11 Women Entrepreneurs You Need to Know



Written by Anna Penchansky of Fueled, an award winning mobile app design and development house based in New York City.

Women entrepreneurs are a rare breed.  Being an entreprenuer means being a CEO, a salesman, a product expert and an inventor…all traditionally male dominated roles.  These women have proven that female entrepreneurs are on the rise.  They have proven their power by using innovative and self reliant business strategies. The industries they have taken by storm are wide-ranging, from philanthropy to high fashion to the unforgiving restaurant world.

Get familiar with these lady trailblazers.

Hilary Rowland

An unstoppable force, Rowland taught herself coding and website building at the age of 15. She then proceeded to found two online companies, both of of which are pioneers in their respective fields and still prosperous today. Her first two projects were New Faces, an online community for models and actors to put their portfolios, and Urbanette, a digital women’s magazine. Since her adolescent success, Rowland has been involved in more philanthropic ventures, such as Project Migration. Combining her love of fashion with her concern for extreme global poverty, Rowland’s project uses only eco-friendly materials that are created into carbon neutral, organic fashion apparel. For each Project Migration fashion item sold, years of clean water and medical supplies will be donated to areas that greatly lacking these vital resources, such as South America, Africa and Asia.

Lauren Bush

This model turned activist first created the FEED 1 bag, a reversible burlap and organic cotton satchel modeled after the food bags distributed by World Food Programme in 2005. Bush’s goal was to raise funds and awareness at schools located near WFP operation centers. Each satchel was stamped with “FEED the children of the world” and the number ‘1’ in order to signify that each bag feeds one child in his/her school for one year. In 2007, FEED Projects LLC was founded by Bush and Ellen Gustafson to continue the production and sale of these bags. Today FEED has donated over $6 million to combat hunger and has distributed over 60 million meals. You can find FEED products, whose sale benefits American children, at Target.

Shenan Reed

Reed is a highly respected woman in the digital media marketing field. Her abilities encompass Digital Strategy, Online Media Placement, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Strategies, Creative Consulting, and much more. She is on the forefront of digital media and strives to bring all of her high-profile clients painlessly up to speed in the world of digital marketing. Her expertise in this field allowed her to establish her own digital media agency, Morpheus Media, and maintain a strong, consistent presence in the digital market.

Anita Lo

Her classical French training degree from L’École Ritz Escoffier, internship under Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang, working her way through all the stations at Chanterelle and a few years stint at Mirezi, all prepared Lo to be an unprecedented chef in New York City’s restaurant scene. She opened her first, and most successful restaurant, Annisa in New York City in 2000. Her restaurant received rave reviews with a two-star review from the New York Times. Additionally, Lo was listed in Food & Wine magazine for its ten “Best New Chefs in America” series, and was named “Best New Restaurant Chef” in The Village Voice. Lo has recently expanded her entrepreneurial skills into the literary market, releasing her first cookbook in 2011 titled Cooking Without Borders.

Sara Blakely

Blakely is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, earning her fortune by cashing in on the idea of restraining women’s jiggly bits with Spanx. She disliked the appearance of the seamed foot of pantyhose while wearing open-toed shoes, but liked the fact that the control-top eliminated panty lines and gave the body a slimming effect. Blakely researched hosiery patents and visited craft stores for two years in search of the perfect material for her product. After spending her entire $5,000 in life savings, Blakely’s search was finally successful when she found the perfect material for her Spanx brand and contacted a factory willing to make her product. Her efforts paid off when pitching her idea to Neiman-Marcus, she personally took the buyer to the restroom and demonstrated the benefits of Spanx. Her determination and confidence has led Blakely to be the successful lady entrepreneur that she is today.

