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The 5 Most Inspiring Businesswomen Under 40
Last year, Forbes.com released a list of the world's 100 most powerful women. It was peppered with celebrities like Angelina Jolie and First Ladies. It was a good list, but a tad bit unrealistic. Not every woman can rise to stardom or marry a future country leader and then use their celebrity to become a high-powered businesswoman. While the things those well-known public figures have done are beyond amazing, they can't really set an example for regular folks like you and me.
A more realistic role model would be a driven businesswoman who simply worked hard to get to where she is right now. No once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, no famous spouses, or no celebrity status. Just hard work, hard work, and more hard work.
With that, allow us to introduce 5 young businesswomen under the tender age of 40 who came from obscurity and succeeded - and continue to succeed - beyond their wildest dreams.
Just imagine your reaction upon hearing that financial guru Warren Buffett has chosen a 28-year-old girl to act as his financial assistant and advisor. "Say what?! She's just barely out of college!" Well, you better get used to it, because that's exactly what happened.
Meet Tracy Britt, a Harvard graduate who's half a century younger than her boss… and just as smart. She hails from Manhattan. Not that Manhattan. The one in Kansas, a small farm town. Tracy went on to become a business student at Harvard where, as a member of her student group Women with Securities, she met Warren Buffett. After Britt graduated college, the famous investor hired her as his financial assistant. It didn't take long before Britt became his trusted confidante. He even made her a chairwoman of four of his companies. Last May, Buffett announced that he had selected his successor, who he would not name. Some people are confident that it's none other but Tracy Britt.
The fact that Marissa Mayer is the president and CEO of Yahoo! at the ripe age of 38 is very impressive, but what's even more amazing is that she's also Google's 20th employee and the company's very first female engineer. She also held down the positions as Vice President of Local, Maps, and Location Services and, before that, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. How many 38-year-olds do you know who have held such important positions?
Given Mayer's impressive educational background, one can be hardly surprised at all the accomplishments she has under her belt. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town called Wausau. When she graduated high school in 1993, the Wisconsin governor selected her and one other student to attend the National Youth Science Camp in West Virginia.
Next, Mayer applied to 10 colleges and was accepted to Stanford University, where she graduated wit honors with a B.S. in symbolic systems and a Master's in computer science. Because of her advanced degrees and the fact that she specialized in artificial intelligence, Google hired her in 1999. In 2012, she was appointed President and CEO of Yahoo! and only one year later, she made it to Forbes' list of 100 most powerful women.
What's her secret to such a successful high-powered career? Her answer is, "find your rhythm." Her point is that there's no such thing as burnout as long as you focus on what really matters to you. You're only burnt out if you keep missing out on the important things in your life. So identify what really matters to you in life, and make sure you don't ever miss out on it.
How many teenagers do you know who would actually buy a business with the money they've saved up? While other teenagers bought cars, splurged on vacations, or went on shopping sprees, 18-year-old Australian Carolyn Creswell bought a business. She had been babysitting for a family that ran a small muesli-making business, and when they decided to sell it, Creswell jumped at the opportunity. She acquired the business for $2,000 - her life savings - and became the proud owner of Carman's Fine Foods.
Today, 22 years later, Carman's Fine Foods is one of Australia's biggest food products. In fact, the Australian government stocks Carman's products in Sainsbury's stores across Britain. Everyone was - and still is - amazed at how Creswell turned a small struggling business into a muesli bar empire that exports to over 32 countries.
"I am not an overnight success," 40-year-old Creswell says. "I have been chipping away at this for 20 years now." Well, Creswell must've done something right, because she has a bunch of awards under her belt, including the 2012 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, the 2009 InStyle Women of Style Award, the 2007 Ernst & Young's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and finally the recognition of being the youngest member of BRW's first Rich Women's list.
Angela Benton is the founder, publisher, and CEO of Black Web Media, a website that caters to tech-savvy African-Americans and people of other cultures. It is said that Benton created the site because she was frustrated about the fact that she couldn't find any information on what African-Americans were doing to improve technology in an entrepreneurial or corporation environment.
32-year-old Benton is among thousands of website founders, but her story is remarkable because of her resilience, tenacity, and desire to help African-American technology professionals celebrate and connect with each other.
Having a child at 16 did not stop Benton from finishing high school early, attending several colleges, and graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2004. She did not let the hardships of single motherhood keep her from achieving a viable career in the world of design and coding in digital media.
In 2007, Benton launched Black Web 2.0, and today she is considered one of the most influential women in technology.
Benton's advice to businesswomen and female entrepreneurs is to "be persistent and keep personal and business relationships separate [to keep work from overtaking your whole life]."
Like many successful businesswoman, Rosalyn Durant grew up in a small town. She lived in Timmonsville, South Carolina before moving to Connecticut to work for ESPN. Today, she's the Vice President of ESPNU, a branch of ESPN that specializes in college sports. She gained the position in 2008, when she was only 30 years old, after having been the Vice President of programming and acquisitions. Durant's admirable success is partly attributed to a piece of advice her high school teacher gave her:
"Put pride in what your name goes beside."
"Anything you do," Durant once told a newspaper. "Do it to the degree that you can be proud of. A lot of my success is just that. If you do that, you're not going to do anything less than your best."