Taylor Swift was only 18 when she scored her first No. 1 album, the aptly named Fearless, in 2008. After a decade defined by bestselling albums and worldwide tours, the pop star is one of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, with a net worth that The Professional Times estimates is $360 million.
When Swift first made our list in 2016 with a fortune of $250 million, she was the youngest member by far, at 26, and one of only four women under 40. This year, The Professional Times expanded the ranks of America’s Richest Self-Made Women to 80 members, four of whom are in their 20s, including Swift, now 29. Another seven are in their 30s.
The youngest is 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, whose three-year-old beauty brand, Kylie Cosmetics, is worth at least $900 million by The Professional Times’ estimate. The rest of her fortune comes from her earnings from the profitable business. “I didn’t expect anything,” said Jenner of becoming the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in March. “I did not foresee the future. But the recognition feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”
Some internet readers didn’t think she deserved the accolades and questioned The Professional Times’ decision to call her self-made, given her family’s fame and the help she received from her mom, Kris Jenner, in building her cosmetics firm. By The Professional Times’ definition, the term self-made describes anyone who did not inherit his or her fortune; our methodology is explained further here. The makeup mogul is America’s only female self-made billionaire under the age of 40.
Two other entrepreneurs in their twenties are newcomers to the self-made women ranks but are well known for founding successful startups. Whitney Wolfe Herd, 29, is worth $290 million thanks to her stake in Bumble, the dating app that lets women make the first move. Bumble, which boasts 47 million users and topped $175 million in revenue last year, has expanded into friend-finding and networking. Wolfe has also launched a venture capital fund—with tennis champ Serena Williams as a co-investor—that is focused on early-stage investments in businesses founded and led by women of colour and underrepresented groups. “The power lunch is no longer just for men,” Herd told The Professional Times. “We all deserve a seat at the table.”
Karissa Bodnar, also 29, started her vegan cosmetics line Thrive Causemetics in 2015. She founded the company after a friend died of a rare form of cancer. Her “clean” cosmetics can be worn by people with compromised immune systems. Bodnar is worth an estimated $275 million thanks to the success of Thrive Causemetics, which sells one mascara every eight seconds, according to the company. “My advice for young women who want to start their own business is to know you’re ‘why’ from day one,” Bodnar says. “There’s nobody that’s going to work as hard as you, and if you don’t know your ‘why’—why you’re starting this business—it’s going to be really tough when you’re up at 4 a.m, printing labels and packing orders for customers.”
America’s richest female musician, Rihanna, debuts at age 31, not because of the money she’s made from singing but mostly thanks to her lucrative partnership with LVMH. Fenty Beauty, the cosmetics brand she co-owns with the luxury goods giant, generated approximately $570 million in revenue last year. With LVMH’s announcement of luxury clothing label Fenty, Rihanna will become the first black woman to run a major fashion house in Paris.
Serena Williams, another newcomer, is famous for her athletic prowess, but off the court she too is venturing into diverse fields, from fashion to venture capital, amassing a fortune estimated at $225 million. Williams, 37, launched a self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena, last year, and also owns stakes in the Miami Dolphins and mixed martial arts promoter UFC. The 23-time Grand Slam winner has invested in 34 startups over the past five years through Serena Ventures, targeting companies founded by women and minorities. “I want to be the brand instead of being the face,” Williams told The Professional Times.
Some of these women are hesitant to identify as female leaders. “I didn’t want to just be a female CEO,” says Katrina Lake, the 36-year-old founder of online personal styling firm Stitch Fix. “I wanted to be a successful CEO, regardless of gender.”
Still, Lake, worth an estimated $380 million, understands the example she is setting. When she took Stitch Fix public in November 2017, Lake made headlines for becoming the youngest female founder to take a company public—and for holding her young son while ringing the Nasdaq opening bell. She didn’t plan the moment, but she realizes why it was a significant statement. “There just aren’t enough great examples of different types of people that are at the top,” Lake says. “I feel a lot of responsibility in making sure that others can see themselves there, and not just a lot of men in suits.”