Specsavers boss makes a billion

Specsavers boss, Dame Mary Perkins, becomes Britain's first female self-made billionaire

Dame Mary Perkins
Dame Mary Perkins
(Image credit: Rex Features)

Specsavers boss, Dame Mary Perkins, becomes Britain's first female self-made billionaire

Not many women can claim to have made a fortune out spectacles, but Dame Mary Perkins is no ordinary woman. The founder of Specsavers has joined this year’s Sunday Times Rich List as the first female self-made billionaire, with an estimated family fortune of £1.15 billion.

Women now make up 105 of the nation’s wealthiest 1,000 people. Female property developer Xiuli Hawken, 48, has been ranked the highest self-made female entry with her £1.06billion fortune, while Dame Mary, 67, is the sixth richest woman in the UK.

Unlike many other women in the rich list who won their place through divorce settlements, Xiuli and Dame Mary earned their place through hard work and entrepreneurship.

Dame Mary is known for her hands on approach to the business, which is owned entirely by the family, and refuses to get carried away by vast sums of money. ‘There is only a certain amount you can spend, isn’t there?’ she says.

Perkins founded the eye-care company, Specsavers, with her husband in 1984 after spotting an opportunity for a new way of selling spectacles when the government relaxed regulations and allowed opticians to advertise.

Rumoured to have started the business at a table-tennis table in their spare room, the couple planned Specsaver's strategy of marketing fashionable glasses at affordable prices. The company now has more than 1,555 stores across 10 countries. Dame Mary is also patron of the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards - the organisation that helps women in business and partnered Marie Claire's sexism in the workplace survey.

If you want to join the ranks of the leading ladies in the UK then apply for our Inspire and Mentor scheme and make your dreams a reality.