All demographics are on the rise in entrepreneurship, with 53% Shopify store owners identifying themselves as women. Hurrah!
However, independent business growth is not an easy task for women. One obvious problem is the funding bias. Men are twice as likely to be founders of independent businesses to receive funding from banks. Systemic problems are less obvious. One example is that family responsibilities are more heavily borne by women than on men. The pandemic has highlighted this.
It’s not all bad news. Despite these grim statistics, many women business owners have and continue to thrive. Despite the grim statistics, many women business owners have been able to thrive.
We are proud to highlight the achievements of a few female entrepreneurs over the past year. These are the best examples of entrepreneurship, from household names like Phenomenal Women to a true Italian nonna who runs virtual cooking classes.
1. Nonna Live
Nonna Nerina, an 84-year old grandmother, hosted cooking classes with Chiara, her granddaughter, before the pandemic hit her small village outside Rome. They enjoyed sharing Nonna’s pasta-making secrets and stories from Old World Italy with curious tourists who came in large numbers to take Nonna’s classes.
Brent Freeman, Stealth Ventures’s tourist coordinator, was one such person. He never forgot that soul-warming experience. Nonna and Chiara were devastated by the pandemic and had to turn to Brent for help. He set up their ecommerce website on Shopify in less than two hours, nonna live. Nonna is now reaching a global audience, having been featured on Today and Eating Well (to name just a few). Nonna Live sells the preferred ingredients and supplies for cooking, in addition to offering private and public virtual classes.
Denise Woodward was shocked to learn that her daughter had severe food allergies. She struggled to find gluten-free baking products that tasted as good as regular baked goods. Denise tried many recipes until she finally found the one she loved.
Partake Foods was born. It sells non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan cookies that are free from the allergens. Her journey wasn’t without challenges. She faced over 80 rejections by investors before she was able to secure a multimillion-dollar deal with Jay-Z. During the pandemic, she struggled to balance her business and caretaking responsibilities.
Denise, a 5-year-old girl, answers the question, “To look at her in the eye and tell her that I started this company because ‘I love and want something better for’. Then, to quit because people rejected me…I couldn’t do it.”
Jovana Mullins was fashion designer who had a passion for social work and volunteering after work hours. She discovered a way to bring her two worlds together through entrepreneurship. She was inspired to make clothing from their art while volunteering to teach art to autistic students. That’s what she sells with her brand Alivia.
Alivia is a voice for people with disabilities and shares their stories and work on every piece of clothing that the brand sells. Jovana explains that the QR code is on the hang tag and inside the garment. “You can scan it and learn more about the artists, as well as their original artwork,” Jovana says. Alivia pays the artists to license their work. 10% of each sale goes to the support organization.
Jovana quickly switched to pajamas when the pandemic struck, and many of us swapped dresses for sweatpants. Jovana has had her ups, downs over the past two years. But Alivia thrived because of her social-driven mission.
4. Breast cancer community trailblazers
Sometimes it takes a survivor or two to see the great opportunities. We interview three breast cancer survivors who have created products for a community that has unique needs. They are breast cancer survivors aged under 40.
These women bring a new level of awareness to their communities, from designing intimates to support patients who have had reconstructive surgery to looking for alternatives to nipple tats, to creating them.
“You’re used in dressing up but now your hair is missing and your eyelashes are missing. Your eyebrows are missing. And you don’t even have breasts,” Dana Onofree, founder, Anaono, says. She was diagnosed just a day before her 28th Birthday. “Your slate has been cleared.”
It’s not a pink rose–it’s honest conversation, education and real solutions to help young cancer survivors regain their sense of wholeness after the event.
Meena Harris was a highly successful corporate lawyer. But a T-shirt changed the course of her entire life. Meena Harris wanted to make a statement for her fellow women, despite the backwards rhetoric at the time. It was 2016, and Trump had just taken office. She was inspired by a Maya Angelou poem and printed simple, bright shirts with the slogan “Phenomenal woman.”
The rest is history. Her shirts went viral on social media and were worn by many celebrities. Meena quit her job in order to create her social impact company Phenomenal. She has also launched issue-driven apparel, such as “Phenomenally black” and “Pro-Vaxxer”, and donated the proceeds to other non-profits in the years that have followed. Meena has expanded her product range this year, and is channeling her powerful messages via children’s books and Netflix collaborations.
Meena is passionate about supporting other women entrepreneurs and urges for more cultural changes.
“The most successful entrepreneurs are problem solvers who can fail, learn, iterate, and invent from that. Meena states that she doesn’t believe we allow women entrepreneurs to make errors and fail as much as they should. “And when they don’t, it’s excluding them from the opportunity.”
7. Founders who make and money build their communities
Socially responsible business founders and social entrepreneurs create long-lasting social change. They are driven by moral imperatives and not pure profit and always keep the community, economy and environment in their minds.
This roundup (whoa and meta) featured nine incredible entrepreneurs, many of them women. We were thrilled to hear about Patrice Mousseau a former journalist and single mother who founded a natural skincare business called Satya. Patrice uses stay-at-home moms from different areas to deliver her products. This is a win-win situation for both her community and her bank account. All of her products are also offset by Patrice.
Melanie Ang, the founder of Backcountry wok, a dehydrated Asian and vegan restaurant that uses 100% compostable ingredients, is another inspiration. The marine biology student did not follow a business plan. Instead, she used her sustainability skills to create the perfect meals for camping trips and then instinctively learned business skills.