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The Awesome Entrepreneurs Read by Julia Boorstin

About the Episode

This is the story of four Awesome Entrepreneurs: Rihanna, Aileen Lee, Mikaila Ulmer and Anjali Sud. These rebels followed their dreams to become successful leaders in business. They come from different backgrounds and end up in very different places, but a tough rebel spirit connects them all.

This story is from the new Rebel Girls app! You can listen to more stories like this, PLUS all the podcast episodes you know and love. Just go to to download and listen for free!

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls and is based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Camille Stennis. Sound design and mixing by Bianca Salinas. Our production manager is Haley Dapkus. It was written by Abby Sher and narrated by journalist Julia Boorstin.

Get to Know Julia Boorstin

Julia Boorstin is a journalist covering technology and media for CNBC, and she loves asking questions. Julia especially enjoys reporting about companies that are closing gender and diversity gaps, and changing the world of business for the better. Her book When Women Lead is about exceptional female founders, and the great things that happen when women are in charge. Get to know Julia and learn how you can become a journalist, too!



Hey Rebels. My name is Julia Boorstin. I’m a journalist covering technology and media for CNBC. Right now I have something special for you – four stories of Rebels who followed their dreams and made incredible things happen. They come from very different backgrounds and wind up in very different places, but there’s a rebel spirit that connects all of them.

 Take a listen, and see if you can see what these rebels have in common! 


First let’s visit the Caribbean island of Barbados, where the turquoise waters are shimmering in the sun, and there’s always an ocean breeze and a reggae beat to dance to…


Once upon a time — in fact, not too long ago — there was a girl who loved singing, dancing, and celebrating her rich and beautiful heritage. Her name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, but most people know her as Rihanna. 

Rihanna loved her home of Barbados, especially the music. As a kid she would listen to music and dream of being center stage herself. But life at home was not easy for her. Her parents fought a lot and Rihanna had terrible headaches that made it hard for her to do anything. Music became the one place where she could find relief and release.

When she was in high school, Rihanna started an all-girl band. They got an audition with a well-known music producer who was visiting the island. When he heard Rihanna sing, he was blown away. In fact, he and his wife invited Rihanna to live with them in the U.S. so he could help launch her career. 

Rihanna was just 17 when she released her first single, “Pon de Replay.” With reggae dance beats and catchy lyrics, it was a huge success. Two years later, her song “Umbrella” won her a Grammy award! 

Rihanna has won nine Grammy’s and sold over 54 million albums! But she wanted to do more than sing. She wanted to create a business that would make everyone feel included! 

So she started a cosmetics line called Fenty Beauty that celebrates all skin tones so that everyone could play with makeup. Rihanna has also designed a clothing line and become the first Black woman in charge of a major luxury fashion house. 

Rihanna is passionate about following her dreams – wherever they lead her next. 


Wow. Rihanna’s story proves that business leaders come from many fields – including music!  And now…we take you from the limelight to a more…magical world. One full of  unicorns! Well, sort of…


Once there was a girl who dreamed of unicorns. But her unicorns weren’t mythical creatures. They were incredible business ideas!.

In 1970, in Staten Island, New York, an immigrant couple from China had a baby named Aileen. 

Throughout her girlhood, Aileen heard stories of how hard her family had worked, and how many jobs they’d held. She listened, and understood how important it was to respect their achievements.

By the time she was in high school, Aileen had started several businesses of her own. With friends, she made and sold tie-dye T-shirts, with bright yellows, and blues and green. They even tried selling egg rolls at busy nearby street fairs. “My parents probably spent more money on the gas driving me to different jobs than I made,” she said.

Aileen wasn’t afraid of hard work, and also had a knack for knowing which businesses would succeed, and why. Her secret was to focus as much on the people as their ideas.

Today, Aileen is the CEO and founder of Cowboy Ventures, it’s what’s called a venture capital firm – a fund which raises money to invest in entrepreneurs that are starting companies.  She is also a passionate advocate for women in business. To girls who are interested in starting companies, she suggests investigating problems that affect you personally, then figuring out a new solution. But the solution can’t just be a little bit better—it has to be a lot better than anything that’s already in existence.

But Aileen knows the hard truth. Most businesses fail. 

To succeed, she says, a founder must be willing to work hard through the highs and lows.

