There are a lot more female CEOs than people think, because no one really talks about them as much as we should. When people think of CEOs and entrepreneurs, they often picture male figures such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. This is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are many women entrepreneurs that should be praised for their hard work. I recently picked up a book at Barnes & Noble titled, 31 CEOs Who Mean Business: Girls Who Run the World, by Diana Kapp and illustrated by Bijou Karman.
I just started reading this book, but I already feel so energized and motivated after reading it. It discusses how these impactful women are just like us. They have different hobbies, had a low GPA in school, and had many failures in their life that lead them to where they are today. They are normal, everyday people. I will be highlighting a few CEO’s from the book, because I highly recommend all of you to read it!
- Sara Blakely – CEO/Founder of SPANX
SPANX is a line of different women’s undergarments – underwear, bras, leggings and more. Not only did I read about Blakely’s work in the book, but I had watched a presentation she did in one of my entrepreneurship classes. Blakely’s idea came about when she looked in the mirror and didn’t like how her butt looked in white pants. She realized that men were creating our undergarments, which is why they were so uncomfortable. She created her first product herself at home and went to different manufacturers around the country. Each of them asked: Who are you? Who are you with? And who are you financially backed by? Her answers were Sara Blakely, with Sara Blakely and financially backed by Sara Blakely. After many rejections, a manufacturer agreed to produce her product because he had two daughters that loved it. Her headquarters were in her house. Now? According to their website, they have opened 20 different stores across the country with the line being sold in thousands of stores.
- Diane Caldwell – Founder and Owner of The Candy Store
The Candy Store is a small candy boutique located in San Francisco, CA. The store sells all-time favorite candies, homemade candies, and some you would have never thought to taste good. Caldwell’s sweet tooth dates back to when she was a little girl. She had her own little business of selling candy to other kids on the playground and made a fortune. When she grew up and worked in other jobs, such as being a line cook and internet marketing, she realized that she missed the small business she had as a child where she was her own boss. She wanted to open a candy store. However, realtors refused to sell her a space and was unable to get financial support from banks due to never owning a business beforehand. Fortunately, Wells Fargo loaned her money that she had to pay off in seven years. Her business did so well that she was able to pay off that loan in one year. Caldwell’s store has been recognized by celebrities such as Martha Stewart, and has been sold in Target stores throughout the country.
- Jane Chen – Co-Founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations and Little Lotus
According to the World Health Organization, about 15 million babies are born prematurely each year. Babies born too early are usually kept in an incubator to be kept at a certain temperature. Unfortunately, not a lot of countries have access to these incubators due to a lack of electricity or finances. Jane Chen and her team created Embrace, which is a portable baby warmer or incubator. Her invention caught attention from some of the most influential people, such as former President Obama and Beyonce. Despite her success, there were a lot of times where she faced financial hardship and was close to shutting down her operation and business. However, her unexpected connection with Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, helped her get back up and running. Embrace is continuing to save millions of babies’ lives across the globe.
- Katia Beauchamp – Co-Founder and CEO of Birchbox
Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that provides their customers with four to five sample sizes of makeup products in a box that is shipped to their door. That way people can test a product out before purchasing the regular size product. Beauchamp started this idea while she was attending Harvard. She used the technique of the “cold email” that she sent to different beauty companies persuading them to send her sample sizes of their products. A cold email is an email sent directly to the company stating what you want to accomplish and asking to speak with them directly. Eventually, Benefit Cosmetics signed on, which caused other companies to do the same. After that, she and her co-founder Hayley Barna created the first round of test boxes in their apartment. They sent them out and got amazing feedback. Regardless of their success, a problem they faced was always having to change the job. This meant that whenever they felt like they were grounded somewhere, something would always come up and they would have to change everything. At one point they had to limit their budgeting, causing Beauchamp to lay off a lot of their employees. They even tried to sell the company. Luckily, they were able to get a $15 million investment from Walgreens and QVC. Birchbox is still up and running while rolling with the punches.
- Maci Peterson Philitas – Co-Founder and CEO of On Second Thought
Ever sent a text message that you regretted instantly and wish you had taken it back? That is what Maci Peterson Philitas tried to accomplish after sending an embarrassing text message to her ex-boyfriend. She pitched her idea at a pitch competition and won! After that, she tried to contact her many connections so she could get her app developed. She was a film and public relations major who did not really have any experience with coding and technology. She was told so many times that her idea was impossible, but with the help of her friends she was able to upload her app On Second Thought on Google Play. It became an instant hit with her office phone blowing up. She quit her full-time job when the app took off. Funding became a challenge, and she was rejected by many companies. “You hear ‘no’ a lot. The hard part is not allowing those no’s to get to you,” said Philitas in the book. She decided to go through with the business model license agreement and is continuing to see her company grow.
- Beatriz Acevedo – Founder of Mitú
Mitú is a media platform for young Latinos and Latinas that produce different forms of entertainment such as TV shows and movies. Acevedo’s inspiration first started when she had a huge crush on Ricky Martin and started deejaying in the hopes of meeting him one day. This eventually led her to having her own segment on a local TV station in high school. She interviewed people at the Oscars, which got noticed by the national network. After college, she sold her car to make TV pilots that she pitched in Las Vegas, where it was bought on the spot by Discovery Channel and the USA Network. She eventually produced Mitú, which is Spanish for me and you. She participated in a summit at the White House, produced many shows, and has helped Latino creators become famous. One quote that stood out to me from the book was when she said, “Kids, if you have a phone, you have opportunity!”
Overall, these ladies had an idea and did everything they could to execute it, regardless of the obstacles they faced and failures that hurt them. When they saw opportunities, they took them. This book tells the many stories of 31 CEOs, and I hope it awakens your inner entrepreneurial self!