Forbes is Stretching the Term Self-Made with Their Latest Women Billionaires List

by | Apr 28, 2017 | Original Content

I would never, in a million years, attempt to minimize the hard work that it takes to become a billionaire. I get it. Most people in business work hard and self-made billionaires are obviously no exception to that rule. Unfortunately, I believe Forbes is stretching the term Self-Made with their latest Women Billionaires List. It’s almost as if they wanted to pad the list to make it appear larger. 

Clearly this is just my opinion. But doesn’t it take away from the Sara Blakely’s of the world when you add Marian Illitch to the same list?

She Epitomizes the Very Concept of “Self-Made”

Sara BlakelySara Blakely is the founder of Spanx. Her story is well known because she epitomizes the very concept of “self-made”. Blakely founded Spanx after cutting the feet out of her pantyhose to make, in her words, “her butt look better in white pants”. Then she took $5,000 she had saved from selling fax machines door-to-door and launched her business. It was just her convincing a skeptical world to buy into an entirely new women’s clothing category that she had invented. And her hard work turned her into a billionaire. That, to me, is impressive.

And everybody knows Oprah Winfrey’s story. Her picture should be next to the words “self-made” in the dictionary. Other women on the list like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Meg Whitman (eBay) are also impressive and deserve to be in the “self-made” category.

The Little Caesar’s Pizza Chain

But now we come back to the story of Marian Illitch. Her husband, Mike Illitch, is the fabled Detroit businessman who took his life savings to start the Little Caesar’s Pizza chain. He built it into an empire, eventually adding sports teams like the Detroit Redwings and the Detroit Tigers. Sadly he died in February of this year (2017). Most of his obituaries started with “Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Illitch has died…”

According to Forbes, the definition of a woman self-made billionaire is a woman who is not wealthy because of who she married or who she has in her family tree.

So by their own definition, Forbes should never have even considered Marian Illitch for this list. How can she be on the same list as other true “self-made billionaire’s” as Oprah Winfrey, Sara Blakely (Spanx), Meg Whitman (eBay) and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook).

The Idea of Being Self-Made is a Big Deal with Entrepreneurs

If you are attempting to stay true to the concept of self-made billionaire then Marian Illitch should never have made the list. The idea of being self-made is a big deal with entrepreneurs. Do you think any of us care what Sam Walton’s kids are doing? Or who his wife was? Nope. But Sam Walton is somebody that most of us have read about extensively. His story is inspiring. As is many of the self-made billionaire’s on the Forbes list.

Which is why it annoys entrepreneurs when you toss somebody on a list of “self-made billionaires” that really shouldn’t be there. It takes away from the impressive backstories of the people that should be on that list. We understand the hard work and sacrifices they made because we go through the same things every day. It’s why we can relate to other entrepreneurs but not people with “day jobs”.

It’s also why we even bother to read the Forbes Magazine annual ranking of the world’s billionaires. Many of their stories are inspiring and motivational.

After all, building a billion-dollar empire from scratch is an impressive feat. Inheriting it, not so much. the Self-Made Women Billionaires of the World | There are 56 self-made women billionaires in the world according to a new list released by Forbes on International Women’s Day. And while the number pales in comparison to the hundreds of self-made male billionaires, Forbes’ data shows that women are increasing their wealth at a rapid rate.

The number of self-made women billionaires has “more than doubled” since 2009. In the past year alone, 15 women–or 26 percent–became self-made billionaires.

They are also the richest they have ever been. According to the publication, the total wealth among self-made women billionaires “increased 50 percent in the past five years.”

The list includes some well-known names: Oprah (No. 11), Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (No. 42), Spanx’s Sara Blakely (No. 48) and Marian Ilitch (No. 2), who owes her fortune largely to the Little Caesars pizza chain she started with her late husband.