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10 Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs and Their Advice to Other Women

By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Erin Ryan
By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas

We all know of top businesswomen and famous female entrepreneurs. 

But what about the women whose startup stories really inspire you — those who have gone through a seemingly insurmountable struggle, women who have reached success in spite of the odds against them or those you just stand in awe of for their amazing achievements?

We all want to be inspired, and these 10 women will do just that. They’ve stepped up to the challenge and undertaken endeavors worth the spotlight. Plus, they’re sharing their advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.

A smiling Shalini Samtani lying amid toys with a young girl next to her
Source: Shalini Samtani

1. Shalini Samtani, Open the Joy

Shalini Samtani is the president of Spread the Joy Foundation and the “Chief Joy Architect” of Open the Joy. Several years ago, while she was working as an attorney, her youngest child was diagnosed with an extremely rare disease, which led to many hospital stays.

Shalani shares, “I realized that while my child’s physical health was out of my hands, it was up to me to keep the hospital atmosphere positive for our family. So I did.”

She goes on, “In doing so, I realized the unified pain of all parents seeing their child suffer. I started creating activity kits for other families in the hospital, in addition to my own. When I saw the joy that simple acts of kindness were bringing to my neighbors during their darkest moments, I knew what I was put on this earth to do.”

Open the Joy has been recognized by the Tory Burch Foundation, which named Samtani a Tory Burch Fellow. The company also was featured earlier this year on Good Morning America.

While kits are available for purchase online, products are set to launch in Target stores this summer.

  • Best Business Advice 

    Samtani’s advice to young female entrepreneurs is this:

    “Deliver on what you promise. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver. At the early stages of any business, you’re selling yourself and your ideas a lot (without large amounts of inventory to back you up). When it comes time to deliver[ing], like most businesses, those teething pains will be there. Be prepared for that.”

A smiling Liz Benditt standing against a brick wall
Source: The Balm Box

2. Liz Benditt, The Balm Box

Liz Benditt is the president and founder of The Balm Box, which she launched as a platform for useful self-care items and gifts for cancer patients. 

Benditt is a 4-time cancer survivor herself. Going through her treatments, she realized something: She couldn’t find a retailer that specialized in a product line designed exclusively to provide relief to cancer patients. 

She noted that while food and gifts from well-meaning friends are nice, many individuals who are suffering from treatment side effects could benefit from practical items to help them during their battle. 

The Balm Box’s Cancer Care Box, for example, is for patients in need of radiation, chemotherapy or both. The gift box contains botanical burn balm, essential oils and a diffuser, an icepack, ginger mints, lip balm, tea, a tumbler and eye pillow. A pocket-size geometric coloring book and colored pencils are included too. 

Other care packages include Mastectomy Musts, Lumpectomy Must-Haves, Radiation Rest, Radiation Care, Chemo Care, Radiation Recovery and Soothing Skin and Lips. Multibox subscriptions also are available.

Liz Benditt has been featured on USA Today and was named Susan G. Komen Kansas and Western Missouri’s 2020 Woman of Action.

  • Best Business Advice

    Benditt shares this advice for aspiring successful women entrepreneurs:

    “It’s NEVER too late to change your career path or pursue a dream. What energizes us when we start our careers in our 20s looks different as we age and mature. Life is too short to be miserable, stuck or bored!”

A smiling Marissa Faye Cohen flexing her bicep
Source: LinkedIn

3. Marissa Faye Cohen, Author, Speaker and Activist

Marissa Faye Cohen works in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault survivor healing. “I turned a very negative personal experience into the most incredible adventure of my life,” she shares. 

She is the author of several books available on Amazon, including “Breaking Through the Silence: The Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault”; “Breaking Through the Silence: #Me(n)Too”; and “The Ruhe Approach, Healing From Abuse.” 

Her latest book, “Healing From Emotional Abuse: The 3 Keys to Overcoming Narcissism,” will be released later this year. It has been endorsed by Jack Canfield, motivational speaker and bestselling author of “The Success Principles” and co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. She’s also the host of the podcast “Healing from Emotional Abuse.”

  • Best Business Advice

    Cohen gives this advice to young women entrepreneurs:

    “Follow your heart. Bad situations only break you if you let them. Your past doesn’t define you; it should inspire you to make the changes necessary to better the world.” 

A smiling Diana Venckunaite with a wooden slat backdrop
Source: LinkedIn

4. Diana Venckunaite, AMP Learning and Development 

Diana Venckunaite is the founder and managing partner of AMP, a company offering communication and presentation skills training. 

Born into poverty, Venckunaite was separated from her mother at the age of 5, when her mother alone was granted a visa to travel out of Lithuania, leaving Venckunaite in the care of her grandmother. Venckunaite’s mother left to pursue a better life in the U.S. It took 7 years for the two to be reunited.