Arianna Huffington

Although Arianna Huffington gained popularity for her outspokenness of right-winged politics and several book publications, it was the creation of The Huffington Post in 2005 that launched her into the mainstream media. With her first posts from the likes of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Larry David, Gary Hart, John Cusack, and Walter Cronkite, it was clear that The Huffington Post, a newly revered liberal commentary outlet and alternative news site, was headed somewhere. The site has become one of the most widely-read, linked, and frequently-cited media brands today It currently boasts a large community that generates over one million comments on the site each month.

ALSO READ  Renaud Sornin, an Entrepreneur to Accelerate Lyon French Tech

Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss

Rent the Runway. The concept seems so obvious, but it has revolutionized high-end fashion. Like many start-ups, the idea was a solution to a common problem. During a trip home to New York City, Jenn Hyman watched her sister Becky struggle with the ‘closet full of clothes but nothing to wear’ phenomena that women so often encounter.  Becky was attending an upcoming wedding and wanted a high-end dress, but her salary seriously put a damper on her dreams. Hyman told Fleiss about Becky’s dilemma back at Harvard Business School. After conducting a series of tests and formative meetings with top designers and retailers, Hyman and Fleiss created their new fashion company. Rent the Runway has become a success because of the huge demographic it appeals to: the everyday woman. Without needing to deal with buyers remorse or the crunching of numbers, women can greatly expand their access to designer brands that before seemed untouchable. Rent the Runway has certainly redefined the fashion business,  upending storefronts big and small. What’s the point of an expensive purchase when you can borrow for a smaller price? Because some department stores have felt so threatened by the online company, they’ve reportedly told vendors they will pull floor merchandise if it ever shows up on Rent the Runway’s site. Clearly Rent the Runway is making much more than a splash.

Jess Lee

After a friend introduced her to Polyvore, an interactive fashion website, Lee soon found herself using the site all the time. Polyvore then posted a contest to see who could create the best Halloween look. Lee chose the Super Mario Brothers, producing a “set”. Her look included the video game characters’ signature overalls, complete with the red and green caps. Winning the contest with her impressive set, Lee proceeded to e-mail Polyvore’s founder and CEO, Pasha Sadri. They met for coffee, and Lee, then a product manager for Google Maps, received an offer to become the startup’s fourth co-founder. Although she didn’t come up with the idea for Polyvore, the other founders considered her to be the ideal user. With her background in Computer Science from Stanford, they knew she could also provide Polyvore user-perspective insight. Since her arrival, Polyvore’s business has boomed. It currently generates 1.3 million sets a month using more than 45 million products.

Jennifer Pahlka

Pahlka is known for her TED talk and Coding a Better Government segments.  Although she has received numerous awards such as 2011s Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in Public Sector Innovation by Government Technology and the top Game Changer in Business and Technology by the Huffington Post that same year, Jennifer Pahlka’s real passion lies is in her organization, Code for America. Similar to Teach for America, but more for the technology savvy, Code for America provides software experts with government and business based opportunities in three different divisions. The Fellowship sector creates a cohesive atmosphere between developers and designers to their local governments. The Accelerator branch provides seed funding, office space, and mentorship to civic startups, and the Brigade unit helps local, community groups reuse civic software. Her organization is innovative for the IT industry. Adding fresh faces to the technology industry is definitely unlocking new discoveries.

Jessica Scorpio

Scorpio is the founder of an online breakthrough in car-sharing, Getaround. She provided a platform for peer-to-peer-car-sharing services. Her site allows drivers to rent cars from private owners, and owners to rent out their cars for payment. Owners create an online profile for their car and set hourly, daily or weekly rates and earn a 60% commission from their rental revenue. They can determine who they want to rent to, when they want to rent, and set personal standards for the “quality” of the driver. A great way to cut out the middleman when renting, with the advent of Getaround and other peer-to-peer services like AirBnB, it seems certain service industries are going to be meeting a great deal of competition from these types of services. Scorpio’s innovation has earned her quite a bit of acclaim; the Huffington Post picked her to be on the list of female technology founders to watch and Fortune Magazine named her as being amongst the top eight female entrepreneurs under the age of 25.