Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

March 5, 2018
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate all things female, we’re introducing you to 12 inspiring entrepreneurs who help make it possible for Thrive Market to achieve its mission of making healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.

From Korean sauces and eco-friendly food packaging to menstrual cups and bamboo toothbrushes, the products from these female-founded companies couldn’t be more different, but each business is committed to enacting positive change, whether that be on our food system, environment, or health.

Read on to learn the stories of why these women launched their businesses, the advice they’d give to young entrepreneurs, and their favorite products!


Lunette

Lunette Founder Heli Kurjanen

Heli Kurjanen, Founder & CEO

As the mother of invention and Lunette, Heli Kurjanen created safe, efficient, and eco-friendly period protection for women of every age, shape, size, and childbearing stage—no strings attached.

1. What inspired you to start Lunette?

The inspiration behind Lunette was need. I was looking for good and healthy period care and although I found something acceptable, I couldn’t find anything perfect, so I decided to design a menstrual cup suitable for my own needs. Luckily, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one searching for better options and Lunette got excellent reviews from the beginning.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

I’ve come a long way by trusting my gut feelings and working hard. I’d recommend other entrepreneurs make a good plan, be brave, and believe in yourself. There will always be people who will doubt you, but listen to your heart, have courage, and work towards your goals.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

Of course it’s the Lunette cup! It’s changed my life so much; not just because of this business side but also otherwise. I can’t live without our cup and the freedom it provides me monthly.


Fatco

Fatco founder Julia Requarth

Cassy Burnside, Founder

When Cassy couldn’t find the products she wanted to live a health-conscious life, she decided to create her own! FATCO’s skin and beauty line is made with tallow and other naturally occurring ingredients, upholding the idea that clean hygiene is just as essential as clean eating.

1. What inspired you to start FATCO?

The creation of FATCO was inspired by my own health journey. A few years ago I started eating healthier foods and integrating healthy fats into my diet—one of which was grass-fed tallow. At the time, I enjoyed making homemade personal care products as a hobby, but as I began to learn more about the benefits of tallow (dietarily as well as topically), I realized this was an ingredient that wasn’t commonly used anymore. The health and beauty category is dominated by vegan-friendly and plant-based options, but I knew how beneficial grass-fed tallow was for so many things (like eczema and psoriasis), so I decided to create a line around this powerhouse ingredient!

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

The best piece of advice I would give is to believe in yourself! Trust your gut instincts, because they’ll never lead you astray. Four years ago I had an idea, and many people in my life told me that I was crazy, but I had such passion and determination about bringing these products to more people that I did it anyway. If you believe in something strongly enough, and are willing to put in a lot of work, then you can do anything!

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

My favorite product is our Fat Stick! It is our go-anywhere-do-anything all-purpose moisturizing stick. It's scented with lavender and peppermint essential oil, so it smells like a peppermint patty! I never leave home without it, especially in the winter.


Kuli Kuli

Lisa From Kuli Kuli

Lisa Curtis, Founder

This superfood company is betting on moringa and supporting women farmers around the world in the process. Kuli Kuli hand-harvests fresh, young leaves and transforms them into superfood bars, powder, tea, and energy shots to get your greens on-the-go.

1. What inspired you to start Kuli Kuli?

After experiencing malnutrition as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, I turned to moringa to help recover. It’s a local superfood, but I learned that the women in my village saw no reason to grow moringa when the demand wasn’t there. In the U.S., there are millions of health-conscious people looking for natural ways to nourish their busy lifestyles, just as there are billions around the world looking for nourishment to survive. Investing in agriculture is, hands down, the most effective method of reducing poverty, but it’s been in decline for two decades.

I started Kuli Kuli as a mission-driven business to drive economic growth, women’s empowerment, and sustainable agriculture development. Our products are made in the U.S. with moringa sourced directly from women’s cooperatives and small family farmers around the world. By importing a portion of the moringa to the U.S., we’ve created an international market for moringa and a sustainable livelihood for our farmers.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

Too often would-be women entrepreneurs hear horror stories about the discrimination that women in business face and give up before they've even started. I encourage young female entrepreneurs to identify the unique strengths and advantages they have over others in the field and focus on how they can use them to succeed.

