ANY day of the year is the perfect time to recognize the outstanding achievements of all of the amazing female entrepreneurs out there, especially when there’s more than 126 million of us starting or running new businesses around the world.
But I thought International Women’s Day today provided a unique opportunity to champion the growing number of female entrepreneurs running businesses with a mission to empower other women.
Following are ten inspiring female founders whose social-impact business models support women around the world – along with their expert advice for fellow female entrepreneurs.
Miki Agrawal – Co-Founder & CEO of THINX
THINX was originally founded by Miki Agrawal, her twin sister Radha Agrawal and Antonia Dunbar (Miki is currently CEO) to provide an innovative underwear solution for women and help the estimated 100 million girls in the developing world falling behind in school – just because of their periods.
Every pair of THINX underwear features their award-winning, patented ‘period proof’ technology and proceeds from each purchase go to AFRIpads, a social business in Uganda that manufactures and sells cost-effective, reusable sanitary pads.
As the CEO of THINX, Miki has become a popular advocate for women’s issues and offers the following advice for female entrepreneurs:
“My best piece of advice – and all of my employees know it, it’s a daily mantra – is iteration is perfection. I think people get so caught up in being perfect, especially young women who are starting to get more interested in being entrepreneurs.
I always say put the minimum viable product out to market, get feedback, and iterate, iterate, iterate. The perfection is in the iteration and it’s not in getting it perfect and right – it’ll never be perfect.”
(For more on Miki’s startup journey and the story behind THINX, check out the full interview on globesprouting).
Nur-E Gulshan Rahman & Nur-E Farhana Rahman – Co-Founders, Knotty Gal
Knotty Gal was founded by mother and daughter duo Nur-E Gulshan Rahman and Nur-E Farhana Rahman after a visit to the Bhandari Girls’ School in Bogra, Bangladesh which revealed overcrowded classrooms, lack of educational materials, and an overall lack of resources.
Proceeds from the purchase of their one-of-a-kind knotted accessories (handmade by Mama Rahman herself) directly benefit the Bhandari Girls’ School.
For fellow female entrepreneurs faced with the challenges of starting a social impact business, Nur-E Farhana Rahman offers the following inspirational advice:
“Don’t give up! I can’t stress this enough. Talent and intelligence are great, but they mean very little without perseverance.
In an entrepreneurial journey, setbacks are guaranteed, whether big or small, but you have to move past them and take them as lessons learned. I know how difficult this can be, but when I get discouraged, I try to remind myself of our larger purpose with Knotty Gal.”
Lisa Curtis – Founder, Kuli Kuli Foods
Lisa Curtis founded Kuli Kuli Foods to help women in West Africa after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger. As a vegetarian, Lisa started adding the plant-based morniga superfood to her diet as a protein source during her time there and realised the potential to sell it in the American market upon her return to the U.S.
Kuli Kuli foods works with women-led farming cooperatives all over the world to drive economic growth, women’s empowerment, and sustainable agricultural practices.
As someone that knows what it takes to turn a good idea into a great business, Lisa offers the following advice for women looking to do the same:
“Use your femininity to your advantage. Female entrepreneurs are inherently more interesting to the public as we’re a rarer breed. Make friends with the media and with your clients and work with them to help tell your story to the world.”
Kristen Dickerson – Founder, Raven + Lily
Kristen Dickerson began Raven + Lily to help alleviate poverty among women. Today they employ over 1,500 marginalised women at fair trade wages to provide access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
A certified B Corporation, their global commitment empowers women in countries including Ethiopia, India, Cambodia, Kenya, USA, Guatemala, Pakistan, Malaysia and Haiti.
A successful purpose-driven entrepreneur, Kristen’s top tips for female entrepreneurs include:
“Use your natural contacts and networks to find a few trusted mentors to guide you – mine have been invaluable. I didn’t have time to go back to school, so I was able to learn on the job with the advice of several experienced entrepreneurs. I listened to, and applied, their knowledge, which has helped tremendously.
“Don’t ever compromise what makes you passionate about what you are doing, no matter what.”
“Take time to unplug, dream and rest. You and your company will be better for it.”
Ella Peinovich, Gwendolyn Floyd & Catherine Mahugu – Co-Founders, Soko
Soko was founded by Ella Peinovich, Gwendolyn Floyd and Catherine Mahugu on the belief that innovation can empower women, connect markets and foster opportunities that change lives. Their mobile tools provide artisans with the opportunity to improve their livelihood by disrupting the traditional supply chain, and connecting them directly with market demand around the world.
On average, artisans increase their income by a factor of 4x within two months of joining Soko. To date, they’ve helped more than 1,000 artisans, from predominantly female enterprises, generate a total of $400,000 in income across 30 countries.
Catalina Girald & Gina Rodriguez – Co-Founders, Naja
Instead of objectifying women, Catalina and Gina’s mission with Naja is to help empower them through special programs that support female garment workers and marginalized women living in the slums of Colombia.
Naja’s garment factory primarily employs single mothers or female heads of households where they are paid above market wages with healthcare benefits. In addition, Naja also pays for school books, school supplies, uniforms and school meals for their children.
Through their Underwear for Hope program, Naja also employs women in the slums of Colombia to make lingerie bags, empowering these marginalized women to become ‘mico-entrepreneurs.’