There are increasingly women in business in our world today. The number of female entrepreneurs who are beginning to embrace the path of business is rising daily. There are more women in business now than it has ever been in the history of the world especially now that many foundations and organisations are cut-out for equal right with the number of feminists and women right activists increasing daily to help female entrepreneurs rise to responsibility and build empires. The society is changing to favour more women to embrace business and the increasing number of opportunities specified for women especially female entrepreneurs only is evidence. These are women in business to watch out for this year.
1. Emily Weiss:
How Emily Weiss took her blogging passion to more than a billion-dollar company is something worth emulating in the business world which has made her unique among many other women in business. She might not be among the top 100 most powerful women in business but with the way she goes, we are to watch out for her this year as one of the top female entrepreneurs.
Weiss worked for several fashion magazines and then started a beauty blog called “Into the Gloss” in 2010 that cultivated a large following. The idea for an e-commerce beauty site evolved from the blog. With a degree in art from New York University rather than a business degree, Weiss felt unprepared to raise funds. Eleven venture capital firms turned her down. The female founder of Forerunner Ventures, Kirsten Green, decided to bet on Weiss. Green invested $2 million in seed funding in September 2014. Just two months later Glossier received a Series A round of $8.4 million from another firm. Since then it has received two more rounds of $24 million and $52 million for a total $86 million.
Started Glossier in 2014 with just four products, Glossier now sells skincare, makeup, and fragrance products online to consumers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The company has a showroom in New York, where it is also headquartered. It has more than 300 employees across three countries.
2. Melanie Perkins: one of the fastest rising female entrepreneurs
The company has 10 million users across 179 countries, and 10 designs are created via its website every second. Not bad for a business that had its genesis in the lounge of Melanie’s mother’s house in Perth.
This was back in 2006 when Melanie was a 19-year-old commerce and communications student at the University of Western Australia. At the time she says she was frustrated by how long it took to learn how to use most mainstream design software. “It could take a whole semester to learn the very basics,” she says. “Even the simplest tasks, like exporting a high-quality PDF file, could take 22 clicks.” Like one trait found in all the female entrepreneurs which is finding a problem and building a solution to it, Melanie did exactly that.
While most of us would moan about this state of affairs, and then give it no more thought, Melanie, spotted a business opportunity. She decided to try to launch an online design website that would be as easy as possible for people to use. “I realised that in the future design was all going to be online and collaborative, and much, much simpler.” Deciding to test her business idea in the relatively small-scale world of school yearbooks, she and her boyfriend Cliff Obrecht founded Fusion Books, a website that allows high schools to design their yearbooks online.
Effectively a prototype version of what would become the Canva system, she and Cliff set up shop in her mother’s front room and borrowed money from relatives to pay for software designers to build the platform. Over the next few years, Fusion grew into Australia’s largest yearbook publisher, before expanding to France and New Zealand. The business was so successful that Melanie decided to leave university to focus on it full-time.
Realising that Fusion could be applied beyond yearbooks, it was in 2010 that she flew to California to pitch the idea for Canva to potential investors, including the fateful meeting with Mr Tai.
Today, more than 200 people work for Canva, which has headquarters in Sydney and Manila, and an office in San Francisco. In the financial year, 2016-17 Canva’s revenues grew more than twofold from $6.8m to $23.5m, according to Australia’s Financial Review website. However, the company made a loss of $3.3m and has actually not yet made a profit as it has instead focused on rapid expansion. Canva is a private company, so its $1bn price tag comes from the private investors and venture capitalists who are backing it. That’s what they think the firm – and Melanie and her team – are worth. She is considered one of the most inspiring women in business.
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3. Jessee Genet
At age 16 Jessee Genet started making t-shirts in her parents’ basement in Detroit. Genet Apparel was in business for three years. Genet then moved to Los Angeles and received a B.S. in product design which prepared her on her journey to join other female entrepreneurs.
In 2010 she started a new company, Inkodye, which manufactured a sunlight-activated fabric dye. Genet brought the product to market through two Kickstarter campaigns that raised over $270,000. She achieved profitability, selling the product in more than 1,500 global retail stores for five years.
Lumi, Genet’s latest venture, is an online platform that helps U.S.-based e-commerce companies manage their packaging supply chain. In 2015 after a failed effort on the television series Shark Tank to get Lumi funded, Genet participated in incubator Y Combinator and changed Lumi’s business model. The Lumi Dashboard allows e-commerce firms to find and procure packaging produced by Lumi’s global network of factories. Lumi’s customers must ship more than 1,000 orders per month. Based in Los Angeles, the company has 63 employees.
