5 Inspiring Female Founders

We are in the middle of an extraordinary shift in the acknowledgement of women’s rights, as well as the attitudes surrounding them — it is such an exciting time for women. Our stories are being heard; we are feeling more empowered to share and inspire other women to do the same.

There is no doubt that female-founded companies and organizations are shining brightly. Women are supporting other women, promoting innovation in technology, driving social causes, becoming leaders in science, trades, arts, and so much more. We love to hear their stories, and importantly, we love to share them. We hope you’re as inspired as we are by these five female founders:

Emily Woods, co-Founder and CTO of Sanivation

Emily Woods is a Mechanical Engineering Graduate from Georgia Tech. She has a firm belief that small engineering fixes can make a world of difference, and even change the world. Woods is the Co-Founder of Sanivation, a social enterprise that is committed to the improvement of health, environment and dignity of communities in East Africa. They do this by delivering these urbanizing communities clean, safe, and efficient sanitation services.

In these communities, Sanivation installs advanced container-based toilets in homes, free of charge. They then charge a small fee monthly to service the containers. The toilet can be placed in any room of the house, to offer privacy, safety, and hygiene. Sanivation will safely remove the waste from the homes, and then the waste will be transformed into a clean-burning coal alternative. The fuel saves money, saves 88 trees per ton used, reduces CO2 emissions, and prevents contamination of local water sources.

Sanivation also licenses the model to refugee camps, working with partners on the ground to design, build, and provide training to the local staff and refugees.

Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S'well

In 2010, Sarah Kauss launched S'well with the mission of ridding the world of plaster water bottles. She believed to her core that if people had the option of a reusable bottle they "craved" they would stop purchasing disposable containers. Kauss wanted to create an aesthetically pleasing alternative that would reduce single-use consumption around the world.

Fast-forward to 2017, S'well is one of the fastest-growing female-owned companies in the USA. Kauss built this almost entirely through word-of-mouth marketing, and in 2011 was added to O Magazine & Oprah.com's O List!

S'well also partners with a host of charities, including UNICEF and RED, and since 2015, they've committed $800,000 to provide clean and safe water to impoverished and vulnerable communities.

Moving forward, in 2018, they are setting a focus on supporting more water causes, primarily in Madagascar, where nearly 50% of the country's population lacks clean drinking water. They will do this through assisting with infrastructure, education, and promoting national reforms.

Anne Wojcicki, co-Founder and CEO of 23andMe

Anne Wojcicki formed 23andMe on a mission to help people access, gain understanding, and benefit from the human genome. After graduating with a BS in Biology in 1996, and working as a healthcare investment analyst, Wojcicki quit her job in 2000 and focused on research. In 2006, Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe with Linda Avey. 23andMe is mission-driven and hopes to use the data for future research, and transform health and wellness. By improving healthcare, they can help to prevent disease and speed up the pace of research.

23andMe was named in the MIT Technology Review "50 Smartest Companies 2017" list, and have more than 5 million customers worldwide. As a company, they are built on science and make their decisions based on evidence.

The process of a 23andMe test is simple: Just order, spit, and discover! Your results are ready for 6-8 weeks after you send the sample back, and if you choose to opt-in to research, you can be part of potential scientific discoveries!

Kirsten Dickerson, Founder of Raven + Lily

When Kirsten Dickerson founded Raven + Lily, it was the perfect marriage of two of her passions, social justice and fashion. For 15 years before launching Raven + Lily, Dickerson was involved in global non-profit leadership as well as art direction for film and fashion. The creation of the brand allowed Dickerson to bring her passions together, creating an ethical fashion & lifestyle brand.

Raven + Lily currently employs more than 1500 women in 10 countries, empowering them through safe jobs with a fair trade wage, sustainable income, healthcare, and more. Their partners employ impoverished women coming from difficult backgrounds including homelessness, HIV, oppression, and trafficking. The brand works with female artisans from Ethiopia, Kenya, USA, Malaysia, Pakistan, Cambodia, India, Peru and Morocco.

Raven + Lily also practices an eco-friendly approach when sourcing their materials and throughout the design process. They use recycled and repurposed materials wherever possible as part of their commitment to reduce pollution caused by the fashion industry.

As a certified B-Corporation, Raven + Lily are held to the highest standards in business and are consistently making a difference to disadvantaged women around the world.

Jasmine Aarons, Founder, VOZ

Another inspiring player in the fashion industry, Jasmine Aarons began VOZ with the mission to protect the livelihoods, cultural values, and well-being of indigenous women globally. After completing a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design and spending four years in South America working with indigenous artisans as part of a Stanford Post-Grad Fellowship, Aarons set out to re-humanize product design and established a model of collaborative design with Mapache weavers to co-create marketable products.

In 2011, Aarons launched VOZ, an ethical luxury fashion brand with the essential mission to protect the livelihoods, cultural values, and overall well-being of the artisans. The word "Voz" means "voice" in Spanish, which is a significant meaning behind the business.

VOZ aims to empower their artisans creatively, economically, and culturally by working with them in a collaborative way that preserves their culture's traditional art forms. They provide design leadership, training, and opportunities to marginalized women, and have an artisan education centre in Temuco, Chile.

Today, women are increasingly prevalent in every industry. They are breaking barriers, which allows all of us to follow our passions and achieve what was once unthinkable. These five female founders are just a small sample of the millions of women out there changing the world with their ideas and their hard work.

Sarah is a travel writer, citizen of the world and lover of the Pacific Northwest and tacos. When not writing she can be found searching for her next travel destination or exploring with her dog, Otto. Read about her adventures on her blog Sarah Seize the World and follow her on Instagram.