Traditionally, it’s fair to say that the business world has been a hostile one for women. The 2018 Fortune 500 list contained only 24 women CEOs, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, many businesses are changing their attitudes towards women in the workplace after years of sexism and predatory behaviour. Things are (slowly) improving for women in business, but we still have a long way to go as a society, and we’ll only get there through keeping up the conversation.
With that said, there are still a number of incredibly inspirational women who have managed to break the glass ceiling and either create businesses of their own or rise to positions of prominence within existing companies. If you’re a woman and you’re looking to start a business, you’re struggling with your finances and need a boost, or even if you’re a man and you want to feel uplifted, these 5 female entrepreneurs will inspire you.
Fans of the British version of The Apprentice will know Karren Brady’s name. This skilled entrepreneur was one of Lord Sugar’s most trusted aides throughout much of that programme, but that’s not where her skills end. Brady made a name for herself as the managing director of Birmingham City Football Club at the young age of 23, where she encountered a sexist backlash from both players and fans of the club. Through a combination of business nous, a strong personality and a desire to succeed, Brady transcended the sexism of the British football industry and went on to become the vice chairman of UK football club West Ham United. She’s also a life peer in the UK House of Lords, and on top of all that, she’s an outspoken proponent of women in business. Truly, women (and men) can look to Karren Brady as an inspirational figure.
Sarah and Emily Hamilton
We’re cheating a little bit here and including two female entrepreneurs in one entry. That’s because Sarah and Emily Hamilton are sisters who own the subscription-based beauty service Bellabox. If you’re unfamiliar with Bellabox, it’s an Australia-based beauty box delivery service which sends samples of beauty products like cosmetics, facial wipes and other useful items direct to your door. The Hamilton sisters managed to raise $7 million from investors for their superb idea, and their subsequent success saw them expand their business to China back in 2015. Bellabox has over 40,000 members and considering the Hamiltons started from very little, that’s impressive.
New York-based entrepreneur Tyler Haney is perhaps best known for the clothing company Outdoor Voices, which sells athletic apparel intended not just for athletic activity but for casual wear too. If you’ve ever seen someone out and about in gym gear or athletic wear, you’ve likely got Haney to thank for that. In an interview with CNBC, Haney says that the inspiration to start Outdoor Voices came when she realised that the combination of being feminine and athletic “wasn’t embodied in a brand” and that there was a niche in the market for clothing that “functions across multiple activities”. Haney used her own money to start the business, supplementing that money with venture capital. Outdoor Voices has now earned more than $8 million in funding.
Ever heard of Man Repeller? If not, you’re in for a treat. Man Repeller is a blog run by New York-based blogger Leandra Medine, who says that the blog’s provocative title can “mean whatever you need it to mean”. Man Repeller’s unique voice and range of topics is intended to provoke intellectual discussion among its predominantly female demographic, and nothing is off-limits, with some of the topics covered including whether or not a writer has stalker traits and how grief can become a positive force. Man Repeller started as a one-woman show, but now Medine has staff that regularly work on the site, as well as a presence on social media. It’s not taking outside investment, as Medine worries that the authorial voice will be damaged by meddling intervention.
If you’ve taken a spa break in Europe in the last few years, you probably have Abi Wright to thank for that. Wright was one of the co-founders of holiday booking site Spabreaks.com back in 2008, and since then she’s seen the company evolve into the largest spa booking portal in Europe. Life wasn’t all roses for Wright, though; in 2017 she had a disc removed from her back )after collapsing on the London Underground. This happened 15 days prior to Wright being due to accept a Women In Travel award at the inaugural ceremony on Canary Wharf, but she still managed to make the ceremony, walking stick and all. Wright is a testament to the importance of innovation, a positive attitude, and consummate skill if one wishes to become an entrepreneur.