We’ve learned firsthand how women entrepreneurs can make a difference in the marketplace and the world.
Big, intractable problems challenge all of us. Yet there is a group we know well that tackles them head on and in so doing demonstrates daily how women are the answer. Many EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ have not only founded great companies but also pursue purpose well beyond profits, making the world better for all of us.
I want to share the stories of just a few women founders we know through this program who are setting a fine example.
When Netherlands-based Mariah Mansvelt Beck was just 30 years old, she became afflicted with cervical cancer. She was advised to switch to organic cotton tampons and sanitary pads. After discovering that most sanitary products are made from synthetic materials, she paired up with her friend Wendelien Hebly to cofound Yoni, a producer of organic cotton sanitary products.
Then there is Fran Dunaway, CEO of disruptive US underwear and loungewear business TomboyX. She and her wife started the business in 2013 because they wanted a shirt for women that had the same quality fabric and attention to detail found in men’s shirts. They went on to design boxer briefs for women, which were a runaway success. Now the business is focused on providing underwear that “any body could feel comfortable in,” regardless of size or gender.
On a very different front, the cost and anguish of managing premature births are a global challenge — and women founders are finding solutions. Pediatrician Dr. Ellen Stang is focused on improving health care delivery for them. Her US-based health care management company, ProgenyHealth, works with insurers and employers to improve the quality of health care services provided to premature and medically complex newborn babies while lowering the costs of these services.
The quest for capital: if we don’t, who will?
One well-known challenge faced by women entrepreneurs is access to seed and growth capital. In 2019, approximately 3% of venture capital globally went to companies founded by all-female teams, according to Crunchbase. Responses are coming from many quarters — and leading the effort are women themselves.
Take UK-based Anya Navidski. She launched Voulez Capital, Europe’s first venture capital fund for high-growth businesses with women founders. Anya started the fund after her search for a modern breast pump connected her with a woman entrepreneur in the US who had developed a state-of-the-art product but was struggling to raise the capital she needed to expand into new markets.
Purpose-driven women entrepreneurs are filling many important gaps in the market — and they are also coming together to support other women. Many Entrepreneurial Winning Women use their success to both pay it back and pay it forward by helping their peers and their communities.
By launching and growing their businesses, women entrepreneurs are not just producing jobs for current workers and alternatives for their customers, but they are also creating value for their peers and future generations.