Diane Hendricks, the richest self-made woman in America, has an unusual success story, from being raised on a dairy farm to now heading a $1 billion corporation called ABC Supply that she co-founded with her late husband. The privately-owned firm raked in billions of dollars in sales ranking her #122 on the 2017 Forbes list.
Hendricks, now 71, just surpassed Michigan’s Marian Ilitch, who had previously held the title of the wealthiest self-made woman, to take the 76th spot of 400 listed American billionaires with a net worth of $12.5 billion, according to Forbes. She is included in the list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women for the sixth consecutive year.
Diane Hendricks was born in 1947, one of nine daughters to parents who were dairy farmers from Wisconsin. She graduated from Osseo-Fairchild High School in 1965. She became pregnant for her high school lover at 17 and had to make ends meet. She later got married to her late husband Ken Hendricks and has seven children in total.
According to her, “I had a beautiful life, living on the farm. Nice house, big square white house,” the roofing queen recalls to Forbes. “But… I always wanted to go to the city. I wanted to wear a suit.”
Hendricks recalled that some of her aspirations were quite straightforward, such as relocating to a metropolis and working every day wearing a suit. These aspirations changed once she married roofer Ken Hendricks in the 1970s.
Journey to wealth
Hendricks claimed that she gained strong work ethic from observing her parents manage the family farm around-the-clock since she fell pregnant at age 17 and had to complete her senior year of high school while living at home.
To survive as a single parent, she worked a variety of odd jobs in offices as opposed to choosing one field and relentlessly sought success before eventually getting a real estate license.
Her love for business started when she got a job on the assembly line of Parker Pen. When she met her late husband, a roofing contractor, they started selling custom-made homes, later adding a trucking operation and a wholesale store, selling carpets and appliances to other landlords.
After years of doing business in the roofing industry, the couple realized the need for a wholesale distributor that consolidated all brands of roofing at one location, instead of making contractors visit each manufacturer’s shop individually. They later opened their first store in Beloit in 1982.
ABC Supply grew to about 100 stores in 1994 and over 700 to date and accounts for a sizable portion of her wealth. Since its inception, the initially small shingle supply business grew to become the biggest roofing distributor in the United States.
When her husband passed away in 2007, Hendricks took over the company on her own and oversaw a number of significant acquisitions, such as the $670 million purchase of L&W Engineering, a company that builds quality steel and aluminium parts such as KeBloc products, TV brackets, and 3D printing services in 2016, which helped the company grow from a $3 billion enterprise at the time of her husband’s passing, to a $9 billion enterprise.
She has invested millions of dollars in regional initiatives to renovate vacant homes and attract new enterprises to the region.
Hendricks has contributed more than $1 million to Republican causes and supports Beloit, Wisconsin where ABC Supply first began with her earnings in a number of ways.