Think there aren’t enough women entrepreneurs doing incredible work in the world? You are right. We need far more — however, while we can easily focus on the negative statistics, I think it’s crucial that we focus on the positive instead. There are so many women creating groundbreaking businesses and making an impact in the world in seriously powerful ways. The more we support them, the more women will be inspired to start their own ventures and take smart risks to reach their goals too.
Here are 12 entrepreneurs who I am proud to know personally and am hugely inspired by. Follow their work, read their stories, learn about their missions and let’s support them on their journey.
1. Rosario Dawson & Abrima Erwiah, Co-Founders of Studio 189
Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah are the founders of Studio One Eighty Nine, a social enterprise headquartered in Ghana, West Africa, and the United States. Dawson and Erwiah were inspired by many African men and women who expressed a desire to establish independence through an education and dignified job. With the goal of creating jobs and supporting education through the power of fashion, the brand provides a platform to promote African content and brands. The first collection launched on February 14th, 2013 in honor of One Billion Rising.
Favorite Quote: Let’s turn challenges on the ground into opportunities!
2. Natasha Case, CEO of Coolhaus
Natasha Case founded Coolhaus in 2009 with Freya Estreller after years spent working in architecture at Walt Disney Imagineering. They launched their architecturally-inspired, unique ice cream sandwich company from their barely drive-able postal van at the Coachella Music Festival to an audience of 100,000. They built a loyal following over the festival weekend and returned to LA to an abundance of viral press, a rapidly building social media following and an eager foodie audience.
Since then, Natasha has been named a Forbes 30 under 30 Food & Beverage, Zagat 30 Under 30, Linked in 10 under 35 for Food & Leisure, as well as being featured in many national publications and radio like Cosmo, Dwell and NPR, and TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped, Barefoot Contessa, Unique Sweets, Good Morning America, King of Cones, Andy Cohen Live and many more. The company has become one of the leading innovative small dessert businesses, growing significantly to include four trucks and two storefronts in LA, two trucks and one cart in NYC, and four trucks in Dallas, Texas.
Moreover, consumers can now find Coolhaus’ pre-packaged ice cream sandwiches, hand-dipped bars, and hand-packed pints in 4,000+ gourmet grocery stores nationally, including Whole Foods and Sprouts, and larger retailers like Kroger and Safeway, and now internationally in Asia and the Middle East. Today Natasha works as the CEO of Coolhaus, creating new product opportunities from development to design, building new relationships and innovating ideas that keep Coolhaus on top of its game as zealous expansion continues.
Favorite Quote: “You can walk through a wall when you don’t know it’s there.” – Unknown
3. Kimberly Steward, Producer
Kimberly Steward founded her first company when she was 19 and today is a highly successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and producer.
In 2013 she created K Period Media, which develops, finances and produces story-driven and thought-provoking content and it is Steward’s mission to discover diverse new voices and launch the careers of next-generation talent, on both sides of the camera. K Period Media’s releases to date include the noted documentaries Opposite Fields, about the first entrants from Africa to compete in the Little League World Series; Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, which examines African- Americans’ long history with photography; and the forthcoming Looking for Terry, chronicling the efforts of inner-city students to train for the daunting Fordham Law Moot Court. Also in the pipeline is Conversion, a feature drama whose script made the film industry’s heralded “Black List” of the best un-produced screenplays in 2012.
Favorite Quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
4. Sarah Brokaw, Author
Sarah is a licensed psychotherapist and philanthropist who authored the New York Times bestseller, “Fortytude: Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life—through the 40s, 50s and Beyond.” Sarah believes that education is a lifelong pursuit both within and outside the classroom and has specialized training in working with families and couples. She’s even conducted group therapy for individuals who either worked in the World Trade Center or were nearby during the 9/11 attacks.
