She started off as a secretary in a Nigerian bank, back in the 1970s when she was in her 20s, but decided to quit to start a course in fashion design in England. Alakija then returned to Nigeria, where she had a relatively wealthy family, and founded fashion label Supreme Stitches, which catered to high society women. The business thrived, and she was mingling with some of the country’s most powerful women.
Alakija then, according to Forbes, used her relationship with Maryam Babangida, wife to Nigeria's former military president, to make her move from fashion into oil. The then-president Ibrahim Babangida gave her an oil prospecting license in 1993, which allowed her company Famfa Limited to explore for oil on a 617, 000 acre block.
Alakija had no experience running an oil field, so in 1996 she entered into a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited, and transferred 40 per cent of her full stake in Famfa Ltd to them. Now her acre block is known as OML 127 and is one of Nigeria’s highest producing oil blocks, making 200, 000 barrels a day.
So now Alakija still has her 60 per cent stake in the company – of which her husband is now chairman – and she has four grown up sons. On top of that, she beat Oprah Winfrey to become the world’s richest black woman last year, as her company is worth around $7.3 billion.
- Network to the max
- If something isn’t your expertise, don’t reject it as a possible career
- The big money’s still in oil
Coates, 46, is the only British self-made woman on the billionaire list, coming in at 1092 with a fortune of $1.6 billion.
She grew up in Stoke, where she worked as a cashier in her father’s betting shops. After finishing school, she studied at the University of Sheffield and trained as an accountant. Coates then went back to her father’s betting shops, and sold them off to Coral.
She used the proceeds of the sale to set up an online gambling site Bet365 back in 2000, when internet businesses were starting to boom. The website was initially shunned by traditional venture capitalists, but with financial help from her family and a bank loan, it launched in March 2001.
Last year, sales hit .6 billion, and the company’s fortune means it now owns Premier League team Stoke City. Coates is joint CEO of Bet365 with her brother John, and is the largest stakeholder in the company with a 50.3 per cent stake.
In an interview with , she once said: “You start a 24/7 business and you work 24/7. When you're not here [in the office], you take calls in the middle of the night, regularly – that's how the early days were. I've worked harder than you can possibly imagine. In the last couple of years, life has normalised … The impact on my life now is very different."
- Work incredibly hard when you’re starting off
- Take a risk on something if you really believe in it
- Get the training you need
Sandberg, 44, is the youngest self-made women on the list and comes in at 1540, with a fortune of .05 billion. We know more about her career path than the other women, because she has detailed it in her book Lean In, but for those of you who don’t know the basics, Sandberg earnt most of her fortune by becoming chief operating officer for Facebook.
She grew up in Miami but went on to study at Harvard. She then attended business school, which took her to work at the US Treasury. It was then that she made her debut into technology by joining Google – which was still a relatively small company at the time in 2001.
She was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations until 2008, when she joined Facebook. Sandberg has written about her negotiations with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in her book and said:
She has now increased Facebook’s revenue – in which she has. The company’s share prices went up by more than 130 per cent in the last year, and so Sandberg is a billionaire in her own right.
Her big advice is that women should stop holding themselves back, “lean in” to their careers, and have high expectations of what they can achieve.
- Lean In, obviously
- Don’t just accept a job offer – negotiate for the best deal you can
Laichun, 46, is one of the other youngest self-made female billionaires. She comes in at 1540 joint with Sandberg, and has a fortune of $1.05 billion.
Laichun is the chairman of electronic manufacturer Luxshare Precision Industry, in Shenzhen, China, which supplies parts to Apple. Before taking on the role, she worked for 10 years for Taiwan billionaire Terry Gou's Hon Hai Precision Industry.
She now works which her brother Wang Laisheng, who is vice chairman of the company. They each own around a third of Luxshare, and have debuted onto the Forbes list after an 80 per cent increase in their stocks last year.
- If you get a chance to work for a billionaire, take it
- Brother/sister working relationships can work
Xiaomeng has just made it onto Forbes’s list aged 59, coming in at 1565 with a fortune of $1 billion. She is incredibly low-profile – so much so that hardly anything is known about how she made her fortune.
All we know is that Xiaomeng, from Nanjing, China, made her fortune from electrical appliance retailer Suning Commerce. She helped to start the company in 1990.
Since then it has become one of China’s largest appliance retailers and has around 1, 400 franchised stores in China and Japan. Xiaomeng is an investor in the company, whose share price has risen by a third in the past year, and has a 42 per cent stake in it.