Women continue to hold managerial positions at lower rates than men: 27% hold vice president positions, 23% senior vice president roles, and 17% CEO positions. While the statistics are terrible, it does mean that women in leadership positions are rarer, and the press loves to cover unique stories. Press has been a huge part of how my startup gained awareness with consumers, investors, and even buyers. So get out there and tell your story!

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

I love our new Organic Moringa Greens & Protein Dark Chocolate Smoothie Mix and blend it with a banana and almond milk. It tastes like an indulgent dessert but has two servings of greens and 17 grams of protein, making it a powerful start to jam-packed days!


All Good

All Good Founder Carolyn

Caroline Duell, Founder and President

Caroline created her first balm while working as a massage therapist and passed it out to family and friends. (She’s pictured above with her two daughters, Kalia and Allegra.) Encouraging responses helped nudge her to launch All Good, which makes organic body care products using botanical ingredients and inspires others to live in balance with nature.

1. What inspired you to start All Good?

I was inspired by the challenge of growing a socially responsible business that would connect the wellness of people with the wellness of our world.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

Be thoughtful, considerate, transparent, and keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re still having fun along the way.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

My favorite product is All Good Goop. It’s the product that started it all, works for everything, and uses calendula from our own organic farm.


Lué by Jean Seo

Lue by Jean So

Jean Seo, Founder

With a masters degree in library science, Jean used her research background to unlock the secrets to better aging. What she discovered—that skin ages because of nutrient depletion, like collagen and elastin—led to sourcing sustainable ingredients for Lué’s handcrafted products. It’s organic, affordable skincare for the masses!

1. What inspired you to start Lué?

I remember the exact moment I decided to create Lué by Jean Seo. I owned a beauty boutique with my anti-aging line, Evolue Skincare, and one day, a girl walked into the store when I was helping a customer. Before I could help her, she walked out and said "Stores like this make me feel so ugly." This was the last thing I wanted people to feel when they walked into my Beverly Hills shop, and it bothered me all night. Then I realized organic skincare is a luxury for most people. A year later, I launched Lué by Jean Seo with three basics —Erase, Balance, and Clear, all for $15 each or $35 for all three.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

A very expensive accountant once told me successful entrepreneurs are born, not made. Go help an entrepreneur first before deciding to be an entrepreneur yourself. If you decide to move forward, be ready to prioritize your business above all else. If you want to work hard but want nights, weekends, and holidays off, or any remnants of a personal life, consider a corporate job.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

My favorite product? I love all my children equally, especially because they all serve different purposes! The Clear Spot Treatment is the product with most rebuys. People may buy trendy products once and move on to the next product/brand of the month, but products that really work keep customers coming back.


Mother-in-Law’s

Mother In Law's

Lauryn Chun, Founder (right) 

Mother-in-Law’s is all about selecting the best ingredients, using small-batch fermenting techniques, and keeping the bad stuff (like MSG and corn syrup) out of its spicy Gochujang paste and sauces. The recipes are inspired by Lauryn’s mother’s family restaurant, so in addition to bold flavor, there’s a lot of love inside every jar.