Inspired by the remarkable women she has met on her journey, Sarah initiated a discussion series in which women of diverse backgrounds could meet, share and support each other in achieving their professional and personal goals at www.sarahbrokaw.com. Most recently as a new mother herself, Sarah created another series called Wise Women of LA, in which women who have become parents or are contemplating becoming parents gather together to share their collective wisdom to help each other find their own answers. They motivate and inspire each other to find new approaches to handling the complex issues surrounding motherhood.
An active philanthropist, Sarah has traveled extensively — including Rwanda, Bosnia and Haiti — and always encourages women to harness their internal power and pursue their goals. She currently serves on the board of Equality Now, an organization whose aim is to end violence and discrimination against women around the world.
Favorite Quote: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely.” – Unknown
5. Cynthia Johnson, CEO & Co-Founder at Ipseity
As a marketing professional, author and keynote speaker, Cynthia Johnson is considered one of the top female entrepreneurs in tech. She was Managing Partner & Director of Marketing for RankLab, a digital marketing agency listed in Inc. Magazine’s “Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2015.” In July of 2015 RankLab was acquired by American Addiction Centers and Cynthia worked as their Director of Brand Development. She is the CEO & Co-Founder at Ipseity Media and is on the advisory board for two startups, nGage.social and NAIAD. She is a Forbes Agency Council and Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC) member and a columnist. Cynthia’s work has been published in Forbes, Huffington Post, TIME and Entrepreneur.
Favorite Quote: “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.” – Joan Didion
6. Heather Hasson & Trina Spear, Co-Founders of FIGS
Heather Hasson and Trina Spear are the co-founders of FIGS – a brand revolutionizing the antiquated $10 billion medical apparel industry through its use of beautifully soft and technical fabrics that are tailored to perfection. FIGS medical apparel is anti-microbial, wrinkle resistant, stain repellent, lint free and utilizes four way stretch. Through its customer-centric, vertically integrated e-commerce platform, FIGS has transformed the way medical professionals shop.
Through its threads for threads initiative, for every set of scrubs sold, FIGS gives a set to a healthcare provider in need. They have donated over 100,000 sets of scrubs in 32 countries. The company has raised over $10 million in capital from a great group of tech investors including Campfire Capital, JH Partners, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Irving Place Capital, Raptor Ventures, Karlin Ventures, Riverwood Capital, 500 Startups, Suffolk Equity Partners, the Milken Family, Will Smith, Peter Morton, Steve Tisch, and John Fisher.
Favorite Quote: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…” – Theodore Roosevelt
7. Aviva Romm, MD, Author and Wellness Expert
Referred to as “the face of natural medicine in the 21st century” by Prevention Magazine and named one of the “100 Women to Watch in Wellness” by Mind Body Green, Aviva Romm, MD has bridged the best of traditional medicine with good science for over three decades.
A midwife, herbalist and Yale-trained MD, Board Certified in Family Medicine with Obstetrics, as well as a graduate of Dr. Weil’s Integrative Medicine Residency (University of Arizona), Dr. Romm’s focus is on the impact of stress on health, willpower, food cravings, weight, chronic disease and hormone imbalance in women — as well as the prevention of chronic disease in children’s health, with an emphasis on reducing unnecessary antibiotic use.
She is an avid environmental health advocate, researching and publishing on the impact of toxins on fertility, pregnancy, women’s hormones and chronic illness in women and children. Dr. Romm is one of the nation’s leaders in botanical medicine and is the author of seven books on natural medicine, including the textbook “Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health” (Elsevier) and her latest book “The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution” (Harper One, Jan 2017). She is the author of the integrative medicine curriculum for the Yale Internal Medicine and Pediatric Residencies, and is on numerous scientific advisory and editorial boards, including Prevention Magazine.
Favorite Quote: “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” – Chinese Proverb
8. Marina Krim, Co-founder Lulu & Leo Fund and Choose Creativity
Leveraging her experience as a teacher, artist and entrepreneur, Marina turned the tragic loss of two of her children into an inspirational movement called Choose Creativity. Based on the Ten Principles of Creativity and the SuperArtist curriculum that Marina developed, Choose Creativity gives children, families and communities facing adversity the tools and creative confidence to survive and thrive. Initially, Marina served as a kindergarten teacher in California public schools and later created and taught innovative children’s art classes for the non-profit Hippo Playground Association at Riverside Park in NYC. She’s also founded several creative businesses.
