Ask the Market Experts: Which Female Entrepreneur Inspires You & Why?

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

We asked 12 market experts which female entrepreneur they are inspired by, and the answers may surprise you!

Can women really have it all? In 2015, the answer is a resounding yes. Women today run billion dollar companies, lead countries around the world and direct Oscar-winning films, and at the end of the day, they go home and are mothers.

Today marks the founding of the American Business Women's Association, celebrated by American Business Women's Day. It seemed like the perfect time to launch our new monthly column, Ask the Market Experts, in which we'll be sharing insights from the thought leaders that contribute their knowledge and expertise to Business.com.

This month, we asked the Market Experts to share which female entrepreneur inspires them most, and why. Enjoy their answers below, and get ready to be inspired, too! 

Want to be a Market Expert? Learn more and apply now. 

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

Seth Rand: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, inspires me the most because she is a parent and the head of a major corporation. It takes dedication, strength and lots of patience to balance being a good parent and being a good CEO.

Bella Weems, Founder, Origami Owl

Sarah Landrum: Right now, I think the most inspiring female entrepreneur is the founder of Origami Owl, Bella Weems. She started at 14, with a goal of getting a car at 16. She started selling to friends after school and turned her dream into an incredibly successful business. Now, she's helping other designers fulfill their dreams.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Shannon Evans: Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg is a woman in business I think many (including myself) look up to. Not only is Sandberg a leader for those of us in the ever changing digital space, but she also is active in numerous boards such as  Women for Women International, Center for Global Development and the Ad Council.

Her book Lean In is great for young women in business such as myself, giving great advice on achieving career goals. Being an executive at Facebook may be her job, but giving back and teaching others is her passion. I can only hope one day I too can help inspire other women to achieve their goals, and show them what I’ve learned on my journey.

Ellen Degeneres, TV Host & Comedian

Niraj Ranjan: Ellen Degeneres has always inspired me, she is phenomenal at what she does. A comedian, TV host, actress, writer, and producer, and has diversified into so many different fields. Her fans love The Ellen Degenres Show because she shares powerful positive stories. She inspires me to be myself, and not pretend to be someone I'm not. She's doing her bit to make the world a happier place.  

Related Article: The 5 Most Motivating TED Talks

Sophia Amoruso, Founder & Owner of Nasty Gal

Nadya Khoja: Sophia Amoruso is known as one of the leading women in business who found success before the age of 30. Not only is she beautiful, but she's tough, determined and resilient. She rarely takes no for an answer, and I constantly try to keep in mind her rule: “You’ll never get what you don’t ask for.

She's a hard worker and a hustler. Unlike some entrepreneurs and successful business people, she doesn't give off an air of entitlement, but rather one of gratitude and slight surprise for all that she has accomplished. The lesson I take away from Sophia is to just keep pushing until you hit your goal."  

Melinda Gates, Co-founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Zac Johnson: While there are many successful women entrepreneurs and in business, one that I've paid a lot of attention to over the years is Melinda Gates. While not especially known for her entrepreneur endeavors, she is most well known as being the powerful woman alongside a very powerful and successful man in Bill Gates.

As the Cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, together the two have devoted much of their lives (and money) to philanthropy, while making the world a better place through their foundation and using their powerful voice and relationships to achieve even more. Without Melinda, their foundation and success simply wouldn't be what it is today. 

Laura Martinez, Chef and Restauranteur

Daliah Saper: Chef and restaurant owner, Laura Martinez, is a female business owner who not only inspires other women in business, but is also a champion for turning a disability into a trademark.  Chef Martinez, who is blind since infancy, opened her Mexican-French fusion restaurant, “La Diosa” (which means “The Goddess” in Spanish), earlier this year, and with that, became the first blind restaurant owner in the United States. With the love and support of her family and friends, Chef Martinez combined her love for cooking with the knowledge she obtained after attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, to make her dream a reality.  Not only does she keep Chicagoans full and happy with her creative cuisine, but she humbly inspires many to pursue their passions, regardless of the obstacles in the road, and turn them into a business venture of their own. I'm proud to call her a client.

Jessica Alba, Co-founder, The Honest Company

Adam Toren: One entrepreneur I really respect is Jessica Alba. Being an actress, I think people overlook her entrepreneurial achievement in founding The Honest Company and discount that achievement as being something that was easy because she was a celebrity. However, when you listen to Jessica tell the story of how she conceived of  The Honest Company, she took a risk in turning down fragrance or makeup endorsements to start something she really believed in.

