Here at IdeaMensch, we have interviewed 3,500 entrepreneurs in ten years. We ask everyone the same 16 questions, like “How do you bring ideas to life?” and “What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?”. Even though everyone answers the same questions, the responses are always different. That is one of the most amazing things about working with brilliant entrepreneurs.
This month, we are bringing you a list of 25 badass female entrepreneurs who have been recently interviewed on IdeaMensch. These women are founders of impactful nonprofits, designers of sustainable fashion, leading strategists, ground-breaking researchers, and startup CEOs.
A bit about them and their advice is listed below, but you can click their name to read their full interview. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out on their words of wisdom.
Georgene Huang, CEO of Fairygodboss
Her company: Georgene Huang is committed to improving the workplace for women. She’s the CEO and Co-founder of Fairygodboss, a marketplace where professional women looking for jobs, career advice and the inside scoop on companies meet employers who believe in gender equality. Fairygodboss engages with more than 1,000,000 women via our website and social media channels, and has been able to provide answers to some questions like “How much is facetime valued?” and “Are there other senior leadership females with children?” through invaluable resources like the maternity leave resource center.
Her advice: “You have to make mistakes all the time. It doesn’t feel good most of the time but if you don’t do it, you’ll never know what could have been.”
Cecilia Lynch, CEO & Chief Strategist at Focused Momentum
Her company: Focused Momentum makes it easier for leaders/leadership teams to access great thinking where ever it resides when creating plans. This top-down method of re-envisioning from only the executive level is a significant source of the high failure rate (80%) of strategic plans. Focused Momentum brings a unique set of business strategy expertise and group facilitation skills to how they design, conduct and document strategic plans so they can create great strategic focus and unleash deep leadership momentum throughout the organization.
Her advice: “Protect your energy and give it back to yourself/your business.”
Dr. Anita Leffel, CEO and Founder of Silver Founder Academy,Inc.
Her company: Silver Founder Academy, Inc. is an organization whose mission is to help those over the age of 50 who want to become entrepreneurs in their encore years. Driven by her passion and experience in entrepreneurship, she created resources to help the older nascent entrepreneurs with generating viable business ideas, designing a business model for making the kind of money they want to make, and support in marketing and finance.
Her advice: “Learn to be mindful. I don’t mean just to be more aware, but to truly learn to be in the moment.”
Roni Frank, Co-Founder of Talkspace
Her company: Roni Frank is a Co-Founder of Talkspace, an online therapy platform and mobile app that connect clients directly with licensed therapists anytime and anywhere. Roni also serves as Talkspace’s Head of Clinical Services, leading the company’s provider network of more than 1,500 therapists and responsible for quality of clinical service and therapist network growth. Roni is committed to open access to mental health care for every person in need.
Her advice: “Stay radically open-minded, no matter how successful you get. Don’t fall in love with one idea and fixate on executing it. Try to see every disagreement as an opportunity to learn—not as a threat to your ego.”
Alexandra Isseneger, Founder of Linkilaw
Her company: Linkilaw is the legal platform for startups. While working in a corporate law firm, Alex spotted a gap in the legal sector and inefficiencies in the fees charged by large firms for services provided to startups. On the one hand, lawyers work in a manner that is not efficient;
on the other hand, friends starting businesses encountering legal issues came to me looking for answers. From their feedback, Alex noticed a clear gap in the legal industry for a client-focused service that is cost transparent, speedy and still can provide quality, commercially astute advice. Linkilaw is an online marketplace where clients can compare and make the best choice from an all-star virtual lawyer community.
Her advice: “Allow yourself to be exactly what and who you are.”
Kesha Rashed, CEO of Fostering Footprints
Her company: Fostering Footprints Inc. was founded in 2017 when Kesha recognized that there was a growing need of support for teen mothers who are in out of home placements or age out of the foster care system. As a caseworker with the Department of Social Services, Kesha saw evidence that many of the teens who transition to adulthood lack the skills and support necessary to become successful adults. She envisioned an organization that would provide the support that these teens desperately need, as well as providing teens with effective parenting skills.
Her advice: “Slow down, stop trying to do everything. It is perfectly fine to allow others to help you.”
Veronica Horner, CEO and Co-Founder of Maia Moda
Her company: Maia Moda is a maternity / breastfeeding clothing line that provides quality, stylish and functional clothes to meet the needs of motherhood. The idea for Maia Moda was born at her friend’s wedding. Veronica thought she found a dress that would work for nursing but quickly realized it was too tight. She recognized that a lot of moms have struggled with this same situation and there is no reason for it, so she decided at this time design beautiful and functional clothing for maternity, nursing and beyond.
Her advice: “Proactively plan your career, self-promote and take more risks.”
Kiara Brown, Founder of Krown Picture Books
Her company: Kiara Brown lives outside D.C where she attends public high school, maintains a Vietnamese herb garden, and writes and illustrates for her company Krown Picture Books. Kiara found that there were a lot of fairytales and tropes that were outdated for a new generation of kids, so she wanted to take those and turn them into something new. Her first book, “Princess Pretend and the Not Knight” tells the story about two brave girls that is both unique and relatable for every reader.
