Female Founders Making History
Female Founder’s Making History
Over the past decade, the United States has seen a major uptick in the number of women stepping into the role of business owner, with some women running major corporations, and others launching their own startups. In fact, a little over 1,800 new woman-owned businesses were founded in 2019, the second most ever in a single year behind only 1,821 new women-owned businesses launched in 2018. Women owned businesses are surging due to a combination of flexibility, opportunity, and a desire for diversity of perspective.
Three notable women who led their startups to massive success include Sara Blakely, Reese Witherspoon and Whitney Wolfe Herd. All three women have not only grown their startups from nothing, but have also taken them to new heights by selling them or taking them public in the past year. In honor of International Women’s Day, here are some of the incredible achievements these powerhouse woman-owned businesses have amassed over the years:
Sara Blakely, Spanx
Sara Blakely launched Spanx, an innovative clothing brand for women, in her Atlanta apartment in 2000. Blakely has since become internationally recognized for her business leadership and entrepreneurship, landing on Time Magazine’s ‘Top 100’ list in 2012 and becoming the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. In 2021, a majority stake in Spanx sold for $1.2 billion to Blackstone, a New York based investment management company. Blakely celebrated the sale of Spanx by surprising each of her 750 employees with $10,000 in cash and two free first-class plane tickets to anywhere they wanted. Blakely is supported by an all female board of directors as she continues to lead Spanx as executive chairwoman.
Reese Witherspoon, Hello Sunshine
Reese Witherspoon founded Hello Sunshine, a mission-driven media company focused on celebrating women, 2016. Hello Sunshine has produced six award winning TV shows with women at the center of every story, including The Morning Show on Apple TV, Big Little Lies on HBO Max, and Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu. Witherspoon continues to lead Hello Sunshine after selling a stake of the company for $900 million to a media company backed by Blackstone in 2021.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble
Whitney Wolfe Herd launched Bumble as a ‘feminist’ dating app to revolutionize the dating app industry. Bumble empowers its female users by allowing women only to first interact with a potential match. Wolfe Herd has turned Bumble into more than a dating app, adding ‘BFF’ mode for those looking for platonic friendships, developing ‘Bumble Bizz’ to put women first in professional networking and even creating a lifestyle magazine called Bumble Mag in 2019. Bumble became a publicly traded company in 2021. Initially valued at $43 per share, Bumble opened at $76, valuing the company at nearly $13 billion total.
Women in Leadership
While major sales and valuations are being made for Blakely, Witherspoon and Wolfe Herd, nearly 2,000 women are stepping into business leadership each year through their own enterprises. This is happening for a variety of reasons, including:
Flexibility. Amid ‘The Great Resignation’, thousands of women are choosing to leave the monotonous grind of working a corporate 9-5 for the dynamic grind of launching their own businesses. Women gain complete control over the culture of their own business – whether working as a one-person team or leading a group of employees. Female entrepreneurs also take control of when and where they work in their own business. Some seek the freedom to explore, working online from anywhere, while others desire flexibility for a healthier work-life balance or to grow a family.
Opportunity. Entrepreneurs see issues they can solve through a business enterprise. Blakely and Wolfe Herd launched Spanx and Bumble respectively to solve societal problems. Spanx creates comfortable and functional clothing for women, while Bumble empowers women online. Women in business leadership help to create a better society through unique solutions to everyday problems.
New Perspective. Women across the country are taking control of their own careers and becoming their own boss. Many women stepping into leadership have proven to be efficient and intentional leaders. Kevin O’Leary, a renowned Shark Tank shark and business mogul also known as ‘Mr. Wonderful’, has routinely invested in female entrepreneurs. “Attributes that I have observed are that they take less risk, they are more goal oriented in terms of setting targets and meeting them. If they say, ‘I am going to expand capacity or we’re going to increase distribution in the next quarter’, they deliver,” Mr. Wonderful explained. “It’s not an intuitive feeling. It’s actual hardcore results.”
Woman-Owned Success: By the Numbers
The numbers back up his claims.
Between 2014 and 2019, the growth rate of the number of women-owned companies was 3.9% annually. This is significantly more than the growth rate of all businesses during the same time frame, which only increased 1.7% each year.
Female titans of business like Blakely, Witherspoon and Wolfe Herd have paved the way for women across the country looking to establish themselves as business leaders. Opportunities for women to lead, in both major corporations and small businesses, are increasing rapidly throughout the United States as more women seek professional autonomy through flexibility and solve societal issues with unique business solutions.