While conversations about glass ceilings continue to take place in politics and the media, women across the country have been quietly revolutionizing the small business landscape over the last number of decades. With the ability to set their own standards and plot their own course, a new generation of female business owners have been building on the work of their trailblazing predecessors across America and beyond.
In this piece, we’ll present a carefully considered selection of these leaders and highlight some of the key takeaways based on their success to date. By the time we’re through, you’ll have been introduced to a whole new field of inspirational icons whose lives and lessons can help you take the next steps in your own endeavors with renewed confidence.
Let’s kick things off with a rising star from the world of fashion!
1. Carrie Hammer
For any female entrepreneurs wondering just how long they might have to wait to make a dent in the universe, Carrie Hammer should be an inspirational figure. In the four short years since launching her namesake brand she’s blazed a trail through the world of fashion while helping to revolutionize the role of a runway model.
Perhaps the clearest example of Carrie’s groundbreaking approach was her “Role Models Not Runway Models” collection during New York Fashion Week in 2014, which took the exciting step of using a powerful collection of female achievers to showcase her wares. Carrie’s success shows genuine change is possible from below in even the staidest of industries when the will and drive are there.
2. Emily Jean Waterstone
Emily Jean Waterstone’s story is one that will touch a chord with anyone who’s ever suffered through days in a cubicle dreaming of what might be. The young New Zealander was originally firmly on the lifelong legal track before a casual search for suitable online furniture led to the creation of a compelling small business in the form of La Maison Boutique.
Starting with one small shipment of antique reproduction furniture, the budding business quickly bloomed into a highly viable online store with two small offline showrooms. Along the way Emily, picked up some props from Microsoft thanks to her 2015 video outlining her story and is now running the business full-time. Her journey from initial idea to a fully integrated online and offline business, one that handles some serious inventory and logistics, is a highly impressive one.
3. Melinda Emerson
Making a go of your own small business requires a huge amount of planning, preparation and getting through the grind of the day-to-day. You’ll need more than a bit of inspiration and advice along the way, and that’s where our third choice comes in — Melinda Emerson. As a renowned small business expert in the U.S., she’s the perfect person to turn to for tactical advice, strategic insight and a healthy dollop of confidence boosting.
In stark contrast to many small business “gurus,” Melinda’s also walked the walk — she founded an award-winning marketing consulting group in Philadelphia before deciding to share her wisdom with others. You’ll find a huge amount of excellent, practical info on her site around topics such as finance and marketing, and her guide to becoming your own boss in 12 months should be essential reading for aspiring female business owners.
4. Misty Young
Catering and hospitality are popular niches for many female business owners, but there are more than a few attendant pitfalls waiting for the unwary. Misty Young, however, has managed to knock it out of the park with her own chain of restaurants and map out a clear path for others to do the same.
Her book, From Rags to Restaurants, is a fabulous blueprint for anybody looking to get into the food game, as well as an excellent resource for entrepreneurs generally in the way it tackles the stages and systems you’ll meet. Start browsing her site and story and you’ll soon see why major publications such as The New York Times are regularly singing her praises.
5. Ellen Rohr
Our final choice is someone who’s truly been there and bought the T-shirt. Newbie entrepreneurs will find plenty to inspire them in the tale of how Ellen Rohr went from struggling to run a family plumbing business to managing her own venture capital company and being one of America’s premier small business experts.
Check out The Bare Bones Biz Plan from Ellen for a quickstart guide on how to turn your dreams into reality.
Summing up lessons from 5 female business owners
Entrepreneurship can be a long and lonely road, particularly as a woman. It’s important you take inspiration from those who have been there before you. Our five choices above are by no means the only ones out there, but they’re a great starting point. Let’s step through them one more time:
- Carrie Hammer teaches us how to flip the script in traditional industries.
- Emily Jean Waterstone shows that serious online shops and supply chains can be put together in mere months.
- Melinda Emerson has you covered on the basics of getting your business off the ground.
- Misty Young is a life-saver if you’re in any way involved in the food game.
- Ellen Rohr gives you the big picture based on her own incredible entrepreneurial journey.
So if you’re one of the many aspiring female business owners out there, take these stories to heart. There’s plenty of inspiration and advice to find, so get out there and start your own venture!