6 Female-Run Startups That Defied The Odds

6 Female-Run Startups

That Defied The Odds

Statistics vary, but in and around 80-90 percent of start-ups fail within the first year. That number is enormous and terrifying for the prospective entrepreneurs looking to begin what they think is the next big thing. Add the small detail of your gender into the equation and you’re facing an uphill climb as a female entrepreneur. Thus, the greater the prize when you are one of the lucky female businesses that survives the first-year – overcomes the hurdles, the costs, the start-up mistakes everyone makes. These female founders are tenacious, headstrong and the definition of the word #girlboss.

Below SWAAY spotlights six female run businesses that made it from relatively nothing. These women took a fledgling, abstract concept and transformed it into a profitable, admirable business, and are the very reason for SWAAY’s existence.

Erica Gragg, Escape To Shape

The wellness-travel industry has started to boom of late, with many travellers opting to make holidays a #fitspo for their friends and not simply lounging by the pool sipping margs. Erica Gragg was one of the pioneers in this industry, when she realized that her friends had become very interested in the way she was holidaying – working out and doing yoga while eating healthy nutritious food away. So she began inviting them along, when lo and behold, she had a business on her hands. Starting off with locations in Uruguay and Morocco, she now works with nine different locations and experiences for her customers. “They (the customers) are able to experience the world but do so in a way that offers them an opportunity to get in shape along the way: to expand their minds and connect with other cultures,” says Gragg. Escape to Shape is just one of those businesses that lasted because when it’s concept was born, it was impossibly niche, and Gragg built on her untapped market in an exciting and inspired way. Perhaps it’s time to book a holiday. 

Escape to Shape on location
Shireen Yates, Nima

Shireen Yates is that girl at the table who has a fifteen minute conversation with the waiter about gluten-free options, because she’s worried the rest of her night will be spent in pain if he doesn’t do his job correctly. So she decided to rectify this part of her evening.

Yates’s gluten allergy had become so hazardous she was avoiding eating out at all. When one evening at a friend’s wedding, her waitress asked her, “but how sick do you get?” when she was enquiring about gluten presence in the evening’s dishes. Sick of this question, Yates thought to herself “what if I could just take a sample of this and know,” and hey presto, her entrepreneurial idea came upon her. Fortunately she was wrapping up a business MBA from MIT at the time and was well endowed with people who could help her bring this idea to fruition. Before long she had a prototype for what she would call Nima and it came very neatly packaged in a portable form that people like her could bring wherever they go to test for gluten presence in various dishes. The hype around this device is considerable to say the least and it was indeed a happy day for all coeliacs out there when said waiter tested Yates’s patience for the last time. Here’s to inspiration wherever you are, and whatever you’re eating.

The Nima censor
Kat Varatova, Try the World

Kat Vorotova’s very broad business background would tell most people that she was almost meant to become an entrepreneur. Before beginning her start-up Try the World, she was a business consultant, food blogger, and strategist in Weight Watchers. With her understanding of the international food market from her blog and the experience with Weight Watchers informing a poor impression of American eating standards, Vorotova saw a gap in the market for a luxurious food subscription box that wouldn’t break the bank.

Kat Vorotova

She began chatter about such a box on the internet in order to get feelers from the wider world, and indeed the idea went viral. Curated foods from around the globe perfectly packaged to suit your cravings. “Our goal is to make to make it fun and accessible to enjoy these amazing products with the click of a mouse,” she remarks, and the business model has indeed been fun for all who’ve tried it. Try the World acquired online food subscription service Hamptons Lane in March, in a move that signals just how successful start-ups can become once they have a singularly unique vision, and the purpose to follow it through. We salute you, Kat.

Latasha McRae, Peeks Cosmetics

Latasha McRae is the very epitome of the determined entrepreneur. She decided nothing – not even multiple surgeries that nearly took her life – would get in the way of her and her business.

Latasha McRae

McRae, who went into hospital for a routine procedure, wound up nearly two years down the line still struggling to recover after a botched surgery. Gathering her strength, she would look to make-up and beauty products to make her feel better, only to realize that there was a huge gap in her African-American cosmetics market that was not being filled. “Out of my recovery bed and into the office chair,” says McRae, who then launched Peeks cosmetics and hasn’t looked back since. Starting off with just a few base products, you can now find lipgloss, shadows, liners and fun gift sets on the site. With McRae looking to expand further, we would pip her as one to watch in a diversified beauty industry exploding right now.

Hannah Davis, BANGS Shoes

Hannah Davis was in the middle of China when she realized her future would take a very different shape to that of her poli-sci classmates. Not only had she an idea for a business, but she had an idea to help other businesses also, and thus, Bangs Shoes was born, with a literal bang.

Hannah Davis. Courtesy of Twitter

Davis took to the production warehouses in China to formulate a model for her shoe line, that would ultimately look like a stream-lined version of what every Chinese worker she saw was wearing on their feet. Davis devized a scheme whereby, should her business become profitable, she would use some of her profit to help other businesses off the ground through a non-profit partner Kiva, and thus far has invested in a whopping 600 companies as a result.

Zhanna Babchuk, Poshare

Having received a Department of State scholarship to come and study in the U.S from Ukraine at the age of 14, Zhanna Babchuk was already showing considerable capabilities from a very young age. Returning to the U.S after a collegiate career in business studies, she found herself stifled in a corporate job at JP Morgan. Working previously with a friend’s online retail business had incited an entrepreneurial pursuit and after the corporate world, it was time for her to go out on her own. She would start a site for dress rental, but instead of creating a business model akin to that of Rent the Runway, her start-up, Poshare, would utilise the inventory of third-party vendors rather than stocking their own.”Dress rental is still relatively new for the U.S consumer,” admits Babchuk, “but more and more people are getting comfortable with it.” Eliminating much of the start-up costs because of this crafty decision, she would go on to create a successful and incredibly fast-growing business, and attributes much of this success to her customers in middle-America.

Zhanna Babchuk
Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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