What We Can Learn from Successful Female Entrepreneurs
There has been ongoing debate and controversy on whether the invisible glass ceiling has been broken at the workplace. Are female leaders as capable as their male counterparts?
The office workplace has predominantly been seen as an all-boys club over the years, whilst the feminism wave has gained momentum as women fight harder for equality in pay and power. As a female teenager, I’ve always viewed myself as a feminist and have been on a constant look-out for female role models to emulate and look up to. Whenever I read about female leaders and their success stories, I get excited, inspired and feel empowered. At the moment, my top two female role models and entrepreneurs are Sophia Amoruso and Katerina Kimmorley.
FASHION: SOPHIA AMORUSO, FOUNDER OF NASTY GAL AND AUTHOR OF #GIRLBOSS
During the summer break this year, I managed to get my hands on this book ‘GIRLBOSS’ by Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal. After reading the book, I was truly in awe of her persistence, and her #girlboss attitude.
“The #GIRLBOSS takes her life seriously without taking herself too seriously. She takes chances and takes responsibilities in her own terms. She knows when to throw punches and when to roll with them. When to button up and when to let her freak flag fly.”
Nasty Gal is an online boutique that sells clothes, accessories and shoes catered to young women. In 2012, it was dubbed one of the ‘fastest growing companies’ by Inc. Magazine. Sophia dropped out of college at 17 and spent her time hitchhiking and dumpster diving. She got involved in petty crimes such as stealing books to sell on Amazon and never imagined how she evolved from a ‘shoplifter’ to a CEO 8 years later.
As a young adult, she liked to shop at thrift stores and wore only vintage clothes, with that she thought it would be easy to make money by selling the vintage clothes that she hunted for at op shops. Once, she bought a Chanel Jacket for $8 and sold it for $1000, making a whopping $992 profit! She utilised social media platforms such as Myspace to promote her business and sold her clothes on eBay. She ran a ‘one-woman show’ – styling, taking pictures, captioning and shipping the products all by herself and in 2007, she left eBay and launched her company website.
As Nasty Gal began to gain momentum and popularity, she hired her friends as models and began to take professional photos, making sure they exhibited the kind of meticulous perfectionism that would be seen on professional clothing storefronts. She made sure the models she chose “looked like nice people, not dead people” and engaged her customers on Facebook by tapping them in to devise the best vintage clothing names and rewarding gift cards to winners.
One of my favourite quotes in her book is:
“Learn to create your own opportunities. Know that there is no finish line; fortune favours action. Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had time to dream up. And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.”
She created an online clothing business that has revenue spiking up from $223,000 to almost $23 million in almost 3 years without a university degree but solely with enthusiasm, a willingness to take risks and work hard, and a good grasp of online marketing and competitive strategies.
Some key takeaways that we can learn from her are to take advantage of our testing grounds by getting products out to friends and social media followers. It’s important to always listen to their feedback because customers are always the number one priority and it is imperative to keep them happy to induce brand loyalty. Another lesson learnt is to be courageous, be dedicated and to be committed to finding your true calling – doing something that you are so passionate about and wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of your life. I highly recommend reading this book if you need a break from churning out your assignments.
SOCIAL BUSINESS: KATERINA KIMMOROLEY, CO-FOUNDER OF POLLINATE ENERGY
While interning at Pollinate Energy, I learned about co-founder Katerina Kimmorley and her achievements, and I have so much respect for her. Most people I know, myself included, have a bucket list of things to be fulfilled, often-times people never find the motivation to actually do it, however Katerina Kimmorley felt a need to do good for the community and alleviate energy poverty. She made her dream a reality and worked together with others towards her cause that she felt strongly about and created Pollinate Energy. Although she faced adversity, she was not pushed by her problems but was led by her dreams. What I have learnt from her is not to be held back by your insecurities but instead, envision success and work closer towards it every day to make it a reality.
She is the co-founder and Director of Pollinate Energy and is a successful social entrepreneur, environmental economist and international speaker. She has given several speeches at Vivid Ideas Sydney, TEDxLSE and the UNFCCC Climate Change negotiations where Pollinate Energy won a Momentum for Change Award for their effort in alleviating energy poverty. In 2013, she was listed as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by the Financial Review. She co-founded Pollinate Energy with a mission to provide sustainable energy to urban slum dwellers across India. Watch her TED talk.
On the 31st of July 2012, India had experienced the greatest blackout and 620 million people, 9% of the world’s population were plunged into darkness for 2 days. When Katerina and the other co-founders came across the hidden fact that when the lights came back on, there were still approximately 390 million people still left in the dark without access to electricity, they decided to embark on a journey to start their social enterprise.
Pollinate Energy Australia is the sole owner of Pollinate Energy India, a for-profit entity in India that aims to create a social impact by providing urban slum communities with access to sustainable products. Most slum communities throughout large Indian cities are deprived of basic utilities, leading them with no choice but to burn dull kerosene lamp as a light source which is highly detrimental to their health and safety.
Pollinate Energy provides a healthier, safer and cheaper alternative light source to poor Indian families by selling Sun King solar lamps mainly through Pollinators who are local Indians. Through the pollinator programme, it empowers these entrepreneurs and provides them with relevant and useful principles on how to run a business. It also helps to mitigate the damaging environment caused by kerosene usage such as the worsening of the climate and air quality, along with a myriad of other environmental problems.
Over the short time span, they created a business of 20 micro-franchisees and won two United Nations Awards, sold 5600 solar lights, making a positive impact for over 26,800 people living in India’s urban slums. According to the business’s annual report, customers are $US86 better off annually and save 4.2% of their yearly income, 41% have improved household health and safety. In terms of education, 47% of households with children attending school reported being able to study and 263,328 litres of kerosene is saved per year.
I am extremely honoured to be able to work in an organisation that she co-founded and I hope to be able to glean off her passion and drive, and contribute constructively to Pollinate Energy during my internship.
Quote to live by:
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” ~ Nelson Mandela
To read more visit http://pollinateenergy.org/ and follow @pollinateenergy
Header image credit: TechCrunch – Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso and TechCrunch Co-Editor Alexia Tsotsis at TC Disrupt in NYC, 2014.