Looking at the world around us, it’s easy to see where female entrepreneurs have impacted change. We sat down with seven of our extraordinary female clients to discuss their career success and what drives them to help their communities.
Soledad O’Brien, Co-Founder and Chairperson of PowHERful Foundation, is a celebrated former television anchor and correspondent for CNN, HBO, Al Jazeera America and other high-profile outlets. While reporting on Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien met many young women who struggled to make college a reality, in the aftermath of the disaster and generational poverty.
“We decided to start the PowHERful Foundation with the mission of getting young women to, and through, college by providing financial assistance and mentorship services. Working with the Foundation helps me make a difference. And the women we work with, our Scholars, are now on a path towards a brighter future – and will go into the world more able to help others.”
O’Brien emphasizes the value of mentorship, for individuals and their larger communities: “Helping one young woman can cause a ripple effect throughout her family, friends and community. With my team, I am transforming lives — one young woman at a time.”
Entrepreneur and investor Anu Duggal started Female Founders Fund (F Cubed), a VC firm that provides capital to tech startups founded by women. Duggal credits her success to “thinking out of the box and focusing on new opportunities that others have ignored. This often ends up being a riskier path but has the potential for much more impact long-term.”
Duggal encourages people in hiring or operating roles to “think more broadly before you make your next hire. There are many highly qualified women who are out there and sometimes it just requires making a little extra effort to widen your applicant pool.”
Sutian Dong, formerly at FirstMark Capital, joined F Cubed as a Partner in 2016. “Along with another female investor, Jessica Peltz of KBS Ventures, I have managed and grown a community of early-stage female investors to over 350 women across 15 countries. We have a directory, host dinners, conduct office hours and more to develop professional opportunities within this group.”
Dong urges people to “change perceptions at inception. Whether you are starting a project, team or company, take the opportunity of a blank slate to solicit opinions from all members of your team.”
Brit Morin, Founder of digital media and commerce company Brit + Co, calls for fostering a community of female entrepreneurs. “I’m lucky enough to be part of an incredible community of these women, and I believe that if we keep encouraging each other, mentoring each other, working together and showing why we can be successful CEOs, CFOs, engineers or whatever it may be, then change is inevitable.”
Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, business partners of more than 30 years, established the Border Grill Restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Both Milliken and Feniger have starred in The Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales” series and competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”
“Many years ago, as a kid, I must have been fighting for change without knowing it,” Feniger says. “When I was in high school, I took on a ‘little sister’ from a very underprivileged family that was pretty rough. I loved her and felt it was something important for me to make a difference in my lifetime. I was for sure rebellious as a kid, but always felt a connection, and still do, for the underdog… At Border Grill, we are proud of our legacy of fostering an environment of parity and inclusiveness at every level of the company.”
Milliken says she thinks a lot about the future and how the world can be great for her children and grandchildren. “Change is inevitable — so why not go BIG? Tackling big changes with bold initiatives is the way to get things done.”
“Our lives are so complex these days,” Feniger adds. “I really feel more education for our youth, and for adults whenever possible, is critical… The better we understand each other, the more we can accomplish.”
Dr. Judy Guzman-Cottrill, DO, is a physician specializing in infectious diseases with expertise in healthcare infection prevention. In 2015, Guzman-Cottrill decided to start her own infection prevention consulting business. “My consultancy has allowed me to partner with public health leaders across the country. It’s exciting and important work.”
Moreover, now is an exciting and important time for women everywhere, she says. “I am encouraged when I meet women colleagues as business owners and organizational leaders. We must recognize and demonstrate our strengths to our own colleagues, both male and female.”
Guzman-Cottrill makes an effort to share her values with her family: “Most importantly, I celebrate every single career accomplishment (big and small) with my 10-year-old daughter, Ruby.”