“I regard myself as a classic example of the American dream. What does this really mean? Simply defined, it was about understanding a need in the marketplace and devising a product that would fill that need. It was about hard work. It was stressful, and there were many sacrifices.” ~ Christel DeHaan, Cofounder of Resort Condominiums International

Summary: Christel DeHaan is a corporate executive, co-founder, and philanthropist. Although she grew up struggling in post-World War II Germany, in 1996, she became one of the wealthiest women in the United States at the age of fifty-four. She co-founded the timeshare pioneer Resort Condominiums International in 1974 along with her ex-husband Jon. She sold her company Resort Condominiums International (RCI) for $825 million. From that time to now she devoted herself to philanthropy.

Nationality: German

Industry: Travel Management

Q: What are some management initiatives of which you are the proudest? on forbes.com

A: I came here with almost nothing and I’ll always have a grateful heart toward America for the opportunities that it’s provided me. And I wanted to pay it forward. During the Great Recession of 2008, armed with strong cash flow from the privately-held company, my husband and I opened more stores and aimed to create 7,000 jobs within a year. At an annual prayer meeting with office employees, we announced plans to focus not only on sales and profit but on increasing jobs–a goal we successfully met.