By: Emily Klaus | Marketing Associate
It takes a lot to start a small business. It takes even more to start a small business as a woman. Between fighting stereotypes of a female entrepreneur and facing more funding challenges than a man, the hurdles are seemingly endless. However, these obstacles are not impossible to overcome. Here are just a few of the amazing women who worked hard, persevered through the rough times and who have made their businesses more successful than they could have ever dreamed.
Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin of theSkimm
Both Weisberg and Zakin grew up in households that encouraged being knowledgeable about current events. Weisberg said that politics were important in her family, especially growing up in Chicago. Zakin was raised in Manhattan and recalls feeling a sense of pride when she was the first to tell her family a piece of news. Over the years, when Weisberg was at Tufts and Zakin at the University of Pennsylvania, their paths crossed many times before they actually met.
The two became friends and eventually, roommates. It was then that the idea for theSkimm, a daily e-newsletter covering currently trending topics from pop culture to foreign affairs, was conceived. They saw a need for a news source that was quick, efficient and could fit into the daily routine of young professionals. Zakin said one of the driving forces behind theSkimm was to “make it easier [for readers] to be smarter”.
Both women admit that starting a company for the first time is hard, especially in such a male-dominated industry. Zakin recalls going into meetings and having people ask questions like who wrote their business plan and who writes their sports coverage. These kinds of questions will undoubtedly be asked of any female entrepreneur, no matter the industry.
Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott Jewelry
Even if you don’t know the designer, you’ve probably seen one or two pieces of Kendra Scott jewelry on your friends or colleagues. However, this wasn’t Scott’s first venture into small business. At the tender age of 19, she opened a hat store that “focused on providing specialized headwear for those going through cancer treatments”. Unfortunately, Scott was unable to keep the store open, but just five short years later, she saw a space in the market for “handcrafted pieces at an attainable price point” and decided to fill that gap. She made her first collection in a spare bedroom and went door-to-door to sell all of her original samples to help buy more materials for the orders she’d just collected.
Scott says the “tipping point” was six years after she started her business, when the now-signature Danielle earring debuted. At the end of 2015, the Austin, Texas-based company had almost 40 retail locations across the country. Her colorful designs have been featured on high-fashion runways, red carpets, movies and television shows.
Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway
Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss don’t have a typical start-your-own-business story. Both graduates of Harvard Business School, their idea for Rent the Runway, a “Netflix” for dresses” service, was already funded while they were still in school. With no business plan to start from, Hyman and Fleiss launched quickly after they brainstormed the concept, buying various dresses in their own sizes and renting them to women at area colleges. Designers and investors loved their tenacity and willingness to just jump in and see what worked.
Both women say that simply diving headfirst into your idea and being passionate about it are what it takes to make your business successful. They also stress having an unbiased view of what is working, what it not working and where to go from there.
All of these ladies are just a few of the incredibly inspiring examples of women in business. By sharing their stories and creating a community, they are helping to encourage and support the expansion of more women owning and operating small businesses.
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