Press release

14 entrepreneurs inducted into EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ Class of 2016

Palm Springs, 17 November 2016

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New winners demonstrate above-average growth rates, ability to scale and a greater incidence of venture funding

EY recognized 14 high-growth entrepreneurs who were inducted into the EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM 2016 North America class. EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women is an annual competition and executive education program that identifies high-potential entrepreneurs in the US and Canada seeking to scale their businesses — and then helps them do it. Program participants are among the top 2% of all women-led businesses in terms of company revenue.1

Entrepreneurial Winning Women helps to close the growth gap between women entrepreneurs and their male counterparts. Notably, US women start businesses at 1.5 times the rate that US men start businesses. And yet, only 2% of women-owned businesses in the country break US$1 million in revenue (and an even smaller percentage in Canada). Furthermore, only 3% of all venture capital goes to companies run by women.2

Kerrie MacPherson, Principal, Financial Services Office, Ernst & Young LLP and North America Entrepreneurial Winning Women executive sponsor at EY, says:

“This program helps bridge the gap for an area we call ‘the missing middle’ – those second-stage women business owners whose companies have emerged from the start-up phase but face a crucial inflection point in their growth journey. By providing the right information, networks and guidance we’re able to help these talented women access growth capital, identify strong business advisors and put the processes in place to radically expand their companies.”

This year’s diverse class includes some of the most promising business leaders of today. They average US$9.8 million in annual revenue, with an average three-year combined annual growth rate of 42% and an average of 45 employees. Half of the 2016 Entrepreneurial Winning Women helm companies in science, technology and math (STEM) industries, and 25% have immigrated to the United States.

Claudia Mirza, CEO and co-founder of Akorbi and a member of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2015, says: “The Entrepreneurial Winning Women program has surrounded me with amazing women who are going through similar big business challenges – including obtaining venture capital, determining valuations, taxation and so much more. The program unlocked a world of opportunities, opened my mind to endless possibilities and has generated incredible exposure for me and my company.”

Since its inception in 2008, Entrepreneurial Winning Women has spurred rapid growth among participating entrepreneurs. According to an independent impact assessment directed by the Babson College Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership, 2014 revenue for participating companies was 54% higher than before they joined the program. Individual participants average 20% annual revenue growth, and can have up to 50% growth in their second year of participation. Participants also report increased confidence, growth goals, networks and more.

Lisa Schiffman, Director, Brand, Marketing and Communications, Americas Growth Markets,Ernst & Young LLP and program founder, says: “The journey of the business visionary can be very lonely. Being selected for this elite program provides a vital shot in the arm to many of the entrepreneurs. That endorsement, along with tutelage in establishing advisory boards, positioning for growth capital with the right investors, building infrastructure and effective leadership teams and other how-to’s catalyze the scaling process for these companies.”

Ongoing access to know-how
The program is evergreen, continuing to help its participants in the years that follow their initial selection. In addition to access to know-how, the program also offers the entrepreneurs a like-minded community of ambitious women business leaders with common objectives, challenges and paths to growth. The relationships they establish with each other also serve to reinforce their efforts to scale, often getting the entrepreneurs through rough patches and creating opportunities for entirely new ventures with peer partners.

Kathy Cheng, President and founder of Redwood Classics Apparel and a member of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2014, says: “The support, life lessons and professional guidance I’ve received through Entrepreneurial Winning Women has given me a fresh perspective while reaffirming my confidence and inspiring me to take many leaps of faith. I feel the courage to think big and act boldly.”

Value of capital infusion
Thirty-three percent of the companies in the 2016 class received venture and/or private equity funding – well above the national average for companies with women CEOs. In addition, those with venture capital funding averaged 497% year-over-year growth in their second year and 699% year-over-year growth in their third year, which is more than six times and nine times the growth rate of self-funded Entrepreneurial Winning Women companies respectively.

Pat Hedley, CEO, Path Ahead; Advisory Director, General Atlantic; and a judge in this year’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition, says: “External financing combined with expertise and strategic support at the right time make a significant difference in accelerating a company's growth. EY's program helps entrepreneurs rapidly access a valuable network of resources.”

In addition to Hedley, the program’s panel of independent judges, including Dr. Christina Lampe-Önnerud, CEO, Cadenza Innovation, LLC; Claudia Mirza, CEO and co-founder, Akorbi; and Don J. Morrison, CA, CPA, CIRP, ICD.D, selected the 2016 inductees. The 14 members of the class of 2016 received an all-expenses paid trip to the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Spring, California, an invitation-only gathering of more than 2,000 executives representing high-growth companies.

Members of the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2016 are:

Katie Warner Johnson
Los Angeles, CA

Carbon38 is reinventing the wardrobe for the modern American woman by creating a new category of ready-to-wear that blurs the lines of active and fashion. It offers clothing designed for everyday life, focusing on emerging trends, impeccable execution and the combination of performance fabrics and fashionable silhouettes. Since its inception, Carbon38 has partnered with and sold more than 120 brands through its unique network of fitness instructors, launched four Carbon38-branded collections and created partnerships with award-winning designers and artists such as CFDA winner Jonathan Simkhai and Curtis Kulig.

Kristi Alford
E2 Optics, LLC
Englewood, CO

E2 Optics is a low voltage cabling and infrastructure systems integrator specializing in mission critical data centers, structured cabling, audio visual, electronic security and wireless/DAS solutions. With locations coast to coast in the US and recent additions in Europe, E2 Optics is one of the fastest-growing low voltage companies. The company covers design, engineering and implementation for all project requirements. Clients include some of the largest data center companies in the world as well as US government agencies.

