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Inspiring Leadership Lessons From 13 Female Founders

Women all over the world are still finding it difficult to gain an equal footing in the corporate world with their male counterparts. Statistics indicate continuous gender pay gaps, lack of promotions, and poor family-leave policies, among other challenges. Furthermore, the pay gap for minor female executives is even more significant.

However, that does not mean women can’t be successful leaders. The inspiring women founders in this list have faced all the above challenges as well as personal tragedies such as death, divorce, and depression. They have  not only overcome those challenges but have also become role models for many women who are either starting their businesses or struggling to climb up the corporate ladder.

1. Melissa Butler and Her Cosmetics Company

Melissa Butler
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One could not inspire perseverance and awareness of consumer issues better than Melissa. She spotted the lack of cosmetics, especially lipstick, that catered to black women as well as vegan-friendly and cruelty-free products free from chemicals. She experimented with new lipstick formulas when she wasn’t busy with her Wall Street job and went after cosmetic chemists for advice on LinkedIn.

Upon launching her makeup company, she stalked vendors on social media until she connected with Target’s buyer. That led to Target signing a deal to sell her cosmetic products, proving that million-dollar ideas are always around if you are passionate about starting your own business.

2. Kelly Bayett – UnderPaid, Single Mother Who Founded Barking Owl

Back in 2009, Kelly was struggling both personally and professionally. She was a mother of two going through a divorce. To make things worse, she was denied a long-overdue raise with her employer citing recession being the reason. Kelly decided to quit her job as a music producer and started a music and sound company out of her home.

Things didn’t come easy for her, and she had to grind hard to get work. However, after just a year into her business, Barking Owl won a deal with Coca-Cola designing sound for their Super Bowl spot that was followed by a string of huge clients such as Adidas, Microsoft, Toyota, and Nike.

3. Denise Coates – The Co-CEO of Bet365

It is one thing being blessed with a family business, but it’s an entirely different and praise-worthy achievement to disrupt that business and reinvent it. Denise, who was a qualified accountant, started by taking over a few of her family’s betting establishments and selling them while launching in 2001.

Denise owns half of the company’s privately-held shares. She is also the British CEO with the highest pay, with 423 million in 2019. The website today is one of the leaders in online gambling with over $65.5 billion bets per year competing for the spot of the best online casino offering an exceptional gambling experience for online players.

Starting her business, she realized that big investments were needed. She used payday lawns, and her business continued to develop successfully.

4. Shamanth Pereira & Her Design Company Catering to New Mothers

The world around us is full of million-dollar ideas, and sometimes you don’t need to look too far. Shamanth was not comfortable with the way her body looked after giving birth to her first son and attending to his needs. She realized that most mothers had similar problems when she was pregnant with her second child.

She came up with a solution in the form of compression leggings with high waists and built-in shapewear that were called Invisibelly. The leggings merged traditional Asian belly wrapping with modern compression technology, proving to be a hit among new mothers all over the world.

5. Laurie Gray – Second Time, Lucky!

Just because you fail your first attempt doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. Laurie left her job as a banker and started her business selling pies. However, she failed while dealing with various personal problems being a single mother of two. She was forced back to the corporate realm as she wanted health insurance.

A decade later, Laurie wanted to give her passion, which was baking, a second shot, having been inspired by a toy oven lost in the attic that she played with during her childhood. She founded The Pie Bar in Long Beach, California, which is a thriving business today.

6. Jung Lee Who Advocates Work/Life Balance

Family is a big part of a successful life, just like business and career. Jung, the founder of the production and design company Fête, learned the importance of work/life balance the hard way. Her company was in charge of a bar mitzvah of a highly prominent family that came in the form of her spending enough time with her sister-in-law, who was fighting cancer at the time.

Her sister-in-law passed away days after the event, which left Jung with the regret of not spending enough time with her. It resulted in Jung focusing on building a stronger team than dedicating her entire life to her business.

7. Alexandra Waldman’s Clothing Company

There was a lack of apparel options for American women who wore size 14 or higher that led to Alexandra founding Universal Standard in 2015 with Polina Veksler. The company’s success is mostly thanks to its offering of fashionable designs for sizes 10 to 28, having later expanded to proportions 00 to 40.

8. Lauren Cascio’s Marriage Troubles Had No Change!

We all face personal problems in life. However, they should not determine our achievements. Lauren was abused for three years by her then-husband, and she went for a divorce when her children started being abused. She did not let her troubles stop her from focusing on her insurance technology company, Abartys Health, that offers an innovative solution for communication between patients, doctors, and insurers.

9. Jen Hansard – A Business Inspired by Hardship and Motherly Love

When Jen’s husband was laid off, and the family lost their health insurance, Jen started experimenting with green smoothies to keep her children away from expensive doctor’s visits. Her fight against hardships combined with her motherly love gave birth to Simple Green Smoothies. She was highly creative during the early days of her company by resorting to various friendly tactics to get the company’s name out there that later led to her company’s success.

10. Kachan Singh – The Importance of Sustainable Growth

You may be a business owner who is itching to take it to the next level. However, growth is only successful if it can be sustained. Kachan found the Washington D.C. cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers, and went on to open its second location within two years. Although her business flourished, Kachan struggled with depression that spread to her management as well. It led to her entire management quitting within a single week. Kachan had to make some difficult changes and later turned things around with the help of a mentor.

11. Danielle Sabrina’s Flexible Approach to Running a Business

The founder and CEO of Tribe Builder Media, Danielle Sabrina, does not believe that employees need to work nine to five for her company to benefit. She came up with an innovative method to let her employees decide when they wanted to accomplish by smartly incorporating their schedules with the priorities of the company. Her flexible approach that provided the freedom to her employees has proven to be a huge success.

12. Melissa Hanna – Funding Won’t Come Easily

Mahmee, the startup founded by Melissa, is aimed towards connecting mothers and babies to their prenatal and postpartum care. However, the company had a tough time getting funding. Melissa’s perseverance finally paid off after numerous failures when a group that includes Serena Williams and Mark Cuban came up with a massive investment of $3 million.

13. Sarah Jones – Good Things Take Time

Sarah Jones
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Imagine waiting for five years to launch an idea that you believe in finally. Sarah first had the idea of an organic baking line in 2011. However, she only managed to leave her job and launch Miss Jones Baking Co. in 2016. She was faced with various challenges, too, such as convincing manufacturers to produce frosting using organic and natural ingredients that took another four years. In 2019, her products were sold nationwide by retailers such as Whole Foods, Target, and Fairway, as well as Amazon.

In Summary

The world of business poses a unique set of challenges to women that are often unfair. However, you should not let those hardships come in the way of achieving their dreams and finding their true passion. The female leaders we discussed in this article bravely came over those obstacles that should inspire you to do the same.

Author Bio:

Kate Watson

Kate is a passionate female writer who believes that women should enjoy equal playing fields in the world of business. She is a specialist in business development. Kate shares her experience of how to open a bank account online with no deposit. She looks to other female leaders for inspiration and hopes to inspire other women by sharing their stories through her passion for writing.

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