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Diane Hendricks' Journey From Growing up on a Farm to Becoming America's Richest Self-Made Woman

Before founding ABC Supply with her late husband in 1982, Hendricks knew she would wear suits, drive nice cars, and work in a city.
Cover Image Source: Self-made woman (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Nina Uhlikova
Cover Image Source: Self-made woman (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Nina Uhlikova

Diane Hendricks the chair of ABC Supply, is the richest self-made woman in America with a net worth of $20.9 billion, per CNBC Make It, but she had humble beginnings growing up on a dairy farm in Osseo, Wisconsin. Before founding the business with her late husband in 1982, Hendricks knew she would wear suits, drive nice cars, and work in a city. Decades later the 77-year-old topped Forbes’ most recent list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women for the seventh year in a row.


Hendricks told Forbes that when she was 10 years old, she decided she didn’t want to be a farmer or marry a farmer. She always imagined herself wearing a “blue suit and having a nice car and being independent.” However, she got married young to her high school sweetheart and was pregnant by the age of 17. She finished her senior year of high school while living at home and three years later she filed for divorce.

As a single mother, she took on a series of odd jobs and even worked as a Playboy Bunny waitress. Meanwhile, she worked on building a real estate career, with the dream of starting her own business.


In the 1970s, she met Ken Hendricks, a contractor and soon the two got married. Before founding ABC Supply, Hendricks and her husband made their living through rental properties. For three years, they purchased about 200 older homes and renovated them to rent them out to college students, as per Forbes. The couple then purchased two struggling building supply stores to establish ABC Supply, with plans to buy supplies from manufacturers and sell them to contractors. She told Forbes they planned to provide an “unheard-of level of customer service in a notoriously unfriendly industry.”

Within five years of starting ABC, they had opened 50 stores and had made about $140 million in sales. As per the company’s website, it hit $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in 1998. In a tragic accident, Ken Hendricks died in 2007 and Diane Hendricks took over the company.


Under her leadership, ABC made the two biggest acquisitions in its history, buying rival Bradco in 2010 and building materials distributor L&W Supply in 2016, according to Forbes. Today, ABC Supply has over 900 branch locations, and the Beloit, Wisconsin-based company brought in $20.4 billion in annual revenue last year as per Forbes.


Diane Hendricks’ success didn’t come without controversy. In 2016, the first year when Hendricks topped America’s Richest Self-Made Women list, she was accused of not paying state income taxes from 2012 to 2014. While it sparked outrage in the press, it was later found out that it was legal for Hendricks to not pay taxes as her company had changed its tax classification from a C-corp to an S-corp, per CNBC.

Hendricks is still based out of Beloit, and she has bought and transformed several of the town’s historic buildings and older businesses. As per Forbes, she has spent millions of dollars on local projects, rebuilding abandoned properties, and bringing new businesses to the state.

In 2017, she also opened a local career center to host skill workshops for middle and high schoolers to expose teens to “the value of a job” at the time.