51 years old Zhou Qunfei is the CEO of Lens Technology Co. Ltd, a company that manufactures and sells touch screens for Pcs and mobile devices, camera lenses and several other protective glass and metal accessory products.
Lens Technology has an enviable number of tech giants on its customer list and according to Forbes, the company was worth $19.7 billion as of May 2021.
A run-through of Zhou Qunfei’s early years
A citizen of Hong Kong, Zhou was born in 1970 into a poor family in the Hunan Province of Central China. A skilled but handicapped craftsman, her father supported the family by making bamboo baskets and chairs and repairing bicycles. She lost her mother at the age of five.
By age 16, Zhou had lost both parents and dropped out of school. She travelled south to live with her uncle in Guangdong Province and picked up a job as an assembly line worker in a watch lens factory. At night, Zhou attended part-time accounting classes at Shenzhen University and hoped to someday own a business. At around age 23, her dream of owning a business materialised after the watch factory where she worked folded up.
The beginning of Lens Technology
In 1993, armed with a $2,500 savings and valuable technical skills from her previous job, Zhou Qunfei started her first business making watch lenses. Over the next 10 years and with help from members of her family, she built a successful lens company that employed over 1000 workers.
“I have encountered many difficulties and setbacks as an entrepreneur,” she recalled in an interview, citing perseverance as the reason behind her success. Her big break came when she won a contract to make glass screens for Motorola in 2003. The timing couldn’t have been more auspicious as the mobile devices industry was making a shift from plastic to glass display screens around the period.
The deal with Motorola set the ball rolling for other big businesses to come through for Zhou’s company. Mobile phone giants like HTC, Nokia, and Samsung contacted her for screen manufacturing contracts. In 2007, Apple picked Lens as the supplier of its keyboard-enabled glass touchscreen. The company’s clientele has since expanded to include other big names like LG, Microsoft, Huawei and Tesla.
Zhou took Lens Technology public in March 2015, listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company employs tens of thousands of workers across China and was worth $19.7 billion as of May 2021, according to Forbes.
Zhou Qunfei’s net worth
Zhou Qunfei is generally recognised as one of the world’s richest self-made women. She is currently worth $15 billion at the time of writing this article.
It is said that industry players refer to Zhou as “Brother Fei” because of her tenacity. In one interview, she said this about staying the course of one’s pursuit:
“…When you give up halfway, you won’t have the courage to come back and start from the bottom all over again. Only when we persist, can we succeed. Don’t give up because of a little setback.”
Zhou was the 25th richest person in China in 2020. This year, she features at #131 on Forbes Billionaires List.