Ten female celebrities who proved to be hard-nosed entrepreneurs

6 minute read
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Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) has made such a success as an entrepreneur – with
her ready to wear and boutique clothing lines, which earned £30m
last year
– that many people forget
that she started out as a celebrity. And not just by looking pretty on the arm
of her uber-handsome and internationally famous soccer star husband David
Beckham. She was one of the four Spice girls, dubbed Posh Spice by a British
music magazine in 1996. Going from ¼ of a gimmicky girl band to the fashion
mogul she is now in the years between is quite an accomplishment. She didn’t do
it by standing next to fame, either. She did it the old-fashioned way: Hard
work. She is legendary for putting in long hours, hiring good people, and
multitasking to fit work, famous husband, and the couple’s four children into
the same number of hours in a day that the rest of us get.

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Kathy Ireland

Ireland may be the prototype
for the celebrity entrepreneur. (Though she cites Liz Taylor as a business
mentor.) Initially famous for her ability to look fantastic in a swimsuit – she
was in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue thirteen consecutive years
starting in 1984 and on the cover for five of those – Ireland is clearly just
as good at business as she is at making tiny pieces of fabric look alluring. She
started on the road to entrepreneurship with a small step: lending her
celebrity name to a line of socks at Kmart. She has since put her name on
everything from clothing to windows. She curates and brands a vast collection
of furniture, ceiling fans, and home products, wedding solutions, and business
products under her global branding company, Kathy Ireland Worldwide (kiWW). Her
company makes a huge amount of money: It is listed as the 28th most powerful
brand globally by License Global Magazine, with annual merchandise sales of $2
billion, according to Forbes Magazine. According to Fairchild Publication,
Kathy Ireland is one of the 50 most influential people in fashion. And, in
2012, she made the cover of Forbes (not in a swimsuit), which dubbed her “Super
Model Super Mogul.”

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Jessica Alba

If acting doesn’t work out
for Jessica Alba, (@jessicaalba) she’ll probably
be fine. Her startup, Honest
Company
, which sells chemical-free
products – everything from diapers to adult vitamins – to moms has been doing
nothing but grow since she launched it with her business partner Christopher
Gavigan three years ago. This year, revenues were up to $150 million and the
pair secured $70 million in venture capital funding. It employs 250 people, has
a nearly billion-dollar valuation and is preparing to go public. Of course, it
doesn’t look like her acting career plans to stall any time soon, either. For
one thing, she costars with Jason Statham in the upcoming (2016) Mechanic:
Resurrection
.

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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

Even if your teenage daughter
insists the Olsen twins are a train wreck, the facts point more toward money-making
gravy train. The two started off playing a diaper-clad baby but they grew up to
be fashion entrepreneurs. With names and faces recognizable to every tween girl
alive, they launched a line of clothes in Walmart for that demographic. But, as
they grew up, they developed a more serious interest in fashion and launched (because
they could afford to) The
Row
, named for Savile Row in London.
The high-fashion brand is influenced by the fraternal twins’ own aesthetic of
flowing skirts, big sweaters, and casual-chic. It’s all going well. It’s
certainly going better than some of their movies. The fashion-interested
twins had an estimated worth of $1 billion a couple of years ago.

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Rachael Ray

If you have never cooked with
a Rachel Ray kitchen tool, you are a rarity. The woman has turned her celebrity
personality into a business. She is famous for her cooking shows where she is
playful and accessible to anyone who likes to eat. And she uses that fame to
sell cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, pots and pans, dishware – even dog food. She
has turned her lifestyle brand into a magazine (owned by Meredith, for whom
this author also works.) But it isn’t the product, it’s her we’re buying when we pick up a book or dinnerware with her name
on it. We want her relaxed, goofy, creative approach to cooking (and eating) in
our own homes. A couple of years ago, according to Forbes, she was worth $25
million. Possibly more impressive? The Oxford American College Dictionary added
her term EVOO, an acronym for extra-virgin olive oil, which Ray coined, and
credited her.

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Jaclyn Smith

If you remember Jaclyn Smith
as the smart Angel from Charlie’s Angel’s, it will come as no surprise that she
managed to parlay her TV celebrity, which might have been fleeting but turns
out to have had enormous longevity, into a range of products with enormous
popularity. She has a line of home décor products, luxury skin care products
(developed with her husband, Dr. Brad Allen, a medical researcher) and a line
of clothing. Of her clothing, Woman’s Wear Daily said it possessed the highest
consumer awareness of any private label apparel brand in the country.

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Oprah Winfrey

Someday, we will study this
woman in college classes on entrepreneurship. She can turn anything into a
success. She started out poor and abused (not to mention black and a woman) so
going to college – for other people – would have been an accomplishment. For
Oprah, it was one step toward the media empire she built that includes TV
shows, a network, and a wildly successful magazine with her picture on every
cover. She has starred and produced several successful films and Broadway shows.
She is a force. And everything she loves – because she does much more than
touch things – turns to gold. She is worth 3 Billion, according to Forbes.

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Reese Witherspoon

Adorable, sexy, funny, winner of Academy Awards, you’d think
Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) could just stop there. Nope. As an ambassador for
Avon, she has furthered women’s causes, influenced policy, sat down with world
leaders, and banked millions. And her own production company – which she
started because she was tired of fighting every other female actor out there
for a few crappy roles – recently got Gone
Girl
and Wild on the big
screen.  Make a bunch of money and make
the world a better place for women? I think even her Legally Blond character
Elle Woods would be proud of that. Her net worth? Around $80 million.

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Kate Walsh

Once claiming as her on-screen boyfriend, McDreamy from Grey’s
Anatomy, Walsh has managed to segue the idea of missing her ex-boyfriend’s
scent on her skin into a bankable product for her and a visceral experience for
the millions of women who could never claim that man as their boyfriend, even
in fiction, but can relate to missing one of their own. She created a perfume,
which she designed herself to evoke the musky scent her ex. But she did much
more than put her name on a scent. She built – and owns outright – the company
that makes and sells that perfume and has grown that business from an idea that
wouldn’t go away to a company that has been valued at $10 million.

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Martha Stewart

Don’t we love to hate the woman that could turn fixing the
curtains and setting the table into a media empire and line of home goods?
Well, it hurts to be hated. But her particular brand of obsessive attention to
detail in the home has fleshed out her bank account to $970 Million. It’s hard
to fault her business acumen. Though, apparently, it is much easier to fault
her stock-trading acumen. Her failures there are what landed her in a West
Virginia prison for five months, where presumably it is much harder to get
truffle oil or the perfect place setting. Like many good CEO’s, prison time didn’t
hurt her career though. In fact, might have helped it. Her stock went up while
she was chilling in the Big House.