Celebrating Female Founders: How These 7 Women-Owned Businesses Found Success
More women than ever are blazing the entrepreneurial trail: According to one recent study, women own more than 11.6 million firms in the U.S. alone. Those businesses employ more than 9 million workers and contribute a whopping $1.7 trillion in revenue to the economy.
This isn’t just a passing trend, either — the historic growth isn’t set to slow down anytime soon. After all, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. jumped an incredible 45% in less than a decade, which is progress worthy of celebration.
With so many talented women founding companies, there are innumerable stories of female entrepreneurs creating a company or product out of thin air. But, because March is Women’s History Month, we’re happy to highlight and celebrate just a few of these inspiring female entrepreneurs.
Their stories of creativity, community, and courage in the face of adversity will motivate you, and maybe even inspire you to start your own entrepreneur journey.
Black Girls RUN!
Left to Right: Ashley Hicks-Rocha and Toni Carey
Founded by college friends Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks-Rocha, Black Girls RUN! has a membership of over 150,000 and hosts over 70 running groups across the country. The organization has enjoyed a steady stream of press, even catching the attention of Oprah.
Through their online store, this powerful pair has funded their dream of impacting obesity rates in America and selling Black Girls RUN! merchandise to women proud to represent the community that changed their lives.
“When we decided to launch the running groups, we saw an opportunity to start monetizing the business. It just went viral. That's when we started ramping up production of our merchandise, which has been really how we've sustained the organization for this long.”
Mommy Sauce was born out of a love of cooking and family. Encouraged by her son, a renowned chef, Jai Nam “Mommy” Choi built a business of her own, selling her secret recipes to the world.
Her love of food and cooking was there since childhood. Growing up in a family of 11 kids, she says they “were always eating!” After immigrating to America, she met her husband, and his palette and background differed significantly from hers. So, she combined her Korean cooking style with American foods.
“My husband and I worked very hard seven days a week doing every job that came our way so that we could support our family, but every night, we looked forward to our family meals at home. Food is a big part of our lives and that is why I think my son became such a famous chef!”
Image: R. Riveter
When it comes to having an impact, entrepreneurs can ensure they make a real difference by baking it right into their business. And that’s precisely what this mission-based accessories manufacturer did.
Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse are the founders of R. Riveter: a company that employs military spouses to make handmade leather and canvas handbags, jewelry, and other fashion accessories. The pair has created an expansive network of independent manufacturers across the U.S., so the spouses they employ can create their accessories no matter where they live.
“[We] wanted to start this company to create a sense of community for military spouses, create mobile flexible income, and just be a positive force for the military community.”
Pop Up Plus
Camille Newman, a first-generation American originally from Jamaica, learned the value of hard work by building her dream without help from family or friends. She funded her business with savings, pitch competitions, and micro-loans.
Pop Up Plus, Camille’s ecommerce fashion business, sells dresses and confidence to plus-size women. Funding held her back from opening a permanent retail store with New York’s sky-high commercial leases, but she wasn’t deterred: she instead launched with a pop-up model, and later sold her products online.
Her apparel brand for sizes 14+, which encompasses a successful ecommerce store and pop-up shop, was born out of Camille’s own struggle with body image and shopping for her size.
“I had always been a curvy girl, particularly in college, the freshman 15 became the freshman 70. While I was searching for clothing everywhere, I discovered that not only did I gain a lot of weight, but retailers at that time weren't catering to my size. I remember the awful feeling I felt when I was stuck in the fitting room and nothing fit. That’s when I decided that no other woman should ever be made to feel that horrible ever again.”
Image: Jaswant’s Kitchen Facebook
When Jaswant Kular’s daughters moved away from home, they realized they hadn’t absorbed their mother’s natural gift for cooking authentic Indian cuisine. But Jaswant, also called “Jesse” by customers, knew there had to be a way to simplify the process for them.
Jaswant looked for solutions that would allow her daughters to create homestyle Indian meals, but what she found were products full of fillers, artificial ingredients, and lots of fat. Jaswant’s Kitchen was born from a realization that healthier, more authentic options were needed.
Jaswant’s Kitchen — a source for spice blends and simplified takes on traditional South Asian recipes — had its start at a food show, where positive responses urged them to forge ahead. From there, Jaswant teamed up with her daughters to build a now-blossoming meal kit business. Aside from their online store, the brand is now represented by 30 local retailers and have plans to expand into other parts of Canada and the U.S.
“Working together with my daughters as women entrepreneurs gives me a great sense of pride and personal satisfaction,” Jaswant says, “I have always believed it and tried to instill this thought in my children that you can do anything you set your mind to and that nothing is impossible.”
Bird + Stone
The only thing better than beautiful jewelry is beautiful jewelry that contributes to a better future. And in the case of online accessories brand Bird + Stone, the future is definitely female.
Launched in 2013 by Elana Reinholtz, Bird + Stone is a New York City-based startup that raises funds and awareness for organizations aimed at building an equal world. It’s driven by the idea that every consumer can be a micro-philanthropist and create change by leveraging their purchasing power to fight for equality for all.
Although CEO/“chief dreamer” and founder Reinholtz, always felt the pull to support causes close to her heart, she officially launched Bird + Stone after spending time in Kenya on a volunteer mission.
“I was working in a corporate job after college when I was 24. After finding financial security, it took me about a year to feel as if I wasn’t contributing to anything positive in society. I was matched with a program in rural Kenya with 70 widowed women that were rebuilding their lives through entrepreneurship. I was on the ground going from village to village on foot or on a moped, teaching basic accounting and business skills — sometimes in a hut, sometimes outside with the content nailed to a tree. I checked up on the microloans the women were getting as part of this program: seeing how the loan changed their life, [helped them increase] their income by four times, and allowed them to expand their business and afford things like fresh water and healthcare for the first time.”
It’s the selfie era and we’re just living in it.
Striving for the perfect selfie-ready complexion is what drove founder Priscilla Tsai to launch Cocokind back in November 2014. Her mission was to provide clean, conscious, and accessible skincare that empowers women.
“I’ve dealt with hormonal acne since I was a teenager. When I was in college, my dermatologist put me on antibiotics and spironolactone, and I took those pills daily for years. When I graduated, however, I started having major digestive issues, and I realized that there may have been a link between my acne medicine and my stomach problems,” Tsai explains.
The vegan skincare brand is also part of a movement encouraging women to love their skin and show it off on social media (hopefully, with #NoFilter). And Cocokind walks the “clean” talk: Its products are certified organic and socially conscious, and made from virgin coconut oil as well as plant-based superfoods.