Although the fight for women’s rights and equality has made great progress, women still have a long way to go when it comes to business ownership. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, only 36 percent of privately-held companies are owned by women. But women-led companies can be great moneymakers; the latest data from the NAWBO shows businesses run by women generate $1.7 trillion in sales.
We looked at seven extraordinary female founders who have taken their companies to the next level.
Founder of the trendy beauty brand Glossier, 33-year-old Emily Weiss launched her company in 2014 with the vision to shake up the beauty industry. Weiss’ direct-to-consumer beauty business first debuted with four products but has since exploded to feature dozens of skincare and makeup products. In fact, the e-commerce company expanded its reach by opening brick-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles and Chicago in August. The company recently closed a round of $52 million in Series C funding led by investors IVP and Index Ventures.
But most of the Glossier’s success could be traced back to Weiss’ highly popular beauty blog, “Into the Gloss,” which she started in 2010 and became the inspiration for Glossier. The company has resonated with millennials and celebs alike for its nod to simplicity and its dedication to empowering the customer.
After experiencing difficulty helping a bride-to-be, Kellee Khalil wanted to start a business after realizing there was a need to help newlyweds more easily plan their big day. In-comes Loverly, a company that provides multiple resources for couples planning on tying the knot soon. From possible wedding destinations, food, comprehensive style guides and planners, Loverly is blossoming into one of the go-to wedding sites for modern couples.
Founded in 2011, the company has raised $7 million in venture funding from several investors including, Comcast, Montage Ventures and Female Founder Fund.
3. The Flex Company
The Flex Company was birthed from the idea of Lauren Schulte who wanted to create a company that developed more health-conscious and hygienic feminine products. Customers can order a set of feminine products every month customized to fit the uniqueness of their menstrual cycles. For instance, the starter kit is $15 and comes with 40 Flex tampons and access to a “Flexpert.” The company has been praised by investors for tackling a sensitive issue, and its innovation and thoughtfulness surrounding feminine products.
“It became very clear that it was such a broadly usable product by women all over the world that I felt that it was such a huge opportunity to disrupt something that is currently an uncomfortable experience,” Cyan Banister, partner at Founders Fund and a Flex investor.
Since it was founded in 2015, the Flex Company has raised more than $7 million, with $6 million of that coming from a round of funding completed in October 2018.
Co-founded by Lauren Behrens Wu, Shippo is a service that provides different shipping carriers and discounted shipping rates for retailers, e-commerce sites and more. Wu wanted to create a company that simplified the logistics of setting up a business after she experienced some pain points while finalizing the shipping process for her own e-commerce business. With Shippo, any customer can compare shipping rates between UPS, FedEx and more. The company, which is based in San Francisco, has more than 35,000 customers, including eBay, beauty brand Ipsy and Martha Stewart.
In 2017, Shippo raised $20 million in a Series B round of funding — the largest for the company so far — thanks in part to Bessemer Venture Partners, Union Square Ventures, Soft Tech VC. In total, the company has raised nearly $30 million since its inception in 2013.
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Launched in 2017 by Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, Brandless is a company that prides itself on making quality products that are more accessible and affordable. It does so by relying on direct communication with customers and removing markups — like distribution costs and shelf stocking — that are usually covered by the consumer indirectly. Brandless offers more than 300 products including household cleaners, food, drinks and beauty products. Each item sells for $3. The startup uses a team of researchers to curate some of the best high-quality products to present to customers.
The e-commerce company has raised more than $290 million, securing $240 million from investors back in July 2018 as part of a series C round of funding. The integrity of the company and Sharkey’s own reputable past might have secured investors’ trust. Sharkey formerly served as the global chairman of BabyCenter, a Johnson & Johnson company, and she currently sits as a member on the Board of Directors for Ipsy and Brit + Co.
6. Verge Genomics
Verge Genomics is a company dedicated to finding a cure for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). It was co-founded by Princeton University graduate, Alice Zhang, in 2015, who was recently named as a Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 Featured Honoree.
“I founded Verge, really, on the vision of building the first pharmaceutical company that could really develop rapidly multiple transformative treatments for patients, and the ultimate goal for us is to build a scalable drug discovery engine that automates the discovery of cures across every human disease personalized for each patient,” Zhang told Forbes.
In total, Verge Genomics has raised $36.1 million, landing $30 million in its latest round of Series A funding in July from several prominent investors including the ALS Investment Fund, WuXi and Great Oaks Venture Capital.
Founded by former Google employee Laurel Taylor in 2015, FutureFuel.io is a millennial-focused company dedicated to rapidly reducing student debt by teaming up with employers to implement and keep student debt repayment and refinancing plans into their employee handbooks. According to its website, FutureFuel.io’s mission is to empower former students and eliminate $30 billion worth of student debt by 2021.
“Users today prefer student debt repayment over food, foosball, and a 401(k),” Taylor told Business Insider. “What we see, in general, is that 50 percent of employees opt-out of their 401(k). They’re saying, ‘My student debt is crushing. I have to pay down my debt first.'” According to a recent survey by CNBC, 45 percent of employees would prefer that their employer put $200 toward paying off their student debt over saving for retirement if that were an option.
Headquartered in Boston, FutureFuel.io has only had one round of funding, raising $1.6 million.
Click through to read about billion-dollar companies that were started in garages.
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