invest her money successfully. 

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Elaine Wynn – $2.5 billion

Also known as the “Queen of Las Vegas,” Elaine Wynn is the largest shareholder of publicly traded Wynn Resorts since 2018. Elaine’s ex-husband and co-founder of the Wynn hotels group stepped down as CEO and took his money out of the company after a public scandal.

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The couple met during their third year of college and worked in a family bingo hall before moving to Las Vegas. In 1973 they launched Mirage Resorts before co-founding Wynn Resorts in 2002. Wynn is one of the richest women in the hospitality industry.

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Kim Kardashian West – $350 million

Reality TV star turned business mogul KIm Kardashian West knows how to market her businesses to a tee. Following in the footsteps of her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Kim started her own cosmetics line called KKW Beauty.

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Bringing in sales of over $100 million since June 2017, Kim’s huge fan base and social media followers have been a huge asset to her success. In addition, Kardashian’s mobile game brought in around $74 million from 42 million downloads worldwide. However, Kim is the second richest in her famous family.

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Kathy Lehne – $380 million

At the ripe age of 23, Kathy Lehne founded wholesale fuel marketer and distributor Sun Coast Resources. The company is one of the largest and richest woman-owned companies in Texas, owning a fleet of over 1,000 trucks.

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In the event of natural disasters, the company has quickly and successfully responded to emergencies, providing fuel to areas severely affected by hurricanes. Kathy is also passionate about several charities in Houston including Muscular Dystrophy Association, University of Houston’s Cougar Corporate Partner Program and Texas Equusearch.

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Diane Hendricks – $4.9 billion

One of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows in America, ABC Supply, is chaired by Diane Hendricks. After founding the business with her late husband Ken in 1982, Diane has since run the company since his death in 2007.

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She has taken the company to the next level by making its two biggest acquisitions in history including buying rival Bradco in 2010 and building materials distributor L&W Supply in 2016. The company reports around $9 billion in sales. She is the richest American self-made woman.

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