She was passionate about creating something that she believed, as a mom, would resonate with other moms: an e-commerce platform for non-toxic but effective household and baby products. It sounds simple now but back in 2008 when she was coming up with the concept, it wasn’t selling with co-founders or capital backers. I respect her for sticking to her guns as a mom and creating an entrepreneurial business venture that has become successful and culturally impactful. 

H.M. Ward, Author

Melissa Thompson: H.M. Ward. She sells millions of books, but is totally self published. She figured out the secret to publishing and selling her type of fiction (new adult and young adult romance) through a lot of trial and error. She never gave up and did it all on her own. That's so admirable to me.

Carly Fiorina, Former Top Executive & Politician 

Deborah Sweeney: Carly Fiorina. Politics aside, she started at AT&T as a management trainee, and her undeniable business acumen and drive eventually led Lucent, an AT&T subsidiary, to name her president, a position from which she implemented one of the most successful IPOs in history.

After that, she became the first woman to ever head a Fortune 20 company, and while her tenure at HP is controversial, she was instrumental to helping the previously dysfunctional company survive the most difficult economic environment ever faced by Silicon Valley. Her drive, leadership, and sheer tenacity have always inspired me.  

Related Article: We Can Do It: Paving a Path for Women in STEM Fields

Marie Forleo, Life Coach & Motivational Speaker 

Tom Treanor: Marie Forleo. She's smart. She's hilarious. She's not afraid to be herself and go a little crazy on camera. Her advice is great. She's very relatable and gives great free content on how to build a business and the life that you love. She has great guests, great advice, and keeps things to the point. And yes, she's hilarious. So not only is Marie great and fun to watch but she inspires many other women (and men) to get out there and build a business that gives them the life they want.

Sara Blakely, Founder, Spanx

Matt Toren: I’ve long admired Sara Blakely and the empire she’s managed to build steadily over the past decade and a half. I think one of the things I find most inspirational about Sara is that she jumped headlong into the entrepreneurial world and a niche with which she was totally unfamiliar and had the confidence to not let that stop her.

Sara already had a very healthy, admirable career in sales when she made the careful and deliberate move into women’s hosiery. She leaped, but she did her research and side-hustled for several years before fully jumping into her startup and I think her attitude of exploration is something all entrepreneurs can feel inspired by.

It’s easy when things are going well to stay where you are and say, “this is good enough,” and it’s challenging to side hustle a startup when you’re busy with a career. However, true entrepreneurs are a relentless group that keeps pushing into new areas and ask bigger questions. Sara embodies that spirit of drive and exploration. 

Christopher Harvey: In her mid-twenties, Sara Blakely had an "Aha!" moment when she was looking for something flattering to wear underneath her $80 white slacks. She cut out the bottom half of her pantyhose so she could wear her white pants without showing off embarrassing lines, strings, or creases.

Sensing she was onto something, she dumped her entire life savings, $5,000 and launched one of the most successful brands of underwear shaping garments, and was named as one of Oprah Winfrey's Favorite Things. Now her product line brings in revenues north of $250 million (and it was valued at $1 billion in 2012).

I nominate Sara because she has the pure, unadulterated hustle and has what it takes not only to have the "Aha!" moment, but to execute on your idea. She was a door-to-door fax machine salesperson who left her daytime job to pursue her passion. So many people have so many good ideas, but only a select few have the tenacity, drive, and acumen to execute on their brilliant idea. Kudos to Sara for doing just that!

Barbara Corcoran, Business Woman & Investor

Cosette Jarrett: The woman in business who inspires me most is Barbara Corcoran. Corcoran is one of only two female investors on ABC's Shark Tank, as well as a self-made real estate entrepreneur who refused to let letter grades in high school and college determine her future success.

As a woman who also struggled to get the grades in high school and college, I'm incredibly inspired by Corcoran's determination to show the business world how strong, passionate, and intelligent she is by achieving outstanding success and performance outside of the classroom. Her ability to stand up and powerfully negotiate for what she wants as, often times, the sole woman on a panel of assertive men is also something I admire, and a quality I am constantly working to achieve.

She won't shy away from a chance at success simply because of her gender or because can't earn a certain grade - she sees what she wants and she goes for it without showing a single sign of question or doubt for herself. This is the woman I want to be. 

The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves. - Barbara Corcoran 

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