13 Women Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World Katie Lundin | March 31st, 2017
There’s a revolution going on in the world of entrepreneurship. Though business is traditionally considered a man’s world, the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report shows that the number of women-owned businesses in the US has grown at a rate 5 times faster than the national average over the past 9 years. And women-owned businesses are estimated to generate $1.6 trillion in revenue annually.
Women entrepreneurs are thriving like never before and their success isn’t limited to the business world. Many female entrepreneurs are using their businesses (or the wealth those businesses have created) to make the world a better place. Below you’ll find 13 women entrepreneurs who are changing their own corner of the world.
Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Productions, OWN Network)
At this point in her career, Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction. Founder of both Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), she is a media mogul with a net worth of approximately $3 billion. Winfrey’s rags-to-riches life story serves as an inspiration to many; and, she came in second on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women in 2016.
But, it’s not just Oprah’s unequivocal financial and popular success that won her spot on this list. She is also a well-regarded philanthropist, giving generously through self-founded charities. Winfrey founded Oprah’s Angel Network in 1998. The charity’s goal is to “inspire individuals to create opportunities that enable underserved women and children to rise to their potential.” Oprah’s Angel Network supports charitable projects and provides grants for non-profit organizations that support that goal.
The Oprah Winfrey Foundation was formed to operate the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The Academy is a residential school for girls with strong academics from disadvantaged family backgrounds. Attendance is free. Oprah founded the school in the hope of providing a strong education for girls who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise.
Julia Taylor Cheek (EverlyWell)
Julia Taylor Cheek had an impressive resume before she ever decided to strike out on her own. But Cheek was destined to grow beyond her roles as Director of Strategy and Operations at the George W. Bush Institute and Vice-President of Corporate Strategy and Global Communications at MoneyGram International.
Today, as CEO and founder of EverlyWell, Julia Taylor Cheek is empowering patients by reinventing medical testing. EverlyWell provides at-home medical testing kits. These kits allow patients to gather samples in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Test results are then shipped to labs for analysis by board-certified physicians. The easy-to-read results are posted online in just a few days.
Cheek’s efforts at EverlyWell are demystifying medical testing and making the process more comfortable and accessible to patients. Tests available include: Cholesterol and Lipids, Sexual Health, Food Sensitivity, Vitamin D and inflammation, among others.
Amanda Signorelli (Techweek)
Jordan French of CIO.com says, “If you haven’t heard of Techweek yet, you’re bound to at some point in 2017.” Techweek, brainchild of CEO Amanda Signorelli, is a conference and media company striving to help local tech businesses network and grow. Success, their website claims, “is contagious.”
With this philosophy in mind Techweek has chosen 8 cities across North America in which to hold weeklong conferences throughout each year. Signorelli’s goal is to create self-sustaining communities of technology entrepreneurs. Part of that strategy revolves around the idea of “hero companies” which Techweek defines as,
“…high-growth businesses that achieve a substantial and sustainable impact and incubate talent, ideas, and most importantly, spinoffs. This theory posits that the spinoff process is the most effective method to spur dynamic hubs of growth, innovation, and wealth generation.”
Techweek’s approach brings a collaborative spin to the all-too-frequently competitive world of technology.
Sofia Vergara (LatinWE, Raze)
Long before Sofia Vergara was a household name, or her role in the hit sit-com Modern Family, she co-founded Latin World Entertainment. LatinWE is the premier hispanic talent management agency in the United States. Founded in 1994 with her partner Luis Balaguer, Vergara saw a need for Latin talent to be represented in the entertainment marketplace.
Today LatinWE offers talent management, endorsements, branding, PR and social media marketing and more. Growing from LatinWE’s success, Vergara and partner Balaguer joined forces with former president of Fox Television Studios Emiliano Calemzuk in May 2016 to form a new company-Raze Latin Media.
Variety’s Todd Spangler reports that Raze will work with LatinWE to produce new shows for the Hispanic American market on various platforms. Vergara has made a career of representing Hispanic talent. Raze is a logical extension of her work with LatinWE as it creates a vehicle where latin talent can shine.
Logan Cohen (Küzoo)
Logan Cohan wasted little time after completing her own education before she sought to improve the experience for others. In 2014 the recent Florida International University grad founded Küdzoo.
“KÜDZOO is a free mobile application that rewards students with deals, giveaways, scholarship opportunities, concert tickets, and once in a lifetime experiences based on students’ grades and achievements. KÜDZOO works together with schools and businesses to improve student engagement while bringing communities together with an educational focus.” – Kudzooapp.com
The app brings more value to student’s school experience by incentivizing them to work hard. In addition to their good grades and improved learning, they take home Küdzoo cash that they can redeem for prizes of their own choice through the app. It’s a win/win for students, parents and educators.
In a ringing endorsement of their endeavor Cohen and her co-founder Trevor Wilkins were featured on Forbes 2016 list of 30 Under 30 in education.
Tory Burch (Tory Burch)
Tory Burch is not just a wildly successful fashion designer and female entrepreneur. In addition to founding and managing a “global business with more than 150 freestanding boutiques and a presence in more than 3,000 department and specialty stores”, she’s also established herself as a leading champion for breast cancer research and champion of female entrepreneurs.
“For us, it’s a year-round cause. Our company and the Tory Burch Foundation work on partnerships and events with the BCRF and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center throughout the year to drum up more support for the cause.”
Burch also gives back by supporting other women entrepreneurs through the Tory Burch Foundation. The foundation has partnered with Bank of America to help female entrepreneurs with sustainable businesses get affordable loans.
