10 Multi Million Dollar Companies Founded by Women

WWR Staff

Stereotypes about women in business lead some to think that female entrepreneurs tend to start companies in industries like fashion and childcare. While there are many successful women-owned businesses in stereotypically female industries, women have also started many businesses in less traditional industries.

Here are ten companies that you might not have known were founded by women which serve as shining examples of female business ownership.
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Caterina Fake co-founded this popular photo-sharing website in 2002. Just three years later, Fake and co-founder Stewart Butterfield, sold their business to Yahoo for $35 million in cash and stock options. Since then, Fake has co-founded another website called Hunch. Hunch is a website that makes product recommendations based on its user’s unique preferences. Fake also sits on the board of the popular online, artisanal marketplace, Etsy.


Sandra Lerner co-founded this tech company in 1984. Lerner was working at Stanford University with her then-husband, Leonard Bosack when the pair developed the multi-protocol router that launched the company. Lerner was asked to leave the company in 1990, walking away with $170 million. She later founded the cosmetics company Urban Decay and now runs a humane and organic farm in Virginia.


Rashmi Sinha co-founded this presentation-sharing platform in 2006. Helped by the easy-to-use functions and being able to embed presentations into websites, its popularity soared. This prompted LinkedIn to then purchase SlideShare in 2013 for a reported $118.75 million.

PC Connection

Patricia Gallup co-founded this computer supply business in 1982 with David Hall. It was also the first company to provide a toll-free technical support system to its customers. PC Connection went public in 1998 and reached $1 billion in sales the following year.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Ruth Fertel started this restaurant chain in 1965, mortgaging her house to buy a single restaurant, which she called Chris Steak House. In 1976, a fire destroyed that location. She reopened in a new location, renaming it Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Thanks to its popularity and realizing the potential it had, Ruth decided to open the second later that year and thus, a franchise was born. Fertel sold her interest in the chain in 1999 for an undisclosed sum. There are currently more than 130 Ruth’s Chris Steak House locations worldwide.

Liquid Paper

Liquid Paper was founded by Bette Nesmith Graham in 1956. Graham had been working as an executive secretary and was using her own recipe of a water-based tempera pain and a tiny paintbrush to cover her typing mistakes. She originally called the product Mistake Out and sold her first bottle in 1956. Graham later patented the product and changed its name to Liquid Paper. Graham began her business selling 100 bottles each month. Graham sold the company in 1979 for $47.5 million.


Proactiv, a popular line of skin-care products, was founded by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields. In 1995, Guthy-Renker launched this company into the popular culture with informercials and celebrity endorsements. Proactiv now has sales in excess of $1 billion annually.

Build-A-Bear Workshop

Maxine Clark founded Build-A-Bear Workshop in 1997. The toy store chain, where children can make their own stuffed animals, now has more than 400 locations worldwide. Discovery Toys Lane Nemeth started Discovery Toys in 1978. She was driven to open the company out of frustration from not being able to buy the educational toys to which preschools and day care centers had access. Nemeth started the company as a direct sales company. By 2000, Discovery Toys was selling $100 million annually with the help of 40,000 sales representatives.


Birchbox was founded in 2010 by Harvard Business School students Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna. It was one of the first monthly box-subscription services, supplying customers with a monthly box of cosmetics and perfume samples. Birchbox boasts 800,000 subscribers and approximately $100 million in annual sales.

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