Diane Hendricks has not raised the inheritance of celebrities or political leaders. Instead, she spent her childhood on a dairy farm in Wisconsin – where she trained in the work ethic that eventually helped her create a business empire.
Last week, Hendrix – who has a net worth of $11.6 billion – topped Forbes’ list of America’s richest self-made women for the fifth year in a row. Her fortune is largely based on ABC Supply, a building materials company she built with her late husband in 1982. She is currently the company’s president.
In 2017, Hendrix told Forbes that watching her parents run the farm 24/7 established her work ethic, which became important from an early age: She got pregnant at 17, and had to finish her senior year of high school while living at home . At age 21, she filed for divorce from her high school sweetheart and, as a single mother, landed a series of odd jobs in offices – rather than choosing one career and striving for success in it – before eventually striving for success. Real estate license.
“Motherhood got in the way very quickly and I grew up very quickly,” Hendricks said. “It didn’t stop me from wanting to reach my dream. In fact, I think I became more focused on what I want to achieve.”
Hendricks said some of her dreams were simple: move into town and wear a suit to work every day. These dreams took a turn after she met and married ceiling contractor Ken Hendricks in the 1970s. Together, the duo brought together talent and co-founded ABC Supply in Beloit, Wisconsin.
By 1994, the company had 100 locations. Four years later, it has generated more than $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time, according to Forbes.
Since her husband’s death in 2007, Hendrix has led ABC Supply on her own. The company now has more than 840 sites, according to its website, and is the 23rd private company in the country, according to Forbes. ABC Supply’s website notes that it has acquired the assets of 18 other companies over the past five years, in a sign of its market dominance.
The success did not come without controversy. In 2016, the first year that Hendrix topped the Forbes list, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that she “didn’t pay a dime in state income tax from 2012 through 2014”. It also did not owe any money from state taxes in 2010, according to the news outlet.
That’s not necessarily illegal: ABC Director of Supply Taxes Scott Bianchini told CNBC Make It that the company had changed its tax classification from C-corp to S-corp during those years. Under Wisconsin law, corporations can apply to become S-corps at the federal level and C-corps at the state level, which means that ABC Supply can elect state tax option status — and likely include any checks made from the company to Hendricks — if All of her federal taxes have been paid.
Today, Hendricks is still based in Beloit, which has a population of just under 37,000. According to Forbes, millions of dollars have been spent on local projects to rebuild abandoned properties and bring new business to the country.
In 2017, Hendricks opened a local career center, which hosts workshops to teach middle and high school students skills like programming and construction. She told Forbes that the program aims to educate teens about “the value of a job.”
“Kids are like, ‘Wow, is this how a welder works?'” she said. “They can go to vocational school and become a welder who pays $50,000 a year. These are good jobs. Really good jobs.”
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