1. What inspired you to start Mother-in-Law’s?

After doing some soul-searching after a recession layoff in 2009, I founded Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi to share the art of authentic kimchi inspired by recipes from my mother’s 30-year-old Korean restaurant (Jang Mo Jip, Mother-in-Law’s House) in California. Growing up eating kimchi, I was inspired by the tradition of making fermented foods that are flavorful, delicious and full of healthy probiotics, and wrote The Kimchi Cookbook to share my passion with home cooks.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

Stop getting in the way of your own success! Make your own luck instead—creating opportunities is like creating your own luck, not a magical elusive thing that happens to certain people. Perseverance is key to surviving the first three years of business, which requires resilience and the ability to stay focused on success, which can come in many forms. Always remember to look at how much you’ve achieved. Self-doubt is the enemy of creativity and risk taking, which is a necessary part of being an entrepreneur.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

My favorite product is the Gochujang Fermented Chili Paste Concentrate, as it represents another key staple item (in addition to kimchi) in the Korean pantry which is used in a multitude of ways as a base for flavor. In Korean, “Go-chu” translates to chile and “Jang” means, fermented sauce. Gochujang is the #1 pantry staple in Korea made by mixing fermented soybeans, red chile pepper, rice flour, malt and salt.

Traditionally, every Korean household made their own batch of gochujang at home, which was fermented for months in porous earthenware pottery called onggi, much like the Kimchi fermentation process. The unique fermentation process creates an unparalleled and complex flavor profile complete with a spicy, smoky umami finish that lingers on the palate. Its heat level is moderate enough for many to enjoy on just about everything. Koreans consume so much gochujang that it is often coined as Korea’s ketchup!

If you need inspiration, one of our favorite bloggers developed a Gochujang Spaghetti Arrabiata recipe that is delicious and incredibly popular with our customers. I love using a dash of my gochujang as a marinade base for meat and seafood, stir-fried veggies, and mixed with other condiments (hummus and mayo) or as a dip for sliced cucumbers or sandwiches (tuna on rye is one of my all-time favorites). Or, try a peanut butter and gochujang sandwich!


Nud

Nud Julia Kirouac

Julia Kirouac, CEO/Founder

When it comes to snacks, Nud believes in leaving out questionable ingredients and putting in clean, wholesome ingredients that taste great, too! Everything is organic, raw, vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, non-GMO, and even tree-nut-free.

1. What inspired you to start Nud?

As a plant-based holistic nutritionist, I found it difficult to find snacks that were nutritious, delicious and would fit my needs following a vegan, gluten-free, pure food, and sugar-free lifestyle. From my own need and the holes I saw in the marketplace, I decided to start my own health food company.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

My advice to any entrepreneur is to just start! Far too often we (especially as women) overanalyze, doubt ourselves, and want to wait until things are perfect, or less risky. You will be waiting for your entire life if you wait for the perfect conditions and could miss out on some great opportunities. If I may add a second, I do still suggest doing at least some research before diving in wholeheartedly (I don’t want to sound reckless!). Be sure to ask lots of questions of those in the positions you hope to be in one day so you understand what you may be getting into to some degree.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

My favorite product hands-down is always my Cacao Banana Crisps. They’re sweet like a cookie, but have no sugar added. They have fiber, protein, and fat to keep you satiated between meals. I love to pair them with nut butter to make them even fattier and more luscious.


Oi

Oi Founder Helen Robinson
Helen Robinson, Co-founder

Oi stands for “Organic initiative,” and is led by a team of passionate, holistically-minded women who supply female products that are safe for women and the planet. They aim to make a difference in the world by saying NO to chemicals, synthetics, and toxins—and YES to natural organic alternatives.

1. What inspired you to start Oi?

Oi was started with the goal of removing all plastics from hygiene products beginning with tampons, the one product that touches over 50% of the global population for over 50% of their lives. Our mission is to provide healthy, hypoallergenic, biodegradable (or reusable) certified premium products at an affordable price, with the aim to the be the best in the world and best for the world.

Every woman has her preferred product and we aim cover all needs. One of the most rewarding aspects of being involved with Oi has been the goosebumps we get every time one of our Oi 'revolutionists' tells us that we have changed their world and completely improved their monthly period through comfort, less cramping, no irritations, no sweats or nausea, flow reduction, not to mention that they have a clear conscience by being able to make a better choice for their bodies and the world around them.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

First, always believe in your vision and believe in yourself. Confidence will be critical to your success and where many women let themselves down. Know that together we are capable of anything—that big change is possible. Finally, anything worth it takes work and dedication.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

I have two! Our pantyliners are simply stunning! They’re used by women of all ages for so many purposes: spotting, traveling, for the always fresh feeling, and are great for athletes like cyclists to prevent chafing and irritations. Also gynecologists recommend we wear 100% cotton underwear whilst so many of us don’t!

