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Top Female Entrepreneurs to Watch This Year and Their Advice to Other Women Business Owners

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

While there are millions of women-owned businesses in the U.S., we’re highlighting 10 we found to be among the best out there. Check out how these female entrepreneurs are making a name for themselves. You’re sure to be impressed, whether you’re a young business woman looking for inspiration or a seasoned business owner who enjoys following rising stars in the entrepreneurial world.

Photo of Michelle Brown, founder and CEO of CommonLit.
Image source: LinkedIn

1. Michelle Brown, CommonLit

Michelle Brown is the founder and CEO of CommonLit, a highly lauded nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy education for low-income students. CommonLit has garnered support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Teach for America, AT&T and Google.org, among others.

Today, millions of teachers and students in public schools throughout the country have benefited from the organization’s online reading and writing programs aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Brown attended Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she earned a master’s degree in education policy and management. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and Spanish. She previously served as an adjunct professor and is an experienced classroom teacher.

In addition to her work at CommonLit, Brown blogs for [email protected] and coaches entrepreneurs just starting out.

  • Best Advice

    Brown’s advice to young female entrepreneurs is this: “Trust your instincts more than feels comfortable. You know your own business best.”

Photo of a smiling Jessica Maslin, co-founder and president of Mieron VR.

Image source: LinkedIn

2. Jessica Maslin, Mieron VR

Jessica Maslin is the co-founder and president of Mieron VR, based in Long Beach, California. Mieron’s virtual reality neurotherapy device is designed to improve rehabilitation and mobility through immersive experiences.

Maslin holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, has held marketing consultant and partner roles and served as a clinical researcher.

Mieron reportedly came about after Maslin and co-founder Josh Dubon ideated the VR concept to help a 5-year-old who suffered paralysis from a spinal stroke.

The company notes that the device can be used by individuals with quadriplegia, paraplegia, brain injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other musculoskeletal disorders. VR kits are available in a consumer version and 2 HIPPA-compliant professional versions for use by doctors and rehabilitation specialists.

Mieron was named one of Healthcare’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020 by Electronic Health Reporter, and the company has been featured on Medium, International Virtual Reality Healthcare and SpinalCord.com, among others.

  • Best Advice

    To young female entrepreneurs, Maslin offers this advice: “Know your value, and don’t be afraid to ask for your value when you’re out in the professional world because you know your quality of work and your work-ethic will back it up.”

Photo of a smiling Mary Lemmer, founder of Improve.

Image source: Improve

3. Mary Lemmer, Improve

Mary Lemmer is the founder of Improve, which enhances life skills through techniques that combine improv comedy with behavioral research. Participants can benefit from workshops designed to increase confidence, listening skills, compassion and more.

Lemmers says: “With our product, individuals can improve their joy, creativity, communication, adaptability and reduce stress, anxiety and loneliness. And we offer improv comedy classes to companies as a corporate wellness benefit, so they can support their team’s mental health.”

Lemmer has shared her improv journey on Medium and gave the TED talk “How improv can improve your leadership and life.”

She attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, Entrepreneurial Studies. Notably, Improve has worked with Lyft, Square and University of Michigan.

  • Best Advice

    Lemmer, who started her first business at 13 years old, has this advice for young women in business: “Say ‘yes,’ and do it! Imagine and write down the vision for your company with as much detail as possible. Then, keep your big vision in mind AND create a habit of doing little things EVERY day to build towards your goals. Big visions are achieved by consistent, regular small acts. Build relationships with mentors who support your dreams. And be ready for things to not go as you planned. Be ready to improvise!”

Photo of a smiling Alyssa Petersel, CEO and founder of MyWellbeing.

Image source: LinkedIn

4. Alyssa Petersel, MyWellbeing

Alyssa Petersel is the CEO and founder of MyWellbeing, which matches people with therapists or coaches in New York and California. MyWellbeing works with hundreds of practitioners and claims to have helped thousands of people find their match.

