Rags to Riches –Female Factory Worker to Self-Made Billionaire

-It is always your next move.-

How does a young girl born in Hunan, China who lost her mother at the age of 5 and whose father was blinded in an industrial workplace accident become a self-made billionaire? The odds would certainly seem stacked against you, yet Zhou through her own self determination conquered the obstacles and became known as ‘The Touchscreen Queen.’ Building a wealth in excess of $6.6 billion, her company Lens Technology is the major supplier of touch screen cover glass for mobile devices, laptops and tablets in the world, with Samsung and Apple being her major clients.

This is a great rags to riches story where humble beginnings was clearly not a deterrent for Zhou, fulfilling her dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur and living a successful life.

“I don’t want to die regretting what I didn’t do.”

Knowledge and Hard Work Pays Off

During her early years, Zhou was duty-bound to support her blind father and siblings. The youngest of 3 children, she excelled in school, despite her academic excellence she dropped out at the age of 16, she went in search of better employment and went to live with her uncle.

“It’s not your physical strength that will get you to the top but your tenacity and persistence.”

She started working in a factory making watch lenses for $1 a day. After 3 months she got bored and chose to resign but instead of accepting her resignation, she was promoted. The factory chief was so impressed with her resignation letter that he offered her a promotion, one of several over the next three years. At the age of 22 and with $3,000 in savings, Zhou and several family members decided to open their own watch lens workshop next to her old factory. The Asian Financial Crisis struck in 1997 and instead of throwing in the towel and calling it quits, Zhou’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. She settled the debts of the watchmakers who owed her money in exchange for their glass and screen equipment.

Immersing Yourself in New Challenges

Zhou immersed herself completely in the new company, designing and repairing factory machinery and learning the whole screen-printing process. Then the break came in 2003 when an executive from Motorola called and asked whether she would be interested in constructing a glass screen for their new device.

“I got this call, and they said ‘Just answer yes or no, and if the answer’s yes, we’ll help you set up the process, so I just said yes”

At the time most screens for mobile phones were made of plastic and securing this contract with Motorola was a game changer. Later the likes of Apple, Samsung and Huawei sourced their touchscreen glass from Lens Technology. As the orders continued, Lens Technology dominated the industry with 32 factories and employing 90,000 people.

Shaping Her Future

Zhou said that when she was a child her primary school teacher had taught her to be observant and it was while observing raindrops falling on lotus leaves that she noticed droplets roll around the leaf without leaving a trace. It was this reflection that inspired her to create the scratch resistant coating on smartphones. Zhou’s attention to detail in business is also credited to her childhood. After her father lost his eyesight, everything had to be in the same spot or something could go wrong. These early childhood experiences shaped Zhou with the strong entrepreneurial character she required to build an empire. Despite her impoverished background, she developed skills and knowledge to thrust her into a world of business and dominate an industry where few would dwell.

I strongly believe that our individual journeys are destined to be travelled. At the time we are unaware of where our path will take us but it is all part of a bigger plan.