When I graduated from college with degrees in psychology and foreign language, I entered the wild world of adulthood with big dreams, and no roadmap for how to navigate them. I picked up internships and temp jobs, traveled abroad, and explored options for how to use my hard-earned skills and certifications. I had never worked a traditional 9-5, had an interest in multiple career paths, and wondered how my fellow ambitious women of the world were navigating their professional journey.
During my early twenties, between teaching yoga classes and running to my job at a trendy downtown restaurant, I would listen to podcasts featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs. I routinely tuned in during my 30 minute commute, and took mental notes from entrepreneurs about how to build resilience, find a mentor, establish a personal brand, market my ideas, and boost confidence. I listened to stories about taking risks, handling losses, and how the greatest female entrepreneurs have learned to “fail forward.” With every episode, I became fascinated with the winding road to success, and more importantly, began redefining success for myself.
Time and time again, I am inspired by a handful of women entrepreneurs who continue to push boundaries in their respective fields. They are wildly successful by societal standards, yet their stories are what make them truly amazing. In a world where chasing dreams can feel overwhelming, here are four badass entrepreneurs to inspire you to take the leap.
Sophia Amoruso, Girlboss
At age 22, after working a series of odd jobs and living a nomadic lifestyle in California, Sophia Amoruso opened an Ebay store selling vintage clothing, which came to be known as Nasty Gal. The business skyrocketed, landing Amoruso a place on the 30 Under 30 List and earning her the nickname “the Cinderella of tech” by The New York Times. In 2016, with her bestselling autobiography on shelves worldwide and a Netflix show on the way, she stepped down as CEO, and Nasty Gal suddenly filed for bankruptcy, signifying the end of an era.
In December 2017, Amoruso founded Girlboss Media, which provides editorial content and podcasts aimed at women audiences. Aspiring entrepreneurs can also be part of the online Girlboss Community, a personalized and aesthetically-pleasing version of LinkedIn for members to connect with like-minded women. Girlboss produces and hosts a Girlboss Rally every year in New York and LA, where attendees can attend workshops, panels, and network with fellow entrepreneurs and celebrities alike. Girlboss Radio, hosted by Amoruso, is a staple of my weekly routine, and I have received valuable mentorship from networking with fellow girlbosses.
Amoruso’s story is one of resilience. Her humble beginnings, no-nonsense approach to entrepreneurship, and sense of humor will inspire you to chase your dreams while staying grounded in the process.
Carly Zakin & Danielle Weisberg, theSkimm
These co founders originally connected while studying abroad in Italy, then later while working together at NBC News in Washington, D.C. With virtually no money to their names and no backup plan, Carly and Danielle founded theSkimm, a daily newsletter service targeting female millennials. Over the years, theSkimm has revolutionized the way young women consume news.
As a loyal reader, I love theSkimm for many reasons. The crisp daily newsletter features the biggest news highlights from politics to pop culture and entertainment, written in the conversational and style of your highly-informed best friend. Carly and Danielle’s podcast, Skimm’d from the Couch, features interviews with industry greats like Katie Couric, Tori Burch and Ariana Huffington, and always provides a dose of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to follow their passion.
Despite going into credit card debt, receiving hundreds of rejections from investors, and having no plan B after quitting their media jobs, Carly and Danielle created a powerful platform for busy women like myself to stay informed on what’s going on in the world. Beyond that, they navigate their journey of being co founders in a down-to-earth way, making them relatable and inspiring for any young professional navigating the real world.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble
This female founder is one of my all-time favorites. Wolfe Herd began her career at Tinder, where enduring sexual harassment ultimately caused her to leave the company and start Bumble. Since then, her work has begun shifting cultural norms, giving women the power to “make the first move.” She has even championed a Texas state law that outlaws digital sexual harassment, making it a misdemeanor to send unwanted nude photographs. How’s that for activism?
Wolfe Herd launched the Bumble dating app in 2014 to help empower women to make their own choices. The platform has since evolved to include services beyond dating; Bumble BFF can help users find friends in a new city, and Bumble Bizz gives women the ability to build professional connections. In collaboration with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Bumble is now available in India, a country where online dating has not historically been the norm.
As an entrepreneur, Wolfe Herd continues to inspire women to make their own choices, on their own terms. Bumble HQ even offers unique benefits for women, including services for pregnancy, postpartum, pediatric, and return-to-work support, in-office beauty perks, and even IVF discounts. Needless to say this female founder is a champion for women in every sense, and is a source of inspiration for anyone looking to help others through entrepreneurship.
Whether you are a college student, young professional, or in your 50s navigating a career change, these women are sure to inspire your professional path. Sophia made sandwiches at Subway before getting her big break, Carly and Danielle founded theSkimm on their living room couch, and Wolfe Herd found success after a painful lawsuit and a series of rejections. No matter where you are in your journey, remember that we all start somewhere, and your path may take you places you never imagined.
Perlroth, N. (2013). “Naughty in Name Only.” New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/technology/nasty-gal-an-online-start-up-is-a-fast-growing-retailer.html