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5 Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs Over 50

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OPRAH DIANE VON
AP

Fifty really is the new 30 for many risk-taking boomers. A recent survey shows nearly a quarter of new entrepreneurs are between 55 and 64, the Associated Press reports. Post 50s have more time and resources than 20-somethings, and they're spending both in meaningful ways.

In 2009, there were twice as many entrepreneurs over 50 than there were under 25, according to PBS Newshour.

Last week Forbes released its annual list of "The World's Most Powerful People," and many of the list-makers are well-known entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett and Bernard Arnault... but women are getting a piece of the business action too.

Here are the tales of five inspiring women entrepreneurs and how they got ahead:

  • The Lipstick Queen
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    Who: Bobbi Brown, 56

    Why: This "Pretty Powerful" makeup artist started her eponymous makeup line in 1991 with just 10 natural-looking lipstick shades selling at Bergdorf Goodmans. She was initially turned down by them but sold 100 lipsticks in just the first day. The popularity of her makeup grew and in 1995 the company was bought by beauty giant, Estee Lauder.

    Her cosmetics are now available in 60 countries at over 1000 retail locations. She pioneered the "no-makeup makeup look" and has gained a cult following. Royal bride, Kate Middleton, even opted for Bobbi's products on her big day.

    Cause: Bobbi has partnered with Dress For Success for the last decade. The organization helps women in need by providing suits, makeup and mentoring for interviews so they can gain confidence and independence.
  • The Super Mogul
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    Who: Kathy Ireland, 50

    What: Her 1989 cover was the best-seller-ever of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but her business career started with the unsexiest thing ever--socks. After becoming pregnant with her first child, Ireland was approached by Gold Toe Socks and started her own line.

    She ended up taking advice from Warren Buffet who told her fashion changes, but the housewares are a better market. One thing led to another, and now the Kathy Ireland empire of home goods and fashions is worth an estimated $350 million. She's been named the world's richest supermodel, ousting other model-preneurs like Gisele Bundchen and Tyra Banks.

    Ireland says she left modeling because she no longer wanted to be told to "shut up and pose."

    "For me the question was, do I want my paycheck to be dependent on how other people think I look?"

    Cause: Ireland works with the United Nations to promote gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS and universal education for children.
  • The Fashion Icon
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    Who: Diane von Furstenberg, 66

    Why: She started her business out of a desire for financial independence, although she married a German prince. Furstenberg's fashion empire rose to fame in the 70s with her creation of the iconic figure-flattering wrap dress. Over 40 years later, her designs are still a hit with women of all shapes and sizes and she's ranked 74th on Forbes' "Most Powerful Women" list for 2013.

    "I had a very down-to-earth product, my wrap dress, which was really a uniform. It was just a simple little cotton-jersey dress that everybody loved and everybody wore... young and old, and fat and thin, and poor and rich."

    Cause: She's encouraged the fashion industry to include more multicultural models and has campaigned to put an end to the size-zero model culture. She helped the CFDA create guidelines to ensure models are healthy and not suffering from eating disorders.
  • The Empowerer
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    Who: Oprah Winfrey, 59

    Why: This media mogul is "arguably the world's most powerful woman," according to TIME. She's also the only African-American billionaire and ranked 13th in this year's Forbes "Most Powerful Women" list. But Lady O doesn't just nab the best celebrity interviews, she's an Oscar-nominated actress with movies like "The Color Purple" and "The Butler" under her belt.

    Cause:Through her Angel Network and Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, she has supported women's shelters, built youth centers and homes, created academic scholarships and established more than 50 schools around the world.
  • The Innovator
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    Who: Maxine Clark, 64

    Why: On a shopping trip with her friend's children, Clark realized there was a market for customized bears after the kids complained they didn't like any in store. She wanted the store to be a "theme park factory in a mall." Despite naysayers doubting the effort, Clark poured money out of her retirement account in 1997 to invest in Build-A-Bear.

    The company now has 400 stores all over the world and has been named in Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For.

    Cause: Clark said philanthropy has always been part of her business plan. The company gives back to communities in many ways, from free bear giveaways to children in need to fundraising for animal rights and rescue.

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