“When I first came to America at the age of 12, I spoke no English and immediately entered middle school,” Venckunaite says. “Feeling lost, bullied but determined, I took to teaching myself the English language, and by age 14, was completely proficient.”

She shares that her determination drove her to keep pushing herself. She went on to graduate high school early and earn dual bachelor’s degrees: one in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and another in integrated physiology.

Over the years, Venckunaite has worked on several successful tech-industry startups, not to mention her present role with AMP. She has also served as a keynote speaker. 

  • Best Business Advice

    Venckunaite has this 2-fold piece of advice for young female entrepreneurs:

    1. “Never give away your company. This was one I learned from a friend of mine who, as a startup founder, lost his stake in the company he co-founded because he let investors diminish his shares down past 51%. This hindered his ability to be strong, make bold moves and lead the team.”
    2. “Trust yourself and your ideas. Often, as women, we are made to feel like we should not trust our ideas. But genuinely remarkable women are confident in their thinking and their ideas for creative or business expression.”

A smiling Jill Goldenziel amid a dark background
Source: Jill Goldenziel

5. Jill Goldenziel, Author, Speaker and Consultant 

Dr. Jill Goldenziel wears many hats. She is an internationally-recognized expert on international and constitutional law, international security, refugees and migration, business and human rights and information warfare. She also serves as an associate professor of international relations for the Command and Staff College at Marine Corps University.

Goldenziel has worked on the United Nations Global Compact for Migration and spoken alongside world leaders at the UN. Her work has been featured on NPR as well as in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker, among others. According to Harvard University, she is among the top 10% of authors most downloaded on the Social Science Research Network. 

Goldenziel holds a doctor of philosophy degree and a master’s degree in government from Harvard University. She also has a Juris Doctor degree from the New York University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. She was previously a lecturer at Harvard Law School, a visiting assistant professor of law at the Boston University School of Law and a lecturer on government and social studies at Harvard College, among other appointments.

  • Best Business Advice

    Goldenziel’s advice for young female entrepreneurs is:

    “ … not to be discouraged by naysayers about being a woman entrepreneur.”

    “People surveyed all over the world have stated that the traits they most want to see in their leaders are traits most closely associated with women, like empathy, effective team-building and curiosity. Be your feminine self, and lead with your feminine strengths.” 

A smiling Aly Murray against a gray background
Source: LinkedIn 

6. Aly Murray, UPchieve

Aly Murray is the founder and executive director of UPchieve, an education technology nonprofit offering students free on-demand academic support from volunteer tutors any time of day. Currently, support is available for math, science and college counseling. 

“Like many of the students UPchieve serves, Aly was raised in a low-income household,” says Shelby Crowell, corporate partnerships manager at UPchieve. “Her single mom immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba and was unable to help her with schoolwork or college applications. As a result, Aly began her postsecondary education at a local community college.”

“After 3 years working full-time and taking classes, Aly was able to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in mathematics,” Crowell adds.

Following graduation, Murray worked at J.P. Morgan, when after a couple of years, she decided to leave her trading job to focus full-time on UPchieve. 

To date, Murray has reportedly raised more than $1.7 million in funding, secured more than 25 schools, nonprofit and corporate partners and created a platform that has provided more than 10,000 hours of free educational support to low-income students. She was also recognized in this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for her work in education and was named a 2021 Roddenberry Fellow.

  • Best Business Advice

    Murray’s advice to young women seeking success in business is this:

    “Work hard. Ignore anyone who doesn’t believe in you and just focus on becoming the very best at what you do.”

 

A smiling Kylee Guenther
Source: LinkedIn

7. Kylee Guenther, Pivot Materials

Kylee Guenther is co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Pivot Materials, a maker of composite plastics using natural fibers. 

The company aims to reduce plastic waste and air pollution by using plant-based agricultural waste. The mission? “Bring sustainable biomaterials mainstream.” Services include material development, product development and product manufacturing.

“I named my company Pivot because we are all about change and that’s exactly what we are doing to the plastics industry,” says Guenther. 

“My team and I are making real, measurable changes to the industry,” she says. “Every pound of traditional plastic we are able to replace with a more sustainable alternative is one less pound of plastic that will pile up in our landfills or end up in our waterways.”

Guenther’s team created a bamboo fiber-reinforced shipping pallet and fiber-reinforced blow-molded bottles. “Both of these projects were for Fortune 500 companies, and these developments allow us to reduce the amount of waste generated that will end up in landfill,” Guenther says.

Pivot Materials was named one of Cleantech Group’s “50 to Watch” companies worldwide in the “Changing How We Consume” category for its role in using natural fibers, such as rice waste fiber and bamboo, to make composite plastics.

