Zhou Qunfei, high school dropout becomes richest self made woman on earth
47-year-old Zhou Qunfei, founder and CEO of Lens Technology, which makes glass screens for iPhones is the richest self-made woman on earth according to Bloomberg.
Zhou Qunfei is a Chinese entrepreneur who founded the major touchscreen maker Lens Technology. After the public listing of her company on the Shenzhen ChiNext market in March 2015, her net worth temporarily reached US$10 billion, making her the richest woman in China.
This net worth makes Zhou Qunfei not only the youngest self-made female billionaire, but also the richest self-made woman on earth.
For those who don’t know, Zhou grew up on a farm and dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to start working on the floor of a watch lens factory. She came of age at the perfect time to get in early on China’s liberalizing market.
Zhou Qunfei was born the youngest of three children in 1970 to a poor family in Xiangxiang, Hunan province, China. Before she was born, her father, a former soldier, became partially blinded and lost a finger in an industrial accident in the 1960s. A skilled craftsman, he supported the family by making bamboo baskets and chairs and repairing bicycles.
Zhou Qunfei’s mother passed away when she was five. As a child, she helped her family raise animals for sustenance and small profit. Although she was the only one out of her siblings to attend secondary school and showed promise as a bright student (her former middle-school teacher described her as being a “hard-working and talented student”), she dropped out at age 16 and moved in with her uncle’s family to become a migrant worker.
Zhou Qunfei deliberately chose to work for companies near Shenzhen University, so she could take part-time courses at the university. She studied many subjects and passed the examinations to be certified for accounting, computer operations, customs processing, and even became licensed for driving commercial vehicles. Her biggest regret is not having studied English.
With only a few thousand dollars, she founded her own company making watch lenses in 1993, at the age of 22.
In an interview with Times back in 2015, Zhou Qunfei revealed that “during the period of China’s rapid economic growth, there were plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs, including women, It allowed me to develop my business. In the village where I grew up, a lot of girls didn’t have a choice of whether to go to middle school. They would get engaged or married and spend their entire life in that village”.
Today, Zhou’s company, Lens Technology now has at least 32 factories in seven different locations and employs more than 90,000 staff. She is married with two children. She works 18-hour days, and keeps a living quarters in her office.