Female entrepreneurs that will inspire you

Women encounter more problems when starting up a business, whether it’s finding an investor, or navigating the male dominated manufacturing world. These hiccups can deter women from starting up their own company.

Unfortunately, not enough is done to encourage female entrepreneurs to take chances and create opportunities for themselves.

These three case studies highlight the struggles women have overcome on the way to building their businesses and what inspired their lightbulb moment.

Jane Wurwand, Dermalogica
Credit: Dermalogica

Founder: Jane Wurwand

The Dermalogica story: Jane Wurwand noticed a gap in the US market for quality skin-care education. After obtaining various skin-care qualifications from the UK and South Africa, she accepted an interview at a Beverly Hills salon. This would soon be the inspiration behind her multibillion-dollar idea. Wurwand discovered that the US offered inadequate beauty training, with classes lasting only four months. 

With her then boyfriend (now husband,) The International Dermal Institute was born, a beauty training company first launched in the US. After the tremendous success of the Institute, Wurwand went on to launch her own line of products to complement the Institute, Dermalogica was finally released.

Where is the business today: Today, Dermalogica products are the number one choice for more than 100,000 professional skin therapists in more than 80 countries worldwide. Jane Wurwand is now a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and is a part of their Women and Girls Action Committee.

Quote to remember: Jane realised she would have to be frugal, and began their business out of an apartment. “A big night out was me making cauliflower cheese in the apartment. It’s easy to do that for a week or month. But when you do that for years you start to think: “This isn’t working” – but you have to remember your long-term goal.”

Lessons you can take on board: You can start anywhere. You don’t need a fancy office to begin with, or even a lot of money. You will have to be frugal if you are funding yourself, but there are now more options than ever for small business financing.

Visit Dermalogica 

Sara Blakely, Spanx
Credit: Spanx

Founder: Sara Blakely 

The Spanx story: Wearing tights as part of her workplace uniform, Sara Blakely didn’t like the way the tights felt, but liked the way it made her body look. By experimenting with the tights (Sara cut the toes off to see if it would give her the desired look she wanted to achieve) and testing her products on friends and family, Sara became confident that she had a product worth selling. 

Turned away by every representative at the American hosiery mills, the men working there did not understand the value of her idea. Realising that the industry was run by men who did not fully understand the necessity for a product like this on the market, Sara was spurred on to convince someone that her idea was worthy of investment. Finally, someone did. The daughters of one representative of an American hosiery mill convinced their father to support Spanx, immediately recognising the potential of the product. After a huge endorsement by Oprah, who featured Spanx as one of her favourite products of the year, Sara and Spanx achieved worldwide recognition instantly.

Where is the business today? Spanx is worn by women worldwide including a number of celebrities. It has revolutionised the way women wear underwear and shapewear.  

Quote to remember: “I heard the word ‘no’ a lot in the first couple of years, I had to keep giving myself pep talks”

Lessons you can take on board: Do not give up. It will take a lot of hard work and it won’t be easy, but this is to be expected when starting up a business. If you believe in your idea, someone else will believe in it too. 

Visit Spanx  

Cassandra Stavrou, Propercorn
Credit: Propercorn

Founder: Cassandra Stavrou.

The Propercorn story: When Cassandra worked for a top advertising firm she noticed that her colleagues would hit a mid-afternoon slump. Snacks that were either unhealthy or bland would be the only food on offer for those feeling lethargic around 3pm. Cassandra wanted to create a healthy, yet delicious snack and cater for this gap in the market. Inspired by a popcorn maker gifted to her by her late father, Cassandra left her stable advertising job to work in a pub, whilst she financed her product herself. 

Cassandra wanted to make the popcorn in a very specific way. She received little support from manufacturers who were predominantly male, it took almost a year to find a manufacturer who would work with her. 

Where is she today: Today you can find Propercorn everywhere, including high-end retailer Selfridges and Google Headquarters.

Quote to remember: "What I thought I could achieve in six months took a lot longer."

Lessons you can take on board: It may take longer than you expect, but success doesn’t happen overnight. It may become hard to stay motivated, but if your product is something you believe people need, it is worth spending time, to perfect your idea.

Visit Propercorn

Written on in Business Insights