Launching your own company has a number of challenges and the chance of survival is low—50 percent of all new businesses fail within five years.
For female entrepreneurs, there are additional barriers to success. Currently, 39 percent of small businesses in the U.S. are women-owned. One of the main obstacles facing female entrepreneurs is the lack of role models and mentors. Adequate mentorship greatly increases the success rate of a startup and encourages more young women to pursue entrepreneurship.
Those looking for female-powered inspiration can find it here. This list of women includes founders, CEOs and small business owners who refused to take no for an answer, believed in their own ideas, and continue to help others along the way. Here are 6 female entrepreneurs who have pioneered by executing on their vision and beat the odds doing so.
1. Sara Blakely, Spanx
Image: Sara Blakely Instagram
In 1998, Sara Blakely realized she didn’t have the undergarments she needed for her white pants, so she took scissors to a pair of pantyhose, sparking the start to her Spanx empire.
Having never attended business school, Sara instead used her experience as a door-to-door fax machine salesperson to make cold calls to manufacturers. She notoriously spent six straight days calling Neiman Marcus for a meeting to secure distribution. She also credits regularly listening to How to Be a No-Limit Person by Dr. Wayne Dyeron on tape for her persistence in self-promotion.
Sara was the first female self-made billionaire to sign the Melinda and Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half her wealth to charity. She also started the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, which gives loans, donations, and mentorships to female entrepreneurs.
2. Wendy Kopp, Teach for America
''Basically, management and leadership ability is what I see. It's what it takes to succeed in my role, in any role at the head of an organization. It's what it takes to be a leader.'' - Wendy Kopp, New York Times
Image: Wendy Kopp Instagram
Wendy Kopp founded Teach For America in 1989 to combat educational inequity in the United States. From those efforts, nearly 60,000 teachers have taught and inspired students across the country.
Wendy discovered a passion for education reform while studying at Princeton University. She then began a grassroots campaign for college students to commit two years of teaching in economically disadvantaged areas. In addition to being very passionate, she is also extremely disciplined and determined—she reportedly only sleeps for five hours per night to maximize her daytime productivity.
Wendy has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, has earned various awards for public service and has written multiple books on the education system.
3. Mally Roncal, Mally Beauty
“Be grateful. I know that comes up a lot and sounds so Instagram-y. I find the minute I start to feel sorry for myself, I look at what I do have and what makes it special and it fires me up again.” - Mally Roncal, interview with Bobbi Brown
Image: Mally Roncal Instagram
Before Mally Roncal became a celebrity makeup artist and CEO of Mally Beauty, she was pursuing a degree in medicine. Eventually her love for makeup pulled her in a different direction and she began makeup design at a Barneys New York Shiseido makeup counter.
Mally is living proof that business growth comes from networking. Early in her career, she befriended fashion designer, Todd Oldham, and worked with him on various makeup gigs, such as Women’s Wear Daily covers. Through these connections she met her celebrity clients: Celine Dion, the Osbournes, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.
After being a celebrity makeup artist for many years, she used her high profile to launch her own makeup line, Mally Beauty, which remains one of the most successful makeup companies to date.
Seema Hingorani founded Girls Who Invest in 2015. This non-profit organization works to increase the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry.
Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Philosophy from Yale College and an MBA in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania, her education gave her valuable communication skills and understanding of the financial world. Having a successful career as a CIO at a billion-dollar company wasn’t enough, though. Hearing that her company wanted to hire more women, but that it wasn’t getting any female applicants to do so was when everything changed. Seema took the initiative to start her organization, investing all of her time and money to get it off the ground.
Seema has been honored with numerous awards for her work with Girls Who Invest including the Woman with Impact Award by the Women's Business Development Council in 2016 and the Women in Finance Achievement Award from MarketsMedia in 2015. Her work has helped pave the way to a more equitable work environment.
5. Anne-Marie Imafidon, STEMettes
“It’s about showing young girls how to approach scientific challenges with confidence... It’s important to me that the girls stick together so that they shed all of their inhibitions.” - Anne-Marie Imafidon, Mercedes-Benz International
Anne-Marie Imafidon co-founded STEMettes, an award-winning social initiative that aims to create a diverse and balanced science and tech community. The program was inspired by Anne-Marie’s own academic experience, where she was often one of the few women in a mainly male classroom of students.
She’s often referred to as a prodigy. At just 11 years old, she was the youngest girl to pass A-level computing in the UK. By 20 years old, she had already completed her master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford. She could have just owned those achievements and focused on her own career, but she didn’t.
Knowing how important diversity is to innovation, Anne-Marie developed a program that supports females and their futures in the field. STEMettes workshops have helped over 40,000 girls realize their passion in STEM careers. In addition to the extensive knowledge and skill she brings to the table, her well-known energetic personality and wit create captivating keynote speeches.
The Future Is Bright
SLATE COLLECTION™ applauds the ambitious. We admire the self-starters, founders, CEOs, and small business owners who use their passion for entrepreneurship and excellence to make a difference in the world. With more female entrepreneurs to serve as role models and inspiration, there are more opportunities for young women to pursue their dreams.