5. Estée Lauder, The Estée Lauder Companies
Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, Estée Lauder learned how to make skin creams from her Hungarian uncle and began demonstrating them on customers at beauty salons. In 1946, she and her husband, Joseph Lauder, got their first big order from department store Saks Fifth Avenue. Lauder relied on word-of-mouth to sell her products long before social media and invented the “Gift with Purchase” marketing tactic.
Lauder died in 2004, but her grandchildren still helm the third-generation family business, which has 48,000 employees and encompasses brands including Clinique, M.A.C., Smashbox, Tom Ford, Becca, Bumble & Bumble, GlamGlow, La Mer and Too Faced.