Also, the cup is different than so many out there. It’s pliable but firm, comfortable, well-sized, and made without silicone. Many women continue to tell us what a “life changer” it’s been for them. It doesn't matter if you’re traveling, hiking, camping, sailing, in the military, fishing, or running a marathon—the Oi Cup is a simple, hassle-free alternative to dealing with periods that is cost-effective, efficient (change every 10 hours!), and leaves zero waste—which of course, is what we are here for.


Carlson Labs

Carlson Labs Founders

Kirsten Carlson-Cecchin, VP of Marketing
Susan Carlson, Founder

Carilyn Carlson Anderson, President

When she saw her father’s declining health benefit from nutritional supplements, Susan Carlson was inspired to create her own line, and the company was founded in 1965 with a single product: Key-E® 200 IU. Today, Susan’s daughters Carilyn and Kirsten help lead Carlson’s dedicated team, where 65 percent of the managers and 68 percent of the employees are women.

1. What inspired you to start Carlson Labs?

Founder Susan Carlson: I was inspired to start Carlson after seeing the benefits of natural-source vitamin E firsthand. My father suffered from debilitating chest pain that limited his activities and forced him to stop working. He was unable to find relief until a physician recommended natural-source vitamin E. In less than three weeks, he was back to work and looked noticeably better. I began extensively researching and was inspired to create my own line of high-quality, natural-source vitamin E, and today we offer more than 200 vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, and other nutritional supplements for the whole family.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

Founder Susan Carlson: Make sure you’re doing something you’re truly passionate about and are good at, and develop a great team to support you. Because of my family’s experience, I wanted to help others maintain the healthiest lifestyles possible. Once I was able to hire employees, I took the time to hire the right people and really get to know them as individuals. I was 25 at the time and hired intelligent women who were a bit older than me and who had families. I knew these women would be great at multitasking, making customer-oriented decisions, and working with the target audience in mind. It created a tight-knit environment where everyone felt like family, and that’s still true of the Carlson culture today.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

President Carilyn Carlson Anderson: I have many, but my most recent favorite is one of our new products: Olive Your Heart®. It blends award-winning Greek Terra Creta extra-virgin olive oil with premium Norwegian marine oil sourced from deep, coldwater fish, which provide the beneficial omega-3s EPA and DHA. It shouldn’t be heated, but can be incorporated into a meal by drizzling it over a salad, using it as a healthy bread dip, pouring it over vegetables, or mixing up a finishing sauce for meat or fish.


Cocokind

Cocokind Founder Priscilla Tsai

Priscilla Tsai, Founder

Meet Cocokind, a skincare line that only uses ethically-sourced, pure ingredients—no chemicals or preservatives. Its products not only benefit your skin, but support the organic farmers who plant and harvest the seeds, too.

1. What inspired you to start Cocokind?

I’ve dealt with hormonal acne since I was a teenager. In college, my dermatologist put me on antibiotics and spironolactone, and I took those pills daily for years. After experiencing depression when I graduated, I realized there could be a link between my medication and stomach problems, which led me to explore holistic solutions. I started learning how to eat clean, and, what started with cooking with coconut oil, turned into trying the oil on my face! I’d been told all my life to only use oil-free moisturizers, but within of week of trying coconut oil, my skin felt and looked completely different, and I noticed my skin was softer and healed faster.

At the time, I was working on Wall Street 12+ hours a day, and didn’t always have time to make my own skincare “concoctions,” as I would call them! Grocery stores left me frustrated because most skincare products either contained unnecessary ingredients or seemed unfairly expensive. That’s where my business idea started! It was founded out of my own need—I realized that there was nothing out there to serve my needs as a consumer.