  • Best Business Advice

    From her experience being told the problem she was tackling with Pivot Materials was too big and a waste of time, Guenther advises aspiring female business owners to:

    “… not take no for an answer. If you know what you are doing matters, then be prepared to fight for it.” 

Laura Connelly holding a sketch of a dog
Source: Patrick Connelly

8. Laura Connelly, Stellar Villa

Laura Connelly co-founded the custom wall art company Stellar Villa with her husband, Patrick Connelly. Laura is the artist behind the business’s hand-drawn product line, illustrations featuring a unique, minimalistic style and modern flair. 

While Laura always dreamed of success as an entrepreneur and artist, it would be 2020 that would turn this into a reality. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Laura organized a GoFundMe campaign with the goal to raise funds to support 5 local animal rescue organizations.

As part of the campaign, she created and gave away more than 1,200 custom pet portraits, while accepting optional donations. Within a few weeks, her efforts had reached audiences around the world, and she raised nearly $12,000.

“Local news stations caught wind of her good deed and the story went viral,” Patrick says.” This also put her artwork in the spotlight and people loved what they saw. The requests for her work skyrocketed and so she launched her business to meet the surging demand.”

Laura’s custom travel art has been featured in Forbes. She also has been lauded in Medium, The Story Exchange, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more.

  • Best Business Advice

    Laura shares this advice to young women looking to build a business:

    “It’s important to remember, nothing worth doing is easy. They say the road to success is paved with failures, and that is absolutely true. It’s what you do when you fail that counts. If you learn from your failure it will only make you stronger. If you get up again and again after you fall down, you will certainly reach the level of success you are striving for.”

A smiling Danielle Hu
Source: The Wanderlover

9. Danielle Hu, The Wanderlover

Danielle Hu’s love of travel compelled her to ditch corporate America and build her online business, The Wanderlover

After graduating from Cornell University, she landed a job with a big bank in New York. She soon realized the corporate world wasn’t for her, so she decided on a new career, one that would allow her entrepreneurial independence and the ability to monetize her travel adventures. 

While Hu was building her travel influencer brand, The Wanderlover’s Instagram account gained a following of more than 100,000. Over the more than 3 years since The Wanderlover’s founding, Hu has worked with global tourism and travel brands in 60 countries and has partnered with the likes of Google, Sofitel Hotels and Herbal Essences, among others.

When the pandemic struck the travel industry, she decided to focus her efforts from influencer marketing to coaching others to build their online brands. Her Instagram description reads, “I help creatives build influential + profitable online businesses.” 

With her new venture, Hu says she’s been able to mentor entrepreneurs worldwide and help business owners find opportunities for growth and expand their marketing efforts to digital in light of the pandemic.

Hu has been featured in this Forbes piece on creating a personal brand that facilitates worldwide travel and was recently featured on BizJournals. She also is the host of The Wanderlover Podcast. 

  • Best Business Advice

    Danielle offers this tip to young female entrepreneurs:

    “Write down your life goals and break them down into 3-year, 1-year and 3-month goals. Then map out what you are going to do every day to get you one step closer to your goals, clearly defining what you want to achieve and breaking them down into actionable steps to make your dreams a reality!”

A smiling Ashley Mason seated at a desk with an open laptop
Source: Ashley Mason

10. Ashley Mason, Dash of Social

Ashley Mason is a marketing consultant and founder of Dash of Social, a marketing firm she’s grown to a team of 5 since she launched the company at the age of 19. 

“My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer during my freshman year of college, which is ultimately what pushed me to start my business,” she says. “I took care of her while going to school and building my business, until she passed away in June 2018. I truly believe that having to battle these difficult situations is what paved the way for me to be able to accomplish so much more.”

By 21, Mason had achieved a 6-figure year, and by the age of 23 had brought in multiple 6 figures of revenue. She’s been featured on Business Insider and talks about the challenges of starting a business in college in a TEDx talk.

Mason also is the founder of Student to CEO, a free platform that inspires young people to pursue their interests in starting a business. 

  • Best Business Advice

    “My top advice for other young female entrepreneurs would be to follow your gut! As women, we tend to disregard our intuition. There were so many times when I would speak to a potential client … I knew it wouldn’t be a good fit, but I accepted the project anyway because I wanted experience and money. Lo and behold, those projects were NOT a good fit, and money is not worth your work-life balance and respect. Saying no to one client will pave the way for three more dream clients to come through.”

Erin Ryan Social Community Manager, Senior Writer and Editor at Fast Capital 360
Erin has more than 15 years’ experience writing, proofreading and editing web content, technical documentation, instructional materials, marketing copy, editorials, social copy and creative content. In her role at Fast Capital 360, Erin covers topics of interest to small business owners, including sales, marketing, business management and financing.
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