When one refers to successful businesses started by women entrepreneurs, the first name to crop up is Oprah Winfrey and how she turned Harpo Productions along with The Oprah Winfrey Network into a multi-million dollar business. But there are several lesser known women behind some very successful business ideas and they are:
Rashmi Sinha, Co-founder – SlideShare
This popular presentation sharing platform was co-founded in 2006 by Rashmi Sinha along with her Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Boutelle. The idea came from a need to co-work on presentations while operating from different locations.
Sinha had completed her Ph.D. in cognitive neuropsychology and was drawn to seamless possibilities that the web offered. SlideShare was acquired by LinkedIn in 2013 for $118.75 million and currently hosts 16 million registered users.
Sandra Lerner, Co-founder – CISCO
Everyone knows CISCO as the networking hardware giant but few would know that it was Sandra Lerner who co-founded CISCO in 1984 along with her then husband – Len Bosack. During their days at Stanford University, both were located in separate buildings and felt the need to communicate through email.
It was this need that led both to develop a multi-protocol router that was to become the platform for CISCO to be launched as a pioneer in the field of router and networking hardware. She parted ways with the company in 1990 encashing $170 million from sale of stock options.
Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, Co-founders – Proactiv
Proactiv – is a leading acne medication solution brand providing relief to millions of users worldwide who suffer from acne. Both were students of dermatology in Stanford University when they realized the need for a complete easy-to-use solution for women who suffered from acne and acute facial blemish.
They were to soon come together to address the problem and came up with Proactiv Solution as the answer, blending soothing botanicals with acne fighting medication. Launched after five years of extensive research and trials, Proactiv has since grown into a successful brand in skincare.
Julia Hartz, Co-founder – Eventbrite
Former television executive Julia Hartz found buying tickets online for live events frustrating and this led her and her husband Kevin to come up with a solution to build an easy-to-use platform, where anyone could buy or sell tickets for any live event anywhere in the world.
They teamed up with Chief Technology Officer Renaud Visage and came up with – Eventbrite, a global live event marketplace in 2006. Today, Eventbrite is the preferred choice and caters to a client base across 190 countries.
Caterina Fake, Co-founder – Flickr
Photo sharing site Flickr was developed by Caterina Fake and her husband at the time – Stewart Butterfield. Both were working on developing a game site which never really took off. However, while developing the game, they worked on creating a photo sharing application that went on to becoming a major hit with web users worldwide. In 2005, Yahoo acquired Flickr for $35 million in cash and stock options.
Patricia Gallup, Co-founder – PC Connection
With personal computers becoming increasingly popular in early ’80s, Patricia Gallup along with David Hall, co-founded PC Connection in 1982 to cater to the needs of individual PC buyers. PC Connection soon became popular not just for sourcing PCs and components but also became a respected source of information and recommendation for everything related to personal computers.
In 1998, the company got listed on Nasdaq and by 1999 saw its turnover exceed $1 billion. Patricia continues to serve as Chairman of PC Connection as business continues to grow under her stewardship.
Anita Roddick, Founder – The Body Shop
Anita Roddick started The Body Shop way back in 1976, offering total skin and body care solutions using ‘natural herbs’ as her USP. At a time when the world was being dominated by traditional cosmetic giants, Anita Roddick started off with a single store relying on word-of-mouth references. Soon her products found greater acceptance and she began expanding.
With retail expansion requiring heavy investment, she took the franchise route and in a short span, The Body Shop became a very visible brand in several countries with a loyal clientele. The company went public in 1984, and in 2006, L’Oréal bought the company from Anita Roddick for $1.4 billion. Today, the brand operates in over 61 countries through a network of 2,500 stores.
Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, Co-founders – Birchbox
The two met at Harvard University and came up with an idea to cater to women who wanted to try out new cosmetic product samples and who were open to subscribing for sampling new product launches with samples delivered in a box.
Birchbox came into existence in 2010 and what started off as a subscription service for women, soon had responsive takers in men as well. By 2014, the subscriber base had crossed 800,000 with sales grossing $96 million.
Ruth Fertel, Founder – Ruth’s Chris Steak House
It was in 1965 that Ruth Fertel, a former teacher and horse trainer, decided to mortgage her house to buy a little known restaurant in New Orleans called Chris Steak House. As she built up a loyal customer base, a devastating fire in 1976 forced her to move to a new location, which she renamed – Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Tom Moran, who was a loyal customer frequenting the place, offered to set up a Franchise restaurant under the same brand and today, there are over 130 company and franchise owned restaurants operating worldwide. In 1999, Fertel sold off her stake to a private equity firm. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 75.
Maxine Clark, Founder – Build-A-Bear Workshop
An idea can come from any direction and this one came right out of her 10-year-old who popped the question – why couldn’t she just stuff her own bear if she couldn’t find the one she liked. The question led Clark to set up her first Build-A-Bear Workshop, where anyone could walk in and stuff a toy of any size that one wanted.
The idea soon caught on and today, there are over 400 stores operating worldwide that have churned out over 100 million stuffed toys. She continues to remain an active representative of the organized retail toy industry.