Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson has spent his entire career pushing the envelope. It's resulted in an eclectic and expansive set of companies under the Virgin name, including airlines, a bank, and most recently a hotel chain. He's a self-made billionaire who dropped out of high school and hasn't stopped doing things differently for the past 45 years. Many of Branson’s own endeavors were born out of frustrations he had with business as usual. Though he's well-known for his penchant for pranks, his costumes, and his private island, he's built an empire and survived countless setbacks thanks to his commitment to being an exceptional leader. His most recent agenda includes space as his company, Virgin Galactic, is currently working to make consumer space travel a reality.
Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. As a child, she became an advocate for girls' education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. In 2014, she was nominated again and won, becoming the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. While is continues her quest for equality she does not want to be remembered as the girl who was shot by the Taliban, but instead the girl who fought for the rights of every child.
The Venture Capitalist
Tony Hsieh is well known for building Zappos into a billion-plus company, and perhaps even better known for building an unusually strong culture that encourages employees to have fun, embrace quirks and “create fun with a little weirdness.” He’s become a workplace evangelist of sorts: his 2010 book Delivering Happiness, which details the Zappos philosophy, has sold more than 300,000 copies; in addition to selling shoes (and now clothes and more), Zappos also has a consulting arm that trains companies like Google and Eli Lilly on building happy workplaces. But as Hsieh floats toward guru status, he’s also quietly been up to something totally, completely different. And if his next act goes as planned, Zappos and delivering happiness may just be his first chapter.
At 45, Musk is both superstar entrepreneur and mad scientist. Sixteen years after co-founding a company called X.com that would, following a merger, go on to become PayPal, he’s launched the electric carmaker Tesla Motors, one of the most closely watched—some would say obsessed-over—companies in the world. He also founded the aerospace manufacturer, SpaceX, because he was frustrated with the pace and cost of government-sponsored space exploration. He has been compared to the Christian Grey character in Fifty Shades of Grey, though not as often as he’s been called “the real Tony Stark,” referring to the playboy tech entrepreneur whose alter ego, Iron Man, rescues the universe from various manifestations of evil.
The Oracle of Omaha
Warren Buffett is an investment guru and one of the richest and most respected businessmen in the world. Born in Nebraska in 1930, Warren Buffett demonstrated keen business abilities at a young age. He formed Buffett Partnership Ltd. in 1956, and by 1965 he had assumed control of Berkshire Hathaway. Overseeing the growth of a conglomerate with holdings in the media, insurance, energy and food and beverage industries, Buffett became one of the world's richest men and a celebrated philanthropist.
The Queen of Daytime TV
American media mogul, television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey has an estimated net worth of $3 billion as of May 2015 according to Forbes which made her one of the richest African-Americans, and one of the most lucrative brands in the world. Winfrey tops the 2009 inaugural Forbes list of the Wealthiest Black American. She is the only African-American billionaire on the Forbes 2011 list of billionaires.
The queen of daytime TV is now the queen of cable, Winfrey launched her new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the beginning of 2011. In addition to her cable channel, Winfrey oversees a magazine and Harpo productions. She also started a school for girls in South Africa: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (which she invested $40 million).
The E-Commerce Pioneer
American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos is the founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com. Bezos had an early love of computers and studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton University. After graduation, he worked on Wall Street, and in 1990 became the youngest senior vice president at the investment firm D.E. Shaw. Four years later, he quit his lucrative job to open Amazon.com, a virtual bookstore that became one of the internet's biggest success stories. In 2013, Bezos made headlines when he purchased The Washington Post in a $250 million deal. Today, though, as he deepens his involvement in his media and space ventures, Bezos is becoming a power beyond Amazon, which has forced him to become an even better leader.
The Queen B
Although Beyoncé’s accolades as an artist secure her future seat in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s been her evident transition from superstar artist to savvy entrepreneur that elevated her brand to unparalleled heights. Beyond delivering countless hit singles and compelling visuals, Beyoncé turned her Parkwood Entertainment imprint into an idea engine with a track record for disrupting the music business. In today’s digital age, creating story-driven content and experiences are essential elements to building global businesses and culturally impactful brands. As social media continues inspiring and spreading the latest viral trends, the logic is simple: content drives conversations and conversations fuel culture.
Blake Mycoskie, the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, is the person behind the idea of One for One®, a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased. Blake, having recognized other vital needs during his travels around the world, realized that One for One® could be applied to more than shoes. Blake's unique approach to business has awarded him with numerous accolades. In 2009, Blake and TOMS received the Secretary of State's 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence (ACE). People Magazine featured Blake in its "Heroes Among Us" section, and TOMS Shoes was featured in the Bill Gates Time Magazine article "How to Fix Capitalism." In 2011, Blake was named on Fortune Magazine's "40 Under 40" list, recognizing him as one of the top young businessmen in the world.