4. Tara Fela-Durotoye: influencer for African women in business
is a Nigerian-born lawyer turned Africa’s leading beauty and makeup entrepreneur. One of the most powerful and wealthiest women in business in the space of Nigeria. She started House of Tara at the age of 20, from her living room, whilst an undergraduate at university back in 1998. She’s since gone on to launch Nigeria’s first-ever bridal directory in 1999, and in 2004 she opened the country’s leading beauty academy. Today, Tara has over 3,000 reps spread across Nigeria and 14 stores to her name and she is steadfastly dedicated to realising her vision of building a globally respected beauty company of African origin. Tara remains an inspirational role-model and mentor to make-up artists and aspiring beauty business owners across Africa.
In 2013, Tara was nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and was also named one of Forbe’s ’20 Young Power African Women’. Tara’s early journey towards joining female entrepreneurs in business and entrepreneurship was inspired by an advertiser, who spoke to her about being business conscious whilst she was still in secondary school. She remembers: “I was in secondary school many years ago and a man came to speak to us and he came to speak to us as an entrepreneur, that is, as a businessman. He was in advertising and because he was creative, I found him interesting. He made me interested in business… I eventually went to university and I studied law. As an undergraduate, while I was still in school I started a business. I started with just N15,000 (fifteen thousand naira). It is less than the cost of a blackberry phone.
Tara started her entrepreneurial journey seriously in the beauty business when she was still a law student at Lagos State University. She later trained as a makeup artist of Charles Fox. Yet, her early interest in makeup and fashion was stimulated by her stepmother, a highly fashionable and glamorous woman who used to work in the Ministry of Culture and studied Fine Arts. Tara says of her mother’s inspiration growing up: “ She was a fantastic woman, very fashionable, so when you looked at her dressing table she had make-up products, she would paint her face in the morning, she never missed her hairdressing appointment, her nail polish was always perfect. I grew up seeing her adorn herself and I liked looking at her through all that process. I didn’t know that a seed was being sown in my heart.”
Speaking about her early entrepreneurial challenges when first starting up the business, she says: “At startup, we faced challenges with raising funds. In Nigeria, you need to be able to get financing and raising funds was a big problem. Also, our industry is an informal one and as pioneers, we could not find standards to copy. It’s easier when you see something you can copy but when you have to think it through and make it up as they come along, it’s not easy. Now, we are dealing with challenges of attracting talent and retaining them; keeping the voice of the vision across multiple branches and across a number of people. We also face the challenge of people asking us to sell shares in the company and people consistently looking for ways to be part of the business that will boom.”
Tara’s entrepreneurial success story has been an inspiration to many young female entrepreneurs and aspiring women in business. To date, over 1,500 students have graduated from her make-up school so far and many have gone on to start their own businesses, while some have become beauty bloggers. A number also work for international cosmetic brands, which like many western companies are keen to invest in the oil-rich frontier economy. Tara has 80 full-time employees and over 3000 independent sales representatives across the country.
5. Adenike Ogunlesi – CEO Of Ruff ‘N’ Tumble
Nike is one of the most sought after female entrepreneurs in Nigeria now but was confused about what to do with her life after she opted out of school in her second year but was convinced by her mother to work with her. At the time, her mother owned a growing fashion label, Betti O. Betti O is famous for designing clothes with local fabric, Adire for both men and women.
While at Betti O, they introduced colourful dyeing patterns which can be used for different designs by fashion-conscious people and early adopters. Some months into it, Nike discovered that she enjoyed what she was doing and worked with her mother until she got married. After getting married with kids, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom to spend time with her children.
Though Nike was an experienced dressmaker thought by her mother, her inspiration for making children’s clothing came as a result of the necessity for her kids. The idea was conceived when she sought new pyjamas for her kids and found none. She then made pyjamas for her children which was loved by family and friends. Family and friends patronised her and she was encouraged to manufacture more for other children by her husband. That was the beginning of what is now an instantly recognisable brand. All these she did from the comfort of her home.
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True women in business sometimes have humble beginnings. When Adenike Ogunlesi started, she used to sell the clothes from the boot of her car, at bazaars, local markets and was always quick to show her designs to people. Sales increased consistently and as a result, she expanded by hiring more tailors to meet the increasing demand.
Adenike Ogunlesi studied the Nigerian local market for children’s ready-made clothes and discovered that children’s clothing was either poorly made or imported and extremely expensive. She saw an opportunity and founded Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, a clothing brand that specialises in children’s apparel, in 1996. Today, Nike has grown her clothing line into a national brand that is highly respected and recognised on the instant. Her company is one of the most successful and innovative children’s clothing company in Nigeria.
Ruff ‘n’ Tumble presently operates a warehouse, a factory and has many retail outlets in major cities in Nigeria as well as several distributors around the West African Coast. The retail outlets’ cities in Nigeria are Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ilorin and Kano.
Adenike Ogunlesi widened her revenue model with the introduction of newer brands, Trendsetters and NaijaBoysz. These brands were introduced to cater for unique fashion sense of today’s young adults.