Though 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, just 39% of all privately held companies are owned by women. Yet women-led companies can be great moneymakers; the latest data from the NAWBO shows businesses run by women generate $1.7 trillion in sales.
GoBankingRates looked at eight extraordinary female founders who have taken their companies to the next level.
36-year-old Emily Weiss formed the trendy beauty brand Glossier company in 2014. Her vision? To shake up the beauty industry. Weiss’ direct-to-consumer beauty business debuted with four products but has since exploded to feature dozens of skincare and makeup products. The e-commerce company expanded its reach by opening brick-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles and Chicago. Though these stores were shuttered due the pandemic, Glossier has since opened a location in Seattle and is set to re-open its LA store later this year. The company recently closed a round of $80M in funding as it eyes a vast international expansion. Glossier’s London store is expected to open soon.
Most of Glossier’s success can be traced back to Weiss’ highly popular beauty blog, “Into the Gloss,” launched in 2010. The company has strongly resonated with millennials and celebs alike for its nod to simplicity and its dedication to empowering the customer.
Upon experiencing difficulty helping a bride-to-be plan her big day, serial entrepreneur Kellee Khalil wanted to start a business. She carried out her wish by founding Lover.ly, a company that provides resources for couples planning on tying the knot soon. From possible wedding destinations, food, comprehensive style guides and planners, Lover.ly 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.
The Flex Company
The Flex Company was founded by Lauren Schulte Wang, who wanted to create a business 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. 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,” said Cyan Banister, partner at Founders Fund and a Flex investor.
Since it was founded in 2015, the Flex Company has raised $7.7 million, with $6 million of that coming from a round of funding completed in October 2018.
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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 70,000 customers, including eBay, beauty brand Ipsy and Martha Stewart.
In June, Shippo raised $50 million in funding – the largest for the company so far — which enabled it to be valued at $1 billion.
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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 than competitors. 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. The startup uses a team of researchers to curate some of the best high-quality products to present to customers.
In August, the e-commerce company raised $118 million in a mega funding round led by Clarke Capital Partners, which acquired Brandless in 2020, among other corporate and institutional investors. 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 sits as a member on the Board of Directors for Ipsy and Brit + Co, and on the board of PBS.
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. Zhang was named as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Featured Honoree in 2017.
“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 in their employee handbooks. According to its website, FutureFuel.io’s mission is to empower former students and abolish student debt.
“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 raised 25.8 million in funding, securing $10 million last March.
Girls Who Code
Founded in 2011 by Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code was designed to break glass ceilings (and walls) in tech by providing young women with the skills and resources to succeed in computer science and engineering.
A decade later, the nonprofit is thriving, having raised a total of $7.1 million. Investors include Walmart, Lyft and Uber, among others. Girls Who Code is also well-respected in the tech community, having partnered with Adobe, IBM and Amazon, to name but a few.
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Nicole Spector contributed to the reporting for this article.
Last updated: Aug. 26, 2021