Her advice: “You should never call yourself lazy or unimportant. That’s the easiest way to lose your power to do anything.”
Katherine Firestone, Founder of Fireborn Institute
Her company: Fireborn Institute is a non-profit that provides parents with practical and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children in school. Through lectures, podcasts and handouts, they coach parents on topics ranging from homework to conquering a messy backpack. Their goal is to help parents help their kids thrive at school. Katherine had a hard time in school because she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD till her junior year of high school. After college, she worked as a teacher, and saw that parents wanted to help their kids at home, but didn’t know what to do. She started the Fireborn Institute to give parents ideas on how to help because success at school is enhanced at home.
Her advice: “Doing things that make you uncomfortable is… so good for your brain (yes! I’m obsessed with brain health!). It keeps it nimble! It’s also good for the growth of your company and your own brand and self-image.”
Lauren Benbassat, CEO and Co-Founder of mēle
Her company: mēle is an all-natural meal replacement created by Lauren and her husband to solve the problem of poor eating during busy work and travel days. After years of corporate life in NYC, she and Adam realized there was a key ingredient missing during long work hours and hectic days – a quick, filling and nutrient dense snack and meal alternative – so they worked tirelessly after work hours, through weekends to perfect a delicious, nutritionally balanced smoothie mix, launching their brand to share with the world on September 2016.
Her advice: “The most important thing you can carry through the entire business journey is to be adaptable – if something isn’t working, change it, don’t be afraid to admit something isn’t working and find a better way to do it, and don’t expect your first idea to be the final and correct one.”
Gemma Sole, CEO of Nineteenth Amendment
Her company: Gemma started to think about how you could apply the concept of minimum viable products to fashion. She and her co-founder wanted to problem0solve how cash-strapped designers could launch a brand or product with the least amount of cash required. They provide exclusive fashion curated from independent designers made responsibly and on-demand in the USA.
Her advice: “Early adopt everything…not every platform lasts but no matter what you usually always learn something helpful to your business.”
Janice Taylor, Founder of Mazu
Her company: Mazu gives parents a place to communicate, play and connect with their children in a starter social media environment. Her mission is to build a “digital village” – a movement around healthy, positive, and fun family engagement in today’s digital age. The movement to bring parents and children together online has resonated with families from all walks of life. Sports teams and brands have used Mazu as a secure channel, to connect with fans and their kids, celebrating common interests and sharing content.
Her advice: “Spend every day working on yourself! Growing, learning, practicing self-love and digging into your wounded soul so that you can be more effective as a leader.”
Sally Poblete, Founder of Wellthie
Her company: Wellthie was founded out of Sally’s passion for making health insurance more simple and approachable for consumers and small businesses. When people think about all the things they shop for, insurance is probably one of the most stressful that comes up to their mind- yet it is one of the most important. Wellthie transforms the way people find, choose, and use their insurance. They believe making insurance decisions should be easy and that great technology and design are the key to making that possible.
Her advice: “Engage with people and talk about your idea/ business to people even though they may not be a potential customer, partner, investor or new hire. Listen carefully for their questions – as that is a key towards making your pitch understandable in the first few seconds.”
Dr. Tammy Movsas, Executive Director of Zietchick Research Institute
Her company: Tammy has a multidisciplinary background in ophthalmology, perinatal epidemiology and preventive medicine that gave her the skills to start developing hormonal-based therapeutics for eye disorders. She and her team are committed to designing experiments, examining data, meeting with lab team members, reading the medical literature, and researching new solutions for unsolved problems. Through her work, she hopes to create treatments for blinding eye disorders like diabetic retinopathy.
Her advice: “[Develop] the ability to take a positive outlook and belief in what can be achieved, instead on what cannot.”
Theresa Siaw, Founder of A Community of One
Her company: Theresa launched ‘A Community of One’ to ensure better resources in Humboldt Park, Illinois. They aim to lower the crime rate in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods by providing better resources. Currently, she is working with other community partners at the Omni Healthcare Division Street location to launch a program to reintegrate former gang members back into the Humboldt Park community in a positive, productive way.
Her advice: “Speak your mind and follow your dreams even if they are intimidating, because you never know when the opportunity may arise again.”
Jessica Higgins, COO at Gapingvoid Culture Design
Her company: Jessica is changing the game of organizational cultural change. She paired her expertise in operational design with a marketing expert specializing in organizational emotional change to launch Gapingvoid. It is currently the only end-to-end culture designs solution firm in existence. She and her team deliberately assess, root cause, strategize, design and execute sustainable solutions at scale that connect people logically and emotionally to the organization’s most important outcomes.
Her advice: “If you want to build a business, you have to start with a serious self-assessment. You really need to get to know yourself and what skills and qualities you bring to the table. Then delegate things you don’t excel at.”
Erin Halper, Founder and CEO of The Upside
Her company: The Upside matches businesses with best-in-class flexible, scalable and on-demand executive talent. Erin learned there are a significant number of companies that are either overpaying an outside agency to supplement their business needs or are going without additional help, stretching their existing staff too thin. She launched The Upside to help others gain flexibility and independence in their careers, while also helping businesses acquire top talent that can flex and scale with their changing needs. She aims to change the way working works in America.
Her advice: “Make as many contacts and connections as possible while you’re working for someone else. You’ll be happy you have them when you decide to launch something on your own. Reputation + connections are the foundation of a successful launch.”
Anuja Ketan, CTO and Co-Founder of NewtonX
Her company: NewtonX is the world’s first AI-powered knowledge access platform. The co-founders noticed that traditional expert networks were slow, imprecise, and not cost effective. Because matching experts with clients was a manual process for these incumbents, it could take up several days for a client to get the information they needed. Ketan developed an algorithm automated the process of identifying experts and matching them to clients, and a strong automation framework to actually connect experts with clients in a fast and cost-efficient manner.
Her advice: “Don’t let the lack of female technologists stop you. Become a role model yourself.”
Beth Gerstein, Co-Founder of Brilliant Earth
Her company: Brilliant Earth is a global leader of ethically sourced fine jewelry and a leading e-commerce jeweler. Beth recognized a gap in the market for diamonds untainted by civil war and human rights abuses. She combined her passion for social enterprise and ten years of technology and business development experience to cofound Brilliant Earth. Her hope is that responsibly-sourced jewelry could be an effective tool for social change in developing countries.
Her advice: “Speak up when you have an idea and make your voice heard. Don’t shy away from tough projects – volunteer for stretch assignments and tackle them head on!”
Sharon Rowe, Founder and CEO of Eco-Bags Products
Her company: When Sharon Rowe launched Eco-Bags products in 1989, she was considered a pioneer of the reusable bag movement. Now, ECOBAGS are sold internationally and Sharon is an established speaker on social entrepreneurship and how to integrate your “why” into the “how” of building a profitable, aligned impact business that fits your life.
Her advice: “Breathe. Being in the moment is important but so is projecting potential future paths, even if they never arise. There’s a preparedness that’s helpful in decision making especially when things can get tight.”
Jen Perry, Owner and Inventor of Jelt Belt
Her company: Jelt Belt was born from the need for a functional belt to keep jeans from sagging. The Jelt Belt is modern-retro and is made from 100% recycled water bottles, has a patent-pending buckle design that won’t show a bulge under fitted shirts, and an inner gel that grips to pants. Beyond the belt, Jelt is commited to giving back to organizations supporting veterans, children and the environment. Their local Montana manufacturing helps incarcerated women gain valuable job skills and build self-confidence prior to release.
Her advice: “Follow your heart, but let your mind steer.”
Dr. Marsha Firestone, President and Founder of the Women Presidents’ Organization
Her company: Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) is a peer advisory group for women who own and lead multi-million dollar businesses. Dr. Firestone started WPO in 1997 after noticing a lack of programs for women who had achieved entrepreneurial success. WPO helps accelerate business growth, enhance competitiveness and promote economic security for women-owned and led companies through confidential and collaborative peer learning groups. WPO’s mission is to provide accomplished women entrepreneurs a forum in which to use the 4C’s – Collaboration, Confidentiality, Commitment and Connections – to grow their businesses, using the peer learning group as the educational model.
Her advice: “Reinforce ethical leadership. Being trustworthy is the most important characteristic. Run your company with the highest “ethos” and you will be respected.”
Lauren Hill, President and Founder of Medical Inflatables, Inc.
Her company: Medical Inflatables, Inc. was born after Lauren noticed a gap in community health education events that failed to engage attendees enough for them to retain vital information and take action to improve their health. She designed a giant, inflatable heart that travels the world to teach about the impact of heart disease. The MEGA Heart, MEGA Brain, MEGA Lungs and MEGA Body are part of her traveling, inflatable anatomy collection that reaches the community about their health in a new way.
Her advice: “You must understand what is working and invest more into that, cut out what isn’t working.”
Kristen van Ginhoven, Artistic Director of the WAM Theatre
Her company: Kristen co-founded WAM Theatre to showcase “Where Arts and Activism Meet”. WAM’s vision is to create opportunity for women and girls through a mission of theatre as philanthropy. In eight years, WAM has produced twelve mainstage productions, provided paid work for more than 475 theatre professionals, and donated more than $41,500 to local and global organizations taking action for women and girls in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.
Her advice: “Find a way to believe in your goals even when they seem super out of reach, and try to be happy. When the negative stuff hits, find ways to remember the blessings.”
Lora Ivanova, Co-Founder and CEO of myLab Box
Her company: myLAB Box is the first online service empowering users to take control of their health by screening for infections at home. By selling direct to consumers, myLab Box can offer exceptional service at half the cost of conventional lab tests. From affordable screening to complimentary physician consultations for positives, every aspect of the myLAB Box service is designed to be something a user can easily handle out-of-pocket.
Her advice: “To bring ideas to life, follow a simple formula: listen and learn, experiment and validate, then pedal to the metal.”
We are so honored to share these stories on IdeaMensch.
For more information about how to do an IdeaMensch interview, visit www.ideamensch.com/interview.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.