Stephanie Kaplan Lewis
Her Campus Media LLC
Boston, MA

Her Campus is the No. 1 new-media brand for the empowered college woman. Written entirely by top college journalists, has more than 5 million monthly users as well as on-campus chapters at more than 300 colleges nationwide. This, coupled with large-scale conferences and events, a massive influencer network and a huge social media presence, enable Her Campus to provide award-winning, 360-degree marketing services to brands looking to reach the college market. Clients include Merck, Vera Bradley, TRESemmé and IKEA.

Leen Kawas
M3 Biotechnology, Inc.
Seattle, WA

M3 Biotechnology is an innovative pharmaceutical company with a primary focus on altering the course of Alzheimer’s disease progression and neuro-deterioration. Where current therapies are focused primarily on disease symptoms, M3 uses its patented and proprietary technologies to create a disease-modifying treatment with the potential to restore lost connections between brain cells, turning degeneration into regeneration.

Dr. Anastasia Gentles and Zawadi Bryant
NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care
Sugar Land, TX

NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care is an after-hours extension of your pediatrician, providing high-quality, affordable and compassionate pediatric urgent care for infants, children and adolescents. Most childhood emergency room visits are for non-emergency reasons, so NightLight is filling the gap with services such as treating minor illnesses, fractures, lacerations and minor procedures. NightLight intends to become the first full-service on-demand pediatric urgent care in the nation using technology to provide virtual visits and house calls in addition to on-site visits.

Neetu Seth
NITS Solutions
Novi, MI

Navigating the intersection of big data, technology and marketing analytics, NITS Solutions implements custom cloud-based solutions to help clients transform information into intelligent actionable insights. The company’s analytical solutions help solve clients’ problems by finding opportunities hidden inside their data. NITS’ team of industry leading professionals and a fast, flexible and innovative mindset help clients tackle even the most ambiguous challenges while never losing sight of the big picture: more effective marketing, enhanced operational efficiency and greater success.

Dr. Donna L. Milavetz
OnSite Care, Inc.
Salt Lake City, UT

OnSite Care helps employers manage rising health costs by delivering workplace primary care clinics that provide integrated care with a capitated cost model. OnSite aligns health plans and provider services, explains health data, pinpoints chronic health conditions and lowers health risks, resulting in better outcomes for employees. Using traditional methods and innovative technology, these medical “home” clinics focus on wellness, prevention and aggressive chronic disease management, quickly changing the employer’s risk status and leading to lowered health care costs.

Jennifer Kelly and Rebecca Perren
Petit Pehr
Toronto, Ontario

Children’s decor brand Petit Pehr was conceived to fill a gap in the market for sophisticated, high-quality, modern children’s decor and accessories. It was launched in 2013 to immediate praise from retailers and media alike. Since then, revenues have skyrocketed, propelled by wholesale and emerging retail channels. Petit Pehr is now sold by more than 1,500 retailers globally, including Nordstrom, Indigo, Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s and Anthropologie.

Merrilee Alexander Kick
Southern Champion/BuzzBallz LLC
Carrolton, TX

Southern Champion/BuzzBallz LLC is an alcoholic beverage manufacturer located in Dallas, TX. The company specializes in ready-to-drink cocktails called BuzzBallz, and has expanded their offerings to include wine, premium spirits and private label bottling. What sets the company apart is its creativity, ability to create custom solutions and breadth of services in the liquor industry. Major customers include Walmart, Total Wine & More, American Airlines Arena and Spirit Airlines. Their beverages are sold in 40 states and they are expanding rapidly into international markets.

Rita Gurevich
SPHERE Technology Solutions
Jersey City, NJ

SPHERE Technology Solutions is an award-winning cybersecurity company providing hyper-specialized services and software for data governance, security and compliance programs. SPHERE focuses on finding and protecting highly sensitive data, while providing solutions to manage data security long term. The company’s ability to go very deep in their unique niche has led to an intensely loyal customer base of Fortune 100 financial, health care, retail and energy companies in the US and around the world.

Katerina Vorotova
Try The World
New York, NY

What do you get when you combine delicious food from around the world, technology and inspiring storytelling? Try The World, a fast-growing subscription box service and online marketplace for authentic global cuisine, enhanced by exclusive content from leading chefs and food influencers. Sourced directly from local producers and sold directly to consumers, Try The World has already imported 5 million products from more than 25 countries. This holiday season, the company is partnering with Michelin and is opening a pop-up store in the World Trade Center in New York City.

Mabel Lee
Velour Lashes
Toronto, Canada

Velour Lashes is the pre-eminent name in the makeup industry for high-end, luxurious false eyelashes. Launched in 2011, Velour was the first company to introduce 100% authentic mink eyelashes. Now an internationally recognized brand, Velour has been featured in many beauty publications and has expanded its client list to include a roster of A-list celebrities. In 2015, Velour hit a transformational milestone, successfully launching its product line across the US and Canada in one of America’s largest beauty retailers — Sephora.

An investment in the advancement of women that now spans more than 40 countries worldwide, Entrepreneurial Winning Women is part of EY Women. Fast forward, a global platform designed to accelerate the achievement of global gender parity.

Entrepreneurial Winning Women is conducted in collaboration with several organizations that encourage the development of women-owned businesses, including the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), The Committee of 200 (C200), Golden Seeds, TEC Canada, the Kauffman Foundation and Babson College’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. For more information on the program, visit

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, an EY member firm serving clients in the US.

About EY’s Growth Markets practice
EY’s Growth Markets (GM) guide leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary teams of elite professionals provide perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate the path to market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. EY firms are the undisputed leaders in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us at, or follow news on Twitter @EY_Growth.

1 “Force multipliers: how three fundamental adaptations can help women entrepreneurs scale big,” EY, 2014
2 Professors Candida G. Brush, Patricia G. Greene, Lakshmi Balachandra and Amy E. Davis, “Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital,” Babson College, 2014