Favorite Quote: “Art is not a thing; it is a way.” – Elbert Hubbard
9. Darrah Brustein, Founder of Network Under 40
Darrah’s first venture began in 2009 when she partnered with her twin brother to start Equitable Payments, a merchant services brokerage, which now spans 38 states and connects small businesses with the best credit card processing solution for their needs. In 2011, Darrah’s second venture was born when she was approached by friends and colleagues who lamented the challenges of making friends after college. She began to host events for them to meet other young professionals in environments where they could be themselves and kickstart new friendships and business contacts. It wasn’t long before Network Under 40 was born.
The networking organization operates in Atlanta, Baltimore, DC, and Nashville, with additional cities on the horizon and an over-40 division was also launched in 2014. Darrah also identified a pressing need to teach children sound financial habits. So, she authored Finance Whiz Kids, a series of kids books that teach elementary-aged children the basics of financial literacy through fun illustrated stories.
Favorite Quote: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right.” -Henry Ford
10. Sophie Lovejoy, Founder of Sant and Abel
Australian pajama designer Sophie Lovejoy has always been a risk taker. Whether it was running a booming lemonade stand at seven or breaking into the cutthroat TV producer game in New York, the ambitious South Australian never backed down from a challenge. After spending 10 years in the TV industry, Sophie launched a luxury sleepwear company, Sant and Abel.
What began as an online store on the side whilst working in TV, soon became her full time job and a household name in Australia. Within two years of launching, Sophie moved her HQ to LA to take on the much bigger American market. With few contacts in the US, Sophie kept persevering and is now stocked at the top boutiques and hotels all over the US. Most recently she created a 17-piece collection exclusively for the Beverly Hills Hotel in their iconic Martinique print, which, within moments of launching, was endorsed by the Kardashians and subsequently many other celebrities. Sophie is also a guest lecturer each term to the Entrepreneur students at UCLA’s Anderson Business School.
Favorite Quote: My mom has always said “perseverance is the key to success”, and she’s right!
11. Lauren Roxburgh, Author, Presenter and Alignment Specialist
Named the “Body Alignment Pro” by Vogue, and dubbed “The Body Whisperer” by Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop.com, Lauren Roxburgh is an international presenter and author of ‘Taller, Slimmer, Younger – 21 Days to a Foam Roller Physique.” Lauren’s method is designed to improve posture, release tension and stress, activate and strengthen the core and intrinsic muscles. She is also the go-to writer and expert on all things fascia, alignment, movement and foam rolling. Roxburgh currently offers private sessions in her Santa Monica studio, and is launching a wellness transformation program in 2017 that includes meal plans, workouts and all the other tips and tricks you need to get your body and life aligned.
Favorite Quote: ” The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his or her patient in the care of the human frame, in proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” -Thomas Edison
12. Denise Paredes, Social Entrepreneur
Ecuadorean American Denise Paredes has a passion for social issues and her ideal world is one where everyone has a fair chance at living a healthy and fulfilling life. This view is what led her to start Equal Uprise a year ago, a socially conscious accessories and home decor brand. Denise immigrated from Ecuador to the United States at age 13 and it was a defining moment in her life that led her to establish Equal Uprise, a company that produces ethically made goods for the modern dweller produced by artisans in Ecuador and Tunisia.
The company also has a dual impact model- they provide jobs for artisans in Ecuador and Tunisia while also investing back into the artisans businesses to give them a fruitful future and exposure to the global market. While she’s not working on the endless to-do list required to run a social enterprise, you can find her making up dance routines in her kitchen as she cooks dinner or hiking in the mountains.
Favorite Quote: “Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence.” – Frida Khalo
Featured Image via Denise Paredes