Working for their wealth
3 Austin entrepreneurs rank among Forbes' richest self-made women
It's common knowledge that tech king Michael Dell and haircare/tequila mogul John Paul DeJoria rank among the ultra-wealthiest people in Austin. But did you know that three Austin entrepreneurs — collectively worth nearly $4 billion — stand among the richest self-made women in the country?
Billionaire Thai Lee and millionaires Kendra Scott and Whitney Wolfe Herd appear on Forbes magazine’s new list of America’s 80 richest self-made women — women who garnered wealth on their own, rather than by inheriting or winning it. And they’re in great company, joining the likes of Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, Madonna, Celine Dion, and Beyoncé Knowles.
Lee, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion, appears at No. 5 on the Forbes list. She is president and CEO of SHI International Corp., a provider of IT products and services whose more than 17,000 customers include AT&T and Boeing.
Revenue at the New Jersey-based company hit $10 billion in 2018; more than 4,000 people work at SHI. Austin is home to SHI’s corporate call center and is the hub for its sales division catering to small and midsize businesses.
“In early 2015, we mapped a five-year goal to reach $10 billion in revenue by the end of 2019. Through the hard work of our employees, the strength of our partnerships, and our ability to discern and solve our customers’ most pressing IT and business challenges, we reached that goal 12 months early,” Lee says in a February release.
At No. 40 on the Forbes list, with an estimated net worth of $550 million, is Scott. She is founder and CEO of Kendra Scott Design Inc. Annual sales at the Austin-based jewelry company hover around $360 million.
In 2017, Boston-based private equity firm Berkshire Partners invested in Scott’s company at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Scott started the company in 2002 in the spare bedroom of her home.
Today, Scott’s business operates 100 jewelry stores, runs massive e-commerce and wholesale units, and employs more than 2,000 people. Last year, the company opened its flagship store on South Congress Avenue.
“There were so many ups and downs through this journey. There were many times that I thought I was going to lose my business. I had no investment capital. I was carrying it all on my shoulders — bootstrapping it, literally,” Scott told CNN in 2018.
The third local entrepreneur on the Forbes list is Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Austin-based Bumble Trading Inc., developer of the Bumble dating app for women, and the related Bumble BFF friend-finding app and Bumble Bizz networking app. Herd launched Bumble in 2014 after co-founding dating app Tinder.
With an estimated net worth of $290 million, Herd claimed the No. 72 spot on the Forbes list. This is her first year to be ranked.
Bumble counts more than 60 million users in 150 countries. The company’s estimated annual revenue totals $175 million, according to Forbes. Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev is the majority owner of Bumble.
Aside from the app, Bumble recently debuted a print magazine and last year set up an investment fund targeting startups led by women of color. This fall, the company plans to open a coffee shop and wine bar in New York City’s hip SoHo neighborhood. Later this year, Bumble is rolling out a line of skincare products.
“I want to take this sucker around the planet,” Herd told Marie Claire last year about the future of Bumble. “Then, who knows, maybe we’ll work with [Jeff] Bezos and [Elon] Musk and take it beyond.”