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*This article was originally written in 2017 to celebrate nine women who founded companies we know and love. To update for 2023, we've added some recognizable brands to the list.
Today, we're celebrating 15 female-founded brands we all know and love by highlighting 15 women who founded companies that make up a few of the most successful brands. Some of these businesswomen are disrupting tech, others are changing how the world gets their news, but all of them are kicking and building brands that inspire women and consumers everywhere. *
Beautycounter wasn’t born as a beauty company. It was designed as a movement for safety. In 2011, Gregg Renfrew learned that the U.S. only bans 30 ingredients from personal care products. This was concerning news compared to the 1,400 harmful ingredients banned in the E.U., so she set out to transform the beauty industry by creating clean, high-performing skincare and makeup—while fighting to change laws to reduce toxins in personal care products.
Her determination to create a world where consumers trust their products are free from harmful chemicals has paid off. Beautycounter is more than a beauty brand. It’s a movement for better beauty. Within six years, the company attended nearly 1,000 meetings in Washington, D.C., working for updated legislation for safer beauty products. By the end of December 2021, Beautycounter had over 45,244 independent brand advocates in the U.S. and Canada.
Arguably one of the companies that put monthly box subscriptions on the map, Birchbox was co-founded by Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna. These savvy entrepreneurs met at Harvard Business School and founded their company in 2010. Barna was listed as one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in 2012, and the same year, the company added Birchbox Man to its resume.
As of 2015, Birchbox had raised over $70 million in funding, was operating in six countries, had nearly 300 employees, over 800 brand partners, and over a million subscribers. The e-commerce portion of their business sets them apart from their competition, and smartly targeted marketing keeps them top-of-mind for their consumers.
This Denver-based startup was started by sisters Emily Motayed and Lee Mayer in 2013. The idea? Link consumers with interior designers in an online platform that keeps things shoppable and affordable.
The idea is clearly a good one because, in three years, Motayed and Mayer grew the Havenly team from 2 to 60 and raised $13.3 million in funding. Motayed also landed a spot on Forbes’ “30 under 30” in 2017.
We love their consistent branding and smart campaigns. Oh, and we also love that they stay organized with their very own Brandfolder.
4. Bark & Co
You’re probably most familiar with Bark & Co.’s subscription service, BarkBox. Carly Strife co-founded Bark & Co., the parent company to BarkShop, BarkPost, and BarkLive, in 2012. She serves as Bark & Co.’s COO and was previously the NYC operations manager at Uber, in addition to working for management and consulting firm Deloitte.
In 2016, Forbes estimated the company’s value between $150 to $200 million (now with a net worth of $223 million!). In other words, we’d call Strife pretty successful. Although, as long as her company is still sending us their signature pun-filled emails, she can do no wrong in our eyes.
We’re proud to note that BarkBox is a delightful addition to our Brandfolder customer base. They even joined our Brand Collective podcast to share how humor fits into their unique brand experience, some of the risks they took along the way, and insights into how they judge their own creative work.
TheSkimm is a newsletter and media platform founded by former NBC News producers Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg. It launched in 2012 as a daily newsletter summarizing the day’s top news.
The format was quick, jargon-free, and, dare we say, skimmable. Today, theSkimm ecosystem includes multiple ventures, from a podcast to a mobile app. With so much to offer, it probably comes as no surprise that they reached 7 million subscribers in 2021.
We love their no-nonsense approach to information sharing. They have a strong brand voice that’s impartial, educational without being condescending, and always able to infuse a little humor into the heaviest of news. And for that, we thank them.
6. frank body
Bree Johnson, Jess Hatzis, and Erika Geraerts met at University in Melbourne. They first joined creative forces to found the communications agency Willow & Blake.
In case you were wondering, frank body is still doing just fine. What we love about this buzzy beauty brand? They are killing it on Instagram. With an edgy brand voice and well-sourced user-generated content, it’s no surprise that they have close to 800,000 devoted followers.
Sarah Kauss launched S’well in 2010. Her mission? To rid the world of plastic water bottles. She got the idea from hiking after drinking warm water from a thermos. She considered making a product to keep liquids warm or cold and look beautiful.
Thirteen years later (and counting), S’well dominates their industry. We could be biased, but we think part of that success comes from such a clear brand identity lived out in all of their communications. A perfect example is this high-fashion image on their homepage.
Ever heard of it? That answer is probably, “hell, yes.” Rashmi Sinha co-founded SlideShare in 2006 after earning a Ph.D. in cognitive neuropsychology (as one does).
She discovered her passion for web technology while working in a lab, and she launched a few other projects, including MindCanvas and Uzanto, before SlideShare became her full-time focus. The tech company was acquired by LinkedIn in 2013 for a reported $118.75 million and then sold to Scribd.
We love combing through featured or top SlideShares from other users. It’s a visual way to market your company and learn about hot topics in your industry. With infographics and more visual types of content on the rise, SlideShare tapped into the future of content marketing just a little earlier than the rest.
In 2018, Abby Morgan, Lauren Caris Cohan, and Chrisden Ferrari created a brand designed to support women of all sizes in a very important way. CUUP is a lingerie company dedicated to redefining how women look and feel in their underwear.