Aileen coined the term unicorn to refer to companies valued at $1 billion or more. These companies are rare, but with investors like her, there are sure to be more soon.


Hmm, Rihanna and Aileen come from very different backgrounds but they definitely have some common beliefs and passions, don’t you think?

Next, we’re going to hear about a Rebel Girl from Austin Texas,  who started her business from scratch. Or really, from a sting…


Once upon a time, there was a girl named Mikaila who was terrified of bees. When she was four years old, Mikaila got stung twice in one week! Once on her neck and once in her ear! Ouch! 

One evening her parents sat her down and said, “Mikaila, you can choose to be afraid of bees. But that would mean not going outside and enjoying all the things you love to do. Instead of being afraid of bees, you could learn about them.” So…she did! 

Mikaila learned all about bees – how they help keep plants alive and are part of a healthy ecosystem. But then she found out that climate change is destroying bee populations! Mikaila became determined to help the bees. 

She wasn’t sure how until her Great-Granny Helen sent her a recipe for some delicious lemonade. 

That was it! Mikaila decided she’d make a lemonade business! She would use her Great-Granny’s recipe, which called for honey AND sugar. She planned to donate some of the money she made to bee conservation. 

BUT Mikaila was in kindergarten and was really scared to talk to her customers. She HAD to figure it out. She knew she had a great idea and a great cause. She just had to take a deep breath [breath] and believe in herself.

Mikaila’s lemonade stand became very popular and she started delivering bottles of her delicious drink to people’s doorsteps. Then, she even got to sell her lemonade in stores around Austin. 

When Mikaila was ten, she faced her biggest challenge yet as a business owner. She and her parents were going to pitch her lemonade to a TV contest for entrepreneurs. 

Mikaila rehearsed her presentation for months. She thought about a beehive, how all the bees work together to create something delicious and life-saving every day. She was just like a bee. She could do this! 

She stood up straight, put on her brightest smile, and told her story in a clear, confident voice. The investors were so impressed, Mikaila negotiated a $60,000 deal!

Me & the Bees Lemonade continues to grow to this day.  Mikaila and her family have sold over two million bottles of lemonade and Mikaila is expanding to new products like beeswax lip balm. Now that she’s 17, Mikaila balances running an award-winning business with school, public speaking, and even writing a book called Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid

The most important part of it all for Mikaila though is her love of nature and seeing her bee friends traveling from bloom to bloom, making this world a sweeter place.


Okay, that story was delicious in a lot of ways. Especially the way a deep fear became a fascination. And fascination can lead to so many new ideas. Like for our last Rebel Girl…


Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Anjali who dreamed of writing plays. In her basement in Detroit, Michigan, Anjali sang and danced and created scenarios for her siblings to act out. Every time they paused, she had new lines for them to say. She was so full of ideas and always wanted to answer the question What if…?

Anjali studied hard in school, and after college, she decided to get a business degree. After that, she applied to lots of companies for a job, but to her disappointment, none of them would hire her. Many of them said she just “wasn’t the right fit.” She felt sad and dejected but didn’t give up. She applied to smaller companies, and soon, she was hired by Vimeo, a video-sharing site. In a couple of years, she was promoted to CEO – that stands for Chief Executive Officer and it’s the highest job anyone can have in a company! 

As CEO, Anjali faced her biggest challenge. Vimeo was struggling against bigger companies that had WAY bigger audiences – and it looked like they might just fail! No matter what Vimeo tried, it couldn’t grow an audience to match those of its much more successful rivals. 

But then, like a lightning bolt, an idea hit her! “Instead of competing by doing the SAME thing…WHAT IF we do something different?” Anjali reinvented Vimeo and focused the company on offering creators online tools to help them make videos look amazing. And then the company turned their competitors into partners by enabling Vimeo videos to play all over the internet!

Remember those unicorns we talked about? Well, Anjali’s idea became a huge success and turned Vimeo into a multi-billion-dollar company. A unicorn. MANY times over.


So Rebels, what do you think? Did you find an idea or two that ties all our stories together? 

First of all, these four amazing rebel girls nurtured great ideas and have become successful business leaders.  They have each had to face serious challenges. Sometimes they’ve struggled. Sometimes they’ve failed. But each challenge made them stronger. 

Are there other ways you see these four amazing women connecting? 

We hope they each inspire you because, y’know what? The next great business idea may be inside your mind right now….

That’s it for now….STAY REBEL!