Starting your own business has its own set of challenges.
It's even more challenging when you’re a woman.
But times have changed. With more opportunities accessible to women at present, many have made a mark and paved the way in various industries.
Get a dose of inspiration with business lessons from women entrepreneurs making an impact today.
Image from Virgin
Cynthia Ndubuisi’s road to entrepreneurship started when she saw the pressing concerns of her community in Nigeria.
For one, liquid soaps didn’t exist. People had to use bar soaps to wash their dishes every day. So, Ndubuisi created a plant-derived, non-toxic liquid soap, which led to the launch of her first venture EverGlow.
But she didn’t stop there.
She set her sights to their farming industry, where farmers faced challenges in processing one of their main crops – the cassava plant.
“I thought of how we could help farmers process the cassava to reduce their stress and increase their productivity,” she shared online. “I came up with a fabricated cassava processing machine that farmers can bring their plants to, which can help them peel and grind the cassava, so they can be used in consumer goods.”
This resulted in her second endeavour, Kadosh Production Company, which aims to help farmers optimise their cassava farming processes.
Indeed, when your business presents a solution to a problem, people will patronise it.
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Rebecca Minkoff developed an interest in design while she made costumes in high school. At 18 years old, she moved to New York to pursue fashion design.
Now, she’s an industry leader in fashion, famed for her self-titled brand of clothing, handbags, footwear, and accessories.
Her secret to growth? Knowing her target audience by heart.
Her brand caters to millennial women, and as a millennial woman herself, she relates to her market at a personal level.
“I think [the millennial woman] wants to be recognised for her style, not for a plate on some big, expensive bag she’s purchased," she shared in an interview. “She wants fashion pieces that are multi-functional and can go along with her fast-paced life. And she usually purchases handbags at peak life moments—whether it’s graduation, the first job, the promotion or the first date."
And her collection features exactly that – versatile pieces that fit every aspect of a millennial woman’s life.
Her marketing strategies reflect the millennial woman’s lifestyle, too.
She leverages the power of fans and influencers to promote her brand. She even responds to them herself. With their devotion to her brand, her fans have dubbed themselves Minkettes.
Even when you don’t exactly fit within your target audience, it’s still crucial to understand them to run your business more effectively.
Image from Mend
Being an entrepreneur hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride for Sophia Amoruso.
Her first endeavour, clothing brand Nasty Gal, grew exponentially from its humble beginnings as an eBay store in 2006 to a million-dollar empire in the early 2010s.
But how fast it grew was also how fast it fell. After 10 years in the market – dissatisfied employees, a few lawsuits, and declining sales in between – Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy.
This didn’t deter her, nonetheless.
She built her second business Girlboss Media, applying what she learned from the failures of her previous one.
As she revealed in an interview, she realised her shortcomings in raising capital, hiring executives, and managing a business in general.
“I was a young, naive founder,” Amoruso said. “[But] I have a firmer grasp today of the way the company spends its money, when the company becomes profitable, how ready we are for a series A … all the things that I need to back into now and plan for.”
Amoruso’s experience shows a more positive perspective on failure – it's a way for you to learn how to do better as a business owner.
Image from The Asian Entrepreneur
Technology may be a male-dominated industry, but Weili Dai managed to break through it.
After a fruitful career in software development, she co-founded Marvell Technology Group. Marvell is one of the top semiconductor companies in the world.
Dai was responsible for the use of Marvell’s technology in various markets, such as enterprise, communications, mobile computing, and the consumer space. She also paved the way for developing countries to get better tech access.
This all stems from her aim to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM.
"Women are the future of technology […]. It's not just about developing 'nerdy' stuff – it's about turning technology into fashionable and user-friendly smart solutions. […] I believe by embracing STEM and leveraging inherent strength of women — the sense of responsibility, passion, compassion, and pride we dedicate to family and community — and applying it to business can make women the X factor in the new era of global growth and prosperity," she said.
Dai’s grit is a testament to women’s capability to do anything despite existing norms.
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Anita Roddick wasn’t only known as the founder of beauty retail brand The Body Shop. She was also a human rights activist and an environmental advocate.
Roddick formed The Body Shop to have a source of income for her children while her husband worked abroad. She started with refillable containers and sample sizes and made sure to market with truth in mind – contrary to the common hype marketing at that time.
From there, she saw to it that their ingredients are 100% vegetarian, their products aren’t tested on animals, and their farmers are compensated fairly.
Not only that – the brand also partners with organisations to launch advocacy-driven campaigns, raising awareness on issues like women’s violence, labour rights, animal welfare, and clean energy.
That has gone on even after her death in 2007.
Roddick’s principles as an entrepreneur shows that a business’ purpose isn’t only for earning revenue, but also for driving positive change.
“Businesses have the power to do good," she wrote. "That's why The Body Shop's Mission Statement opens with the overriding commitment, ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’”
Learn more tips on growing your business here.
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