Coco Chanel once said “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” And right she was. We women carry a lot on our plates and thus we are constantly thinking about our family, our friends and our co-workers, and hardly at all about ourselves. Once we start thinking about ourselves with the same intensity and commitment that we think about others, we will shine. That is the lesson I took home with me upon reading Chanel’s biography.
A tough read (image courtesy of hto2008)
If you too are looking for some real inspiration, grab either of these biographies of successful female entrepreneurs and business icons. Learn straight from the horse’s mouth what it takes for a female entrepreneur to survive and thrive in the otherwise male-dominated world.
Chanel: A woman of Her Own
By Axel Madsen
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air. It’s the wind that blows in the new fashion; you feel it coming, you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
We all know that Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, or popularly known as Coco Chanel, was a French fashion designer and founder of the brand Chanel. What we do not know is that she came from very humble beginnings.
When we think of Coco, we think of an alluring and fascinating fashionista. However, her real life was far from that. Growing up she had a traumatic youth that lacked stability. The way she overcame it all, one step at a time, is inspiring. In the end, she was the ultimate survivor of poverty, neglect and male chauvinism. And she attained all that with just her ruthless drive. Coco not only revolutionized women’s fashion, she literally liberated them from the shackles of corsets. For entrepreneurs with interest in fashion, this biography is a must read.
Coco Chanel (Image Courtesy HTO2008 @ Flickr)
By Stacey Edgar
“In October 2009 Kevin Voigst wrote an article for CNN titled “Women: Saviors of the World Economy?” He began by pointing out that “the largest growing economic force in the world isn’t China or India – it’s women.” He was right. Collectively, we hold a very powerful purse. I am passionate about connecting women in need with their sisters holding those purse strings.”
This book is an autobiography of Stacey Edgar and her enterprise – the Global Girlfriends. Stacey was just a regular mom thinking about what to do with her money from tax returns when she thought of doing something that can help women gain economic security. She invested the money and started a business from her garage. Her strategy for helping women living under poverty line in disadvantaged countries was by fostering sense of worldwide community of sisterhood among all women possible. Such a community will value other women’s effort and thus value the products they sell.
The biography focusses less on Stacey but more on her business and the women she intends to help through it. In fact, the biography is all about action – what is Stacey doing, what needs to be done and finally inspiring you to do something about it as well. Book also has a ‘how to’ section with practical ideas on non-profit entrepreneurship dealing with issues like – making the best use of interests and resources, starting it out and staying true to oneself.
Never Tell Me Never
By Janine Shepherd
“There’s no denying that it will be the most challenging and, at times, the most soul-crushing journey that you will ever take but the rewards can be great. It’s all your for the taking. It will lead you to new horizons, it will open your eyes to things that you were once blinded to, and it will truly enrich your life.”
Janine Shepherd’s biography might look straight out of a Hollywood movie, but it is much more than that. Janine was an acclaimed cross country skier. Her dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal were shattered when one day she was hit by a truck. She barely survived the accident, so much so doctors questioned if she would ever be able to walk. Her morale was crushed in every sense of the word. As she looked upon planes flying in the sky one day, she decided “If I can’t walk, I’ll fly.” She pushed her body and spirit and fly she did. Janine trained to become a pilot and an aerial acrobatics instructor.
The biography is all about not giving up on oneself. When dreams shatter, it is time to make weave new dreams and start moving again. Janine’s story is not just motivation, but a revelation as well. While most books on inspiration tend to get fluffy, this one remains simple and on the track from the start till the end.
A’Lelia Perry Bundles
“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
Madam Walker story is that of from rags to riches. Her early life was one tragedy after another. Widowed at the age of 20 with a daughter, she made ends meet by washing clothes. Inspired from other hair products, she developed her own range of hair care products. When she started her hair care company in 1905, business was considered a white man’s forte. But she stayed focusses on the previously untapped hair care market of African-American women and look at where it took her!
Madam Walked was the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. When she died in 1919, she left 2/3 of her fortune to ethnic charities. Her revolutionary business model highlighted in the biography still remains motivational for entrepreneurs of all races to follow.
Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina (image courtesy of Thomas Høyrup Christensen @ Flickr(
Tough Choices: A Memoir
By Carly Fiorina
“Alignment and collaboration need not be fuzzy, ill-defined concepts for “let’s just all get along.” Effective teamwork is more than good manners and good will, although both help an organization function more effectively. Alignment results from shared goals. Collaboration results from shared measures of success.”
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard is probably one of the most controversial businesswomen of recent times. Fortune magazine once hailed her as “the most powerful women in business.”
If there is a book about woman, leadership and corporate responsibility all together, it is this autobiography. Carly’s commitment to bring moral courage, ethical conviction and mission statement to boardroom is spectacular. The book is also about lots of management techniques and her personal philosophies on management and business. However, the book is most about a woman’s drive to overcome obstacles at work.
Hungry for more? Here are 5 more biographies of female entrepreneurs and leaders for you to dig in –
- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
- Mary Reibey: From Convict To First Lady Of Trade
- Autobiography of Mother Jones by Mother Jones
- Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her by Robin Gerber
- The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur
There are plenty of noteworthy female biographies, however, in this article I chose to put the spotlight only on my personal favorites. Do you have different favorites? Let us now in the comments below on any other biography you think should’ve made the cut.