Petersel was recognized on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for 2021, among other accolades, and is a member of The Female Founder Collective, a network dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs make a positive social and economic impact in the community.

Petersel also authored the book “Somehow I Am Different,” which has a 5-star rating on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She earned a master of social work from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and international studies from Northwestern University.

  • Best Advice

    Petersel gives this advice to young women entrepreneurs: “Wake up every morning and repeat to yourself, ‘I deserve to be here.’ Do not let anyone take your light away from you. Every day, familiarize with what your unique strengths are and continue to hone and nurture them. Surrounded by the right support, you can do anything you set your mind to. Remember: When you make it, give back.”

Photo of Leslie Bailey, CEO and editor-in-chief of Indy Maven.

Image source: Indy Maven

5. Leslie Bailey, Indy Maven

Leslie Bailey is the CEO and editor-in-chief of Indy Maven, a lifestyle media company for women in Central Indiana, which she co-founded with contributing editor Amanda Kingsbury. Her all-women team is made up of former writers and reporters from The New York Times, Glamour and Indianapolis Star.

Bailey shares, “As the owner of a start-up and a mom of a toddler and a baby born during the pandemic, our first year of business has been more challenging than most. Our success is a testament to the need for our product in our market, and I’m dedicated to see that continue.” And that success came on the heels of an initial $1,000 investment.

Bailey was among the first 250 people recognized on Forbes’ Next 1000 list for 2021. She was also recently nominated for the 2021 TechPoint Mira Best of Tech Awards in the Rising Entrepreneur category. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.

  • Best Advice

    When asked her top piece of advice for other young female entrepreneurs, Bailey says, “Don’t let what you don’t know stand in your way. Surround yourself with people who compensate for your weaknesses and who share your vision and mission.”

Photo of Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan, founders of DNK Presents.

Image source: Danielle Wolter Nolan

6. Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan, DNK Presents

Another female-founded Indiana company is the outdoor adventure company DNK Presents, established by wife team Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan.

Of their top-rated business on Google and Facebook, Danielle shares this, “We organize and guide empowering adventure experiences for individuals, groups and businesses.”

She goes on to say, “We focus on getting women to step outside their comfort zones, try something new and, in turn, gain confidence and empowerment through experiential learning.”

In response to the pandemic, they pivoted to online programs, such as Online Outdoor Wellness, which Indiana University and Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis have used. They’ve also worked with Salesforce and PNC Bank, among other companies, providing corporate health and wellness programs.

Additionally, in late 2020, Danielle and Kate started a full-service bike shop, Brown County Bikes, opening their first physical location in downtown Nashville, IN.

DNK Presents has earned several notable recognitions, including most recently being featured on the first-time series Boost My Business on Facebook Watch and being recognized locally by the Brown County Chamber of Commerce as a 2019 Business of the Year.

  • Best Advice

    Danielle shares: “I love this quote from a woman I follow [entrepreneur Marie Forleo], ‘Everything is figureoutable.’ When things go wrong, as they will, it changes your mindset to come up with an action plan to find a solution rather than an excuse. Keep working on your dreams every day and one day you’ll look back and realize you have accomplished so much!”

Photo of entrepreneur Leslie Polizzotto and her team at The Doughnut Project.

Image source: The Doughnut Project

7. Leslie Polizzotto, The Doughnut Project

A former attorney turned entrepreneur, Leslie Polizzotto is owner of  The Doughnut Project in the West Village of Manhattan. The shop sells hand-crafted pastries inspired by popular food and cocktails.

Polizzotto shares, “I co-founded the brand with Troy Neal, a bartender business partner who left business operations in September 2020. I now handle the entire business, including overseeing daily operations and also handling the business side of The Doughnut Project.”

She goes on to say that she modified her business model due to the pandemic and has become more profitable than ever.

Polizzotto says, “Prior to the pandemic, I had 2 locations and 24 employees and was not profitable. Now, I lead a team of 3 female employees, who I share financial data with to create ownership of the brand’s success. Our team is more efficient and empowered.”

