Founder and chief executive, Curtis Financial Planning

“Forge your own path.”

After a 19-year career in food and packaged goods, Cathy Curtis was tired of the corporate world and “bad bosses.” Marrying her passion for personal finance and her desire to be an entrepreneur, she studied to become a certified financial planner and set up shop as a solo registered investment adviser in 2001. Curtis acknowledges that the early years were a struggle but says helping people was more important to her than making money.

Her decision to focus on helping women coincided with the rising popularity of social media, and she became an early adopter, giving freely of her time to educate women seeking financial advice as well as those interested in a career in financial advice. Today, she writes an award-winning blog, has a widely followed Twitter feed and is a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council, in addition to teaching personal finance at Mills College in her hometown of Oakland, California.

— Evan Cooper