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

Be compelled. If you’re not compelled to do something, you shouldn’t do it. Once I decided to make my skincare recipes an actual brand, I was a woman on a mission. I urgently had tasks to do and goals to reach to make that a reality. Since that day, I’ve never (not once!) questioned if this is what I should be doing. I was so urgently compelled to create this brand, and I still have that feeling every day. Your ideas for your business should compel you to act.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

I don’t have a favorite product because I use every single one—no exaggeration! In terms of the product that I use the most, I’d say it’s the MYMATCHA. I keep two on me at all times—one as a lip balm (I use this 20x a day) and one as my under-eye or general dry spot moisturizer.


Plus Ultra

Plus Ultra Founder Christina Ramirez

Christina Ramirez, Founder

Plus Ultra’s mission is rooted in addressing the global crisis of plastic pollution, because when toothbrushes are made with eco-friendly Moso bamboo, it helps reduce the amount of plastic on the planet. These dental tools are made from more than 90 percent biodegradable materials, so you can make your smile sparkle sustainably.

1. What inspired you to start Plus Ultra?

My vision for the company and desire to make a positive impact started when I was a Global Studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I came up with the idea for starting a bamboo toothbrush company as part of a writing assignment in class. Over 167 million toothbrushes were being bought each year in the United States alone!

The image of all those plastic toothbrushes piling up across the planet set me in motion to reduce plastic waste by redefining the conventional toothbrush. After years of product R&D with dentists, and professional guidance from advisors and mentors, I launched in 2012. Committed to creating common sense products that supported positive change, I named my company PLUS ULTRA, the Latin phrase used by explorers and motto of Spain, meaning “further beyond.”

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

I have four tips!

  1. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’ll make you stronger and help you to appreciate your victories that much more.
  2. Research, interview, and ask for help! Repeat. Always.
  3. Do NOT give up. You only TRULY fail when you quit. Keep going and stay flexible as your company grows.
  4. Take care of your brain. Make sure to give it a rest.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

Our “hello gorgeous” toothbrush! It’s important to have a little positive affirmation in the morning and before bed. Seeing “hello gorgeous” makes me smile and is empowering!


U Konserve

ukonserve_wendy-murphy

Chance Claxton and Lynn Julian, Founders

U Konserve was developed by two mothers who struggled to be eco-conscious at home. They put their heads together and decided to create a waste-free lunch kit, and the rest is history! By offering reusable and innovative food storage solutions, their goal is to change behavior and help the planet, too.

1. What inspired you to start U Konserve?

I've have always had a heightened ‘stress’ about preserving the environment. After my daughter was born in 2003, my awareness and curiosity about what was happening to our Earth was at the forefront of my mind quite often. In preschool, the teacher asked the students to bring home all the trash from their lunches. Her silent message: Why do you need to create any landfill waste with your lunch? After a bit of research, I learned that every school-age child creates 67 pounds of lunch-time waste EVERY school year. Hence, the U-Konserve Waste-Free Lunch Kit was born!

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

First and foremost—go for it! I truly believe if you have a passion and drive and are willing to work hard, you have 80% of what it takes to succeed. Secondly, I would say, at the very least, be sure to get either a mentor or, better yet, a strong advisory board in place early on! Having professionals who bring a different perspective to your business and who are not afraid to ask the hard questions is imperative for growth. In addition, there are many decisions to be made each and everyday. Have your go-to experts to help field these questions so you are not working in a bubble. We neglected to do this from the get-go and have learned the hard way about many angles of our business.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

Our 9-oz round stainless steel container. (Check out the 8-inch on ThriveMarket.com!) It was our first container, and what got us an article in a magazine, and propelled the development of our entire line of on-the-go food-storage containers. It is also the one I have filled with nuts or berries in my purse at all times!

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Fat Stick, All Over Moisturizer

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Moringa Greens & Protein, Dark Chocolate

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