Polizzotto goes on to say that her team of 3 generates the same sales volume as the previous team of 15.

The Doughnut Project collaborates with other brands each weekend, which has led to lines down the block, according to Polizzotto, who also manages the brand’s social media accounts, which has grown to 145,000 followers on Instagram alone.

The Doughnut Project has also been recognized on such outlets as NBC News, BossBabe and Enterprise League, among others.

  • Best Advice

    Polizzotto’s advice for other female entrepreneurs is this: “When starting a business, partner with people who have skills that you do not. This makes for a better well-rounded team that can bring valuable skills needed to start a business. Also, make sure you really love the concept, service or product your business is selling because owning a business is not a 9 to 5 situation. If you love what your business is about, you will happily work on it every day, and it will become integrated into your life.”

Photo of a smiling Olamide Olowe, CEO and founder of Topicals skincare brand.

Image source: Olamide Olowe

8. Olamide Olowe, Topicals

Olamide Olowe is the CEO and founder of Topicals, a skincare brand that states “you make your skin look good.” As a child, Olowe suffered from a skin condition known as post-barbae folliculitis.

Olowe grew up repeatedly seeing flawless skin on the screen and struggled with that. She also knew she wanted to change the lack of Black representation in the skincare industry. As a pre-med student at UCLA, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and entrepreneurship and discovered her love of business, co-founding SheaGIRL in partnership with Shea Moisture.

Olowe shares, “On our website, we feature women who have real skin — flare-ups, skin disorders…no one has ‘perfect’ skin. We have now grown into an overnight hit, as we had built up a huge community of Black women with skin conditions years before even launching Topicals. We have a dedicated following of men and women who celebrate mental health and own feeling good in their skin.”

The Topicals site notes 1% of profits support mental health causes and states more than $10,000 have gone to such organizations as Therapy for Black Girls and Fearless Femme 100.

Topicals reportedly raised $2.6 million from investors, including Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, from the HBO comedy Insecure, among others. Her products are available on the Topicals website as well as at Nordstrom.

  • Best Advice

    Olowe’s advice to young female entrepreneurs? “Develop a unique insight and learn to storytell around the fact that you are the best person to bring this idea to life. Successful businesses are built around intuitive knowledge of an under-tapped category.”

Photo of Ava McDonald, founder and CEO of Zfluence.

Image source: Zfluence

9. Ava McDonald, Zfluence

Ava McDonald is the founder and CEO of Zfluence, which connects Generation Z influencers in college with the brands they’re passionate about for more authentic engagement.

While she’s among the youngest female entrepreneurs on our list, she has already consulted with various companies, offering her insight into Generation Z, as well as earned industry recognition.

Specifically, McDonald has been featured on Forbes, WIRED and other publications and recently earned a spot on AdAge’s 40 Under 40 list. She’s also been a speaker at numerous events, including Harvard University’s Women in Business conference, where she was the youngest panelist.

She currently attends Georgetown University. When she has free time, McDonald mentors aspiring young entrepreneurs and volunteers with various organizations designed to help aspiring business owners.

  • Best Advice

    McDonald’s advice for young female entrepreneurs is this: “Never let anyone convince you that your age, your gender or anything else will be an obstacle to your success. Nothing is more powerful and unassailable than your belief in yourself.”

Photo of a smiling Farah Azmi, founder of IXORA Apparel.

Image source: LinkedIn

10. Farah Azmi, IXORA Apparel

Farah Azmi is the founder of IXORA Apparel and a full-time Harvard MBA student set to graduate this year. Her company delivers made-to-measure apparel for women designed by Nora Iknadossian, who brings more than 15 years’ design experience with various brands, including DKNY and Ralph Lauren.

“Minimal styles. No stock. Less waste.” That’s one of the slogans on the company website. And if you’re curious, “ixora” is a flower that is commonly found in Azmi’s home country of Malaysia, where she says the word translates to “needle flower