Chinese business mogul and billionaire Zhou Qunfei, now a business media darling and inspiration to blue-collar workers everywhere, embodies the rags-to-riches dream of so many. Here are 21 things you probably didn't know about the world's richest self-made woman.

  1. Once a cash-strapped factory worker, China's Zhou Qunfei is now the richest self-made woman in the world, with a net worth of $7.6 billion.
  2. Qunfei was raised in poverty in the Chinese province of Xinagxiang. After losing her mother at the age of 5, she was raised by her blind father (who had lost his eyesight as well as a finger in an industrial accident) until she quit school at 15 and became a migrant worker in Guangdong province.
  3. As a young girl in school, she once wrote an essay entitled "My Mother" that was so emotional it moved her peers and teachers to tears.
  4. She chose her employment based on its proximity to Shenzhen University, so she could attend part-time and study in the evenings.
  5. At her first job in Shenzhen, Qunfei made less than $1 a day for 16-hour shifts making watch lenses. Three months into her employment, she wrote a letter of resignation, but it so impressed her superiors that she was given a promotion and stayed with the company. She would work her way up over the years ahead.
  6. By 1993, Qunfei had squirreled away HK$20,000 (about $3,000 USD), which she used to bootstrap her own company. Her siblings and cousins worked for her new startup venture, which produced high-quality watch lenses.
  7. Lens Technology, founded by Quenfei in 2003, is one of just 11 companies she started. Her prowess for making smartphone glass was certainly rooted in her earlier experiences crafting glass for watches as an employee of other people's companies.
  8. Qunfei married her former factory boss and had one child before divorcing him and eventually meeting her current husband.
  9. Soon after it launched, Lens Technologies was sought out by Motorola to develop an alternative to the standard plastic phone screen for the Moto Razr V3. This was considered her "big break;" Nokia and HTC soon followed suit.
  10. Apple chose Lens Technologies as their preferred glass supplier when they launched the iPhone in 2007, propelling Qunfei's company to the dominant market position in China.
  11. When her company went public in March 2015, Qunfei's net worth more than quadrupled and she became the richest woman in China by far.
  12. By April 2015, Qunfei's company had grown to employ about 60,000 people.
  13. Qunfei attributes her astronomical entrepreneurial success to her desire to learn.
  14. Known for her hands-on approach to business, Qunfei is often found on the floor in her factories and labs, testing and asking questions, and even asking technicians to step aside so she can work the machines.
  15. Little was known about Qunfei before her company went public earlier this year, as she was a private person who rarely made media appearances or granted interviews.
  16. Qunfei and her husband Zheng Junlong, who worked in her factories and is now on the company's board, together own over 99 percent of Lens Technology.
  17. As founder of her company, Qunfei has earned the nickname "Queen of mobile phone glass" and commands an annual salary of over 1.5 million.
  18. Qunfei is said to prefer Christian Dior suits and once dreamed of becoming a fashion designer herself, though she has no regrets about going into business instead.
  19. A small apartment just off her office at her headquarters in Changsha ensures Qunfei can visit her factory operations day or night -- and she does. In this way, she's a lot like American entrepreneurial genius Elizabeth Holmes, another female billionaire who lives and breathes her business.
  20. Always looking to innovate, Qunfei addressed investor concerns about her company's reliance on two major customers -- Apple and Samsung -- by announcing at their May shareholders meeting that she plans to diversify by offering higher-end glass, sapphire, and ceramics products.
  21. Though her wealth shrank more than any other Chinese billionaire's in the Chinese stock market crash this year, Qunfei retained her place as China's richest woman and the world's richest self-made woman.
Published on: Aug 10, 2015
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