Lisa Wang & Yin Lin (SheWorx)
Five-time national gymnastics champion Lisa Wang and her marathon-running partner Yin Lin, bonded over their shared drive, self-discipline, and cultural background as Asian Americans. When these women met they had already each co-founded a company, watched it grow to profitability and then moved on.
Both Lin and Wang witnessed gender inequality in their earlier business ventures, inspiring them to address those issues through their own partnership. Wang and Lin co-founded SheWorx-a global collective of female entrepreneurs. SheWorx provides mentoring, networking and events for female entrepreneurs with a focus of providing practicable, actionable advice.
“In today’s environment we all need to be lifelong learners. SheWorx has been structured to provide women with access to critical information. Our goal is to build a stronger startup ecosystem…where founders can discuss challenging topics and then develop actionable strategies for moving their companies forward when they walk out the door.” – Yin Lin
In their first year, Wang and Lin have organized more than 70 discussions featuring successful investors and founders, and attracted 3000 members to SheWorx. A truly global presence, Sheworx events have been held in London, New York,Singapore and Tel Aviv.
Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post, Thrive)
Arianna Huffington is best known as the creator of The Huffington Post. In the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election, Huffington felt the need to contribute to the political discourse.
“What began as a left-leaning answer to the Drudge Report, comprised primarily of aggregation and blog posts from friends, morphed over the years into a major news organization and digital media company that’s expanded into 15 countries. The site recently drew nearly 200 million monthly unique visitors globally.” explained Michael Calderone in an August 2016 Huffington Post article.
Huffington Post became a prominent, recognized voice for leftist ideology, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. But, Huffington was not content to rest after conquering the political media landscape. In 2016 she left Huffington Post to pursue a new business endeavor born of her newfound passion for wellness.
Thrive Global, named after Huffington’s 2014 book Thrive, includes a media platform, e-commerce site, and corporate wellness programs all focused on encouraging its audience to take control of their health. According to Business Insider, as of January 2017 the newly launched Thrive Global had already doubled its target revenue for the year. Huffington reflects,
“The connection between well-being and performance: that’s the key. That’s the entry point to convince people that if they take care of themselves — through sleep, meditation, recharging — they are not sacrificing their work or careers.”
Shireen Yates (Nima)
CEO and co-founder of Nima, Shireen Yates has been leading a gluten-free lifestyle for the past eight years. Common wisdom states that the best ideas for starting a new business come from solving your own problems-and that’s exactly what Yates has done.
Nima is a discreet, portable food sensor that allows celiac and gluten-intolerant diners to test their food for the presence of gluten. The tests takes only about 3 minutes to perform and results can be shared via app so that users have access to a growing database of information.
Nima’s website proudly claims, “For us, it’s personal. We’re on a mission to change living with food allergies, forever.” And, if Yates achieves her goals (listed as “to alleviate stress around unknown food ingredients, deliver social freedom, and make mealtime enjoyable again”) she will certainly deliver.
Atima Lui and Nancy Madrid (Nudest)
The world of fashion has never given the color “nude” enough credit- at least, not until Atima Lui and Nancy Madrid arrived on the scene. Nude has traditionally referred to the beigey skin tone associated with caucasian women. This very limited view of what nude means in fashion has left people of many ethnicities deeply underrepresented.
When Meg Oliver of CBS News asked Lui what “nude” had meant to her when growing up she responded,
“It definitely meant beige. I have a lot of stories of wearing beige, nude hosiery and just having ashy legs,”
Lui and Madrid are tackling the nude color inequality head-on with their company Nudest. Nudest offers a variety of fashion staples in a wide range of skin tone-inspired shades of nude. They have partnered with 11 companies that currently offer products in a wide variety of flesh tones. And, their site features a nudemeter that allows shoppers to match their own skin tone with available products.
By representing a wider range of consumers, Madrid and Lui are endeavoring to correct a vast and pervasive failing in the fashion industry. Lui asserts,
“The current definition of nude, the beige tones, do not match 84 percent of the global population… So the opportunity is big to fix this.” – CBS News
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Biocon Ltd.)
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, India’s richest self-made woman, is a superstar of the global female entrepreneur community. She makes regular appearances on Forbes’ annual billionaires list; and, she’s been awarded France’s highest civilian honor for her contributions to bioscience. Her company Biocon Ltd. is the largest producer of insulin in Asia, and has recently sent new biosimilar cancer treatment drugs for review in Europe and the United States.
Despite her many achievements, Mazumdar-Shaw is not content to focus only on her business. Instead she has made it a personal battle to fight cancer after the disease struck both her husband and best friend. According to The Economic Times she founded the Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Center in Bangalore, India with Dr. Devi Shetty in 2007. In 2013 the Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation launched a program designed to monitor for cancer in rural populations with the goal of catching and treating cancers sooner.
Most recently, Mazumdar-Shaw became the second Indian entrepreneur to join Bill Gate’s Giving Pledge. The Pledge invites billionaires to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has pledged to give more than half of her wealth to support cancer research and improving primary health centers in rural India.
“My philanthropic efforts are largely directed towards making a difference to global health care, especially in the developing world. I am particularly concerned about the unbearable financial burden that debilitating diseases like cancer impose on patients in poor countries…” – Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Are you inspired by these amazing female entrepreneurs? Do you want to join their ranks and make your own difference in the world? Then now might be a great time to check out our free e-book: What Are You Waiting For: A Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs on Starting, Growing, and Managing a Successful Business.