Decades ago, it was rare for a woman to start her own business. Today, millions of female entrepreneurs across the country are launching and running successful startups, with more and more women joining their ranks every year. In 2013, BusinessNewsDaily interviewed and shared insights from dozens of ambitious ladies who have made it in the business world. Here are 10 of them who truly inspired us this year.
You may not know Angie Hicks, but you probably know her company: Hicks is the co-founder of popular consumer review site Angie's List. A self-described introvert, Hicks had to step out of her comfort zone when she went door-to-door selling subscriptions to her then-local service. Since the company was launched in 1998, Angie's List has become a national household name, and Hicks knows that her success was only due to her willingness to take a risk and seize the opportunity in front of her.
"Don't miss out on opportunities that come your way," she said. "Put yourself in a position to have those opportunities, know when one is facing you and take it." [5 Lessons for Women Leaders from AMEX CEO BootCamp]
Before Heather Schuck founded children's brand Glamajama and online community glamaLife, the mother of three was unhappy with her work-life balance. When she finally took the time to re-evaluate her priorities and start her own company, Schuck was able to find the fulfillment in her family life and her career she'd long been seeking. While juggling motherhood and entrepreneurship is no easy task, the CEO wouldn't have it any other way.
"The greatest joy of being a working mom is having the opportunity to contribute to the family's financial well-being while pursuing your passions — to have not only personal success, but professional success as well," Schuck said.
Before she became the chief marketing officer of Yahoo, Kathy Savitt was very involved in the world of entrepreneurship. Her first company, a marketing communications firm called MWW/Savitt, helped launch more than 100 startups, and in 2009, she went on to found fashion and beauty photo-sharing website Lockerz.com. Savitt was the keynote speaker at Cornell University's second annual Entrepreneurship Summit this year, and provided valuable advice for fellow entrepreneurs based on lessons she's learned in her own journey as a business owner.
"Experience is the enemy of innovation," Savitt said. "If you refuse knowledge, you're limiting your resources."
Like many "mompreneurs," Lara Galloway decided to start her own business as a way to take control of her career while still being able to be there for her children. As a founding member of online counseling service MommyCoach, Galloway wanted to provide other moms with the support, help and understanding she wished she'd had when she first became a mother. Her journey to entrepreneurship was inspired by motherhood, but it also serves as a supplement to it.
"I needed to start my business to make me feel balanced as a mom," Galloway said. "Work doesn't take away from who I am as a mom; it adds to it."
Leora Kadisha started fashion social networking site StyledOn back in 2009 as a college senior. What started as a small photo-sharing site for the fashion-obsessed has become a thriving community where bloggers and fashionistas can interact and shop for items by their favorite big-name brands. The site's success has come as a direct result of its founder's unwavering commitment to connect people who love fashion as much as she does.
"StyledOn became my life," Kadisha said. "Four years later, I am still spending every waking minute building this business. If you are not passionate about what you are building, it is the first and most immediate step to failure. Everything else is secondary."
Better known as Twitter's @SmallBizLady, author, speaker and entrepreneur Melinda Emerson inspires more than 245,000 followers every day with tidbits of business advice. In September, Emerson led the first-ever American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp, an event focused on providing female entrepreneurs the support and guidance they need to succeed as businesswomen. Before she introduced an accomplished lineup of guest speakers and panelists, Emerson shared her own words of wisdom.
"Mentorship is everything in business," she told attendees. "Startup entrepreneurs need sounding boards of people who are interested in their success, people who will tell them the truth and give them support."
JOOR, an online wholesale service that connects fashion brands and retailers, was founded by former Chanel and Elie Tahari consultant Mona Bijoor. She's learned a lot in her nearly four years as a CEO, and struggled through times when she and her staff were spread very thin. After a few bad hiring decisions, Bijoor discovered that it was better to hold out for the right candidate than to hire the first applicant just because you need help.
"People encourage you to hire, hire, hire, but we've found that it's best to take our time and go slowly," she said. "At the end of the day, you have to have the best team to execute your business. You need to have the right chemistry of people."
As an African-American female business leader, Phrantceena Halres has risen above a double business underdog status. In 2002, she founded TPS Global Security, a security company focused on critical national assets and infrastructure, and currently serves as the chairwoman and CEO. Over the years, Halres has learned a lot about taking control and becoming a strong female leader in the primarily male security industry. But the most important lesson she's learned is the value of silence.
"Women have been taught that being quiet is a negative thing in terms of empowerment, but using nonverbal language is powerful," Halres said. "It stimulates intelligence on all levels from a place that cannot be captured by the alphabet or numbers. It's not heard, but one can feel its results."
In 2006, two years before she graduated from Babson College's entrepreneurship program, Polina Raygorodskaya founded her first business, a boutique public relations firm called Polina Fashion. Since then, she has founded and run several successful companies, each one inspired by the need to solve a problem that no one else was currently addressing. This is how Raygorodskaya arrived at the decision to start her more recent venture, Wanderu, a travel comparison site that allows users to compare and book the best-priced bus and train tickets for their inter-city trip. In order for Raygorodskaya to successfully launch a unique take on an existing model, she had to be sure that she had a viable market.
"When I started doing research, I realized there are over 750 million people traveling by bus each year in the U.S., more than are flying domestically," she said. "I began speaking with these travelers and found that most of them had the same frustrations that I did, so I set out to make finding and booking bus and train travel easier."
Corporate social responsibility has become increasingly important to today's conscious consumers, and e-commerce website PopNod makes it easier than ever for shoppers to give to important social causes. Founder and CEO Stephanie David started her company as a way for people to shop for their favorite major brands while earning cash back that can be allocated to charitable organizations of their choosing. David's service doesn't require customers to contribute any extra money or seek out avenues for giving — it simply encourages them to shop responsibly.
"People are generous at heart and really want to give, but many don't think they have the time or money to do so," she said. "PopNod provides a simple way for people to integrate giving into their everyday lives."