Zhou Qunfei; One of the world’s self-made richest women
Chua Sock Koong, chief executive officer of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel), speaks during an interview at the company’s offices in Singapore, on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. SingTel, Southeast Asia’s biggest phone company, posted first-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates after cutting costs at its Optus unit in Australia and higher earnings from associates. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Who is Zhou Qunfei? One of the world’s self-made richest women in the world who created an empire selling glass screens to giants like Apple and Samsung.

There are many millionaires who have received inheritances.That is not the case with Zhou Qunfei, one of the richest women in the world in the ranking of those who forged their wealth for themselves, according to Forbes.

With a fortune estimated at US $ 7.8 billion, she is the founder and executive director of Lens Technology, a company that researches, develops, manufactures and sells glass displays (of fraction of a millimeter) that are used in mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers, like Apple or Samsung.

At 48, she leads an empire that generates huge profits and, according to market projections, will continue to grow.

The youngest of three children, Zhou Qunfei was born in an agricultural town in the Chinese province of Hunan. Her childhood was not easy: she lost her mother when she was five years old and her father was almost blind due to an accident at work.

Helping to raise pigs and ducks on a farm, she had to learn to survive under harsh conditions and at 16 she left high school to look for work.

She went to live in the metropolis of Shenzhen, in southern China, where she found a job making glasses for watches for about US $1 a day.

She quickly climbed the company until he was given a leadership role. But after spending some time in that position, at 22, Zhou decided he wanted to start her own business.

The phone call from Motorola

With her savings and family support she installed a workshop in the same three-room apartment where she lived.

Together with her family, they began to manufacture glasses for watch, the niche in which Zhou had specialized.

Over time, the entrepreneur worked on the improvement of the complicated techniques used to obtain crystals of little thickness and high quality.

It was then when she got a call from Motorola to ask her if she would be willing to help them develop a glass screen for their cell phones.

At that time the screens of most phones were made of plastic and Motorola wanted to create a glass that was more resistant and of better quality.

“My biggest challenge was to beat my rivals and get the contract with Motorola,” the business woman recalled in statements to the press.

A few years later, Apple launched the iPhone with its glass touch screen, revolutionizing the cell phone market. It was 2007 and at that time Apple chose Lens Technology as its supplier. Zhou had entered the major leagues.

From Silicon Valley to Seoul

“In the period of China’s rapid economic growth, the country was full of opportunities for entrepreneurs, including women,” Zhou told The Australian Financial Review.

Several analysts, such as Huang Yasheng of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), agree that the business woman is part of a generation of entrepreneurs who accumulated their fortune starting from below.

They attribute this to the fact that the ruling Communist Party did not put obstacles in the way of women prospering when capitalism began to expand in China in the 1990s.

On the contrary, the country required the creation of companies and Zhou presented the best credentials.

As a symbol of success, the business woman was the host of President Xi Jinping when he dressed the headquarters of his company.

Zhou is seen in her country as a representative of the effort and dedication.

“My father had lost his sight, so if we put something somewhere, it had to be in the right place or something could go wrong,” said the business woman.

“That’s the attention to detail that I demand in the workplace.”

Currently her two biggest customers are Apple and Samsung which is why she travels continuously in her private jet to Silicon Valley and Seoul.

Something that at age 22, when she founded her company in that three-room apartment, probably was not among her plans.

And now that China is in a race for technological development, Zhou seems to be the kind of entrepreneur the country needs to compete in the global world.

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