After discovering that industry standard sizes for bras failed to provide a perfect fit for most women, CUUP revolutionized bra sizing in an inclusive way for all women. While traditional bra sizes were limited to 17, CUUP now offers a dynamic sizing system that delivers the same style and support across 53 sizes.
We love that Morgan and her co-founders built an amazing brand from the ground up, upended an outdated industry, and changed the conversation around size. There’s no doubt CUUP’s very customer-centric model requires the organization and storage of a large volume of data for which they use their own custom Brandfolder.
10. Bomba Curls
Lulu Cordero combined her medical education, life experience, and personal journey to launch her haircare brand Bomba Curls in 2019. While suffering from severe traction alopecia as a pre-med student, Cordero turned to her chemistry knowledge and recipes from the Dominican secrets she grew up with to create clean, pure, and organic natural hair products specifically formulated to meet the needs of natural curls and coils.
The brand began with homemade recipes created in a dorm room that provided such noticeable results that requests started rolling in. As a result, the brand is at popular retailers like Target, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales five years later.
Bomba’s products preserve the recipes from Cordero’s Afro-Dominican heritage. She brings that support full circle with the brand’s partnership with Latinas y Lideres, a nonprofit that works with girls from under-resourced communities in the Dominican Republic.
When mom Denise Woodard realized that her daughter’s multiple food allergies would exclude her from many activities, she rolled up her sleeves and did something about it. Partake offers a selection of delicious, allergy-friendly foods (free of the top 9 allergens) that those with and without food restrictions can enjoy. The company addresses how food allergies exclude children from activities like birthday parties and playdates and critical concerns like food insecurity.
We love Woodard’s no-nonsense attitude that leads her to believe that if you have a problem, you should solve it rather than complain about it. The busy mom went from creating recipes in her Manhattan kitchen and selling products from the back of her car to selling products in 10,000 stores. Before launching Partake, Denise spent a decade in consumer packaged goods at various Fortune 100 companies and is the first Black woman to publicly raise more than $1 million for a CPG food startup.
12. Mimmi Terra
Mimmi Terra was born through Emilia Sutton’s desire to create a line of tote bags that reflected her love for the untouched Australian coastal environment and was kinder to the environment. The company makes a line of tote bags made from recycled plastic like bottle caps, plastic lids, and straws. Mimmi Terra bags are the perfect sidekick with styles that can take you from the beach to work and even a night on the town.
The use of non-biodegradable plastic does double duty by keeping waste out of landfills and creating bags with useful features like heat resistance and durability. A perk you’re sure to love? The plastic construction means these attractive bags are easy to clean, so they’ll maintain that new bag feel for longer.
In 2017, Amandine Le Pape co-founded the web-based software company, Element, to provide various software solutions to businesses that make online communications easier, safer, and faster. The communications platform boasts nationwide scalability to support thousands of users in a single end-to-end chatroom or connect millions in real-time across multiple organizations.
If you’re wondering about the usability of such a platform, you can rest assured that it’s making its mark. Element is one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.K., with users that range from governments in the U.K., U.S., France, and Germany to like-minded groups socializing about knitting or business networking.
14. Koru Kids
After experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to arrange childcare as a working mom, Rachel Carrell founded “the world’s best childcare service.” Koru Kids was born realizing that parents and children often weren’t happy with existing childcare choices and that many women could not work because of a shortage of available childcare. With care options that include nannies and childminders in home nurseries, Koru Kids has delivered more than 1 million hours of childcare to families.
Before founding Koru Kids, Carrell worked at McKinsey and in health technologies. She decided to quit her job to help families find the right childcare so they could flourish. We love the example this model sets to help address the global critical childcare shortage.
If you use social media (who doesn’t?) and ever need to alter a digital image or are interested in any type of graphic art, you might have heard of Canva. If you haven’t, go check it out. We’ll wait.
In 2012, businesswoman Melanie Perkins and two of her business partners released a graphic design platform to provide a space where anyone can create digital designs for marketing, presentations, invitations, social media, and more.
Perkins came up with the idea for Canva in 2007 when she was just 19. After three years and over 100 rejections, she acquired the first investment for the company. We love her motivation and faith in making design accessible to all, allowing so many users to enjoy this addictive platform today. Over 100 million users use Canva every month, and 80 designs are created on Canva every second. We also love our Canva integration which allows our customers to create custom content using Canva without leaving the Brandfolder platform.
Taking the World by Storm With Innovation and Organization
We’ve only highlighted a fraction of the amazing female-founded brands committed to changing the world. These innovative businesswomen are disrupting every industry with creative ideas, and we continue to be inspired by their forward thinking. Juggling all the responsibilities of developing a brand and running a business requires meticulous organizational skills and a talent for multi-tasking. Perhaps, that’s why so many business leaders turn to Brandfolder for asset management.
Want to find out why a digital asset management solution like Brandfolder is attracting the attention of brands like BarkBox, Havenly, and CUUP?
Schedule a free demo with our team, and you’ll see why.