It’s Women’s History Month! To celebrate, this month at CiVS we are shining a spotlight on female CEO’s, inventors, and entrepreneurs. 50 years ago, female entrepreneurs who could discover, manage, and fund their own company would have been seen as ambitious at best. Women faced discrimination which stunted their abilities to run successful businesses and faced harmful stereotypes.
Nowadays, things are shaking up. Over the last few decades female business owners and entrepreneurs have increased remarkably. Now women make up just over a third of Australia’s business operators, and own 36% of small businesses worldwide. Simultaneously programs are popping up all over the world to empower women’s business endeavours.
While we love the small-business owners who are trying to make change in their industry. In this article we’re not interested in small businesses — we want to focus on the major ones. Today we’re going to be looking at the top female-founded companies in 2022.
Melanie Perkins – Canva
Canva came out in 2013 with the mission to make graphic design easy. It was founded by Melanie Perkins along with two of her co-founders (now-husband) Cliff Obrecht, and friend Cameron Adams. The platform found almost immediate overwhelming success. Within the first year the website had over 750,000 users. By 2021, the company had a value of over 40 billion dollars.
Melanie Perkins, who is not only the founder but also CEO of Canva, says that she has no plans of slowing down.
“We want to build one of the world’s most valuable companies, … we’re moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”
In an interview with Irish tech news, Perkins also shared some insight into her journey with Canva and what she thinks is necessary for starting a successful business.
- Solve a real problem that many people experience
- Go niche before you go wide
Perkins emphasised the importance of focusing on a small segment before opening up to the entirety of the market. For Canva, their niche started out with the design of high school yearbooks. Which was where a much earlier version of their software was born, and titled “Fusion Books”.
Melanie Perkins. Image by WebSummit via. Flickr
Anne Wojcicki – 23andMe
23andMe is a biotechnology company that allows people to learn more about their DNA and heritage. Through the service you can find out how your DNA influences your facial features, taste, smell, and other traits. It works by having customers complete an at-home saliva sample and sending it back to the lab for testing.
Anne Wojcicki founded the company along with two others Linda Avey and Paul Cusenza. She is now operating as the current CEO of the company. Wojcicki says that a part of her goal with 23andMe was to “revolutionize health care” by providing an easy way for people to predict potential genetic illnesses. Wojcicki previously worked as a healthcare analyst and studied biology at Yale university. The skills she learnt during her previous work helped her to develop and perfect 23andMe as it hit the market.
Her hard work has a lot to show for it. Not only has her company 23andMe made a serious positive impact on the lives of others but in 2021 Wojcicki became an on-paper billionaire thanks to 23andMe being publicly valued at $3.5 billion.
Anne Wojcicki. Image by TechCrunch via. Flickr
Emily Weiss – Glossier
Emily Weiss is the CEO and sole founder of cosmetic company Glossier. A cosmetic company that focuses on a minimal and natural look. They market themselves as a simple, ‘skin-first’ makeup solution. Their products have been showcased by major names including Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and major American rapper Megan Thee Stallion.
Weiss was only 28 when she started up Glossier and her success landed her in Forbes “30 under 30” list in 2015. In 2019 Time magazine included her in their “Next 100”. It’s no surprise that Weiss’ business has been a success —her determination has driven success throughout her life. Weiss was already operating within the fashion and beauty realm, through her internships at Ralph Lauren which she completed during the summer of high school. In college she interned again, this time at Teen Vogue. In the mornings of her Vogue internship, between 4am and 8am Weiss worked on her own blog ‘Into the Gloss’ which interviewed celebrities and explored their shelves and medicine cabinets. By early 2012, the site had more than 200,000 unique visitors. This provided Weiss with the perfect opportunity to launch into e-commerce, and she called it “Glossier”.
When it comes to Weiss’ business philosophy she’s the type of CEO to invest in company culture, and the potential of her employees. In an interview with Thrive Global Weiss talked about how her company “take[s] really big bets on people who haven’t yet proven that they can do certain things”. Which she says is something that’s really been paying off.
Emily Weiss. Image by TechCrunch via. Flickr
Whitney Wolfe Herd – Bumble
Just like Weiss, Whitney Wolfe also made it into Forbes 30 under 30 and on top of that was in Time’s 100 List. In February 2021, Wolfe Herd became the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire when she took Bumble public.
Previously the vice president of marketing for Tinder, Wolfe Herd went on to build quite the fierce competitor. Wolfe Herd saw a problem with the current online dating platforms — they weren’t built for women. Bumble was the solution. Bumble is a women-centric dating app where women make the first move. Wolfe Herd worried about how women, specifically women of colour, were being bullied and harassed on online dating platforms. She hoped that creating an app with a different focus, would help to engineer healthier relationships.
Bumbles origin story really begins at Tinder, where Wolfe Herd says she was harassed and undervalued. After that, she was ready to set out and “prove everyone wrong”.
“To prove that she was the person that did the marketing behind Tinder, she did help the company grow, and all that was being stripped from her. She did it once, and she’ll do it again, better.”
-Alex Williamson, Wolfe Herds best friend speaks on her goals after Tinder.
Wolfe Herd is a real revenge success story. Now, Bumble is worth 8 billion dollars, a primary competitor to tinder, and holds over 100 million users.
Whitney Wolfe Herd. Image by TechCrunch via. Flickr
Sara Blakely – Spanx
Sara Blakely is another successful woman who can be found in the archives of Time magazine’s “Time 100”. She was also listed as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2014.
Blakely founded Spanx back in 1998 when she was only 27 years old. She is a true self-made woman, starting the project with $5000 of her own savings that she got from being a fax machine saleswoman. Blakely got the idea for Spanx during a sudden “A-Ha!” moment, where she cut off the feet of her pantyhose to wear under her pants for a night out. Blakely realised the value in a good undergarment and how much the market wasn’t catering too it.
Spanx was profitable in its first year of operation. In 1999 the business had a total revenue of $4,000,000. Today, it’s estimated to be worth an approximate $1.2 billion. Sara Blakely herself became a billionaire herself back in 2013. After selling the company to Blackstone in 2021, Blakely retains her position as an executive chair and vows to continue to help the company grow further in the future.
“Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband, or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.”
-Sarah Blakely, her tip for success.
Sara Blakely. Image by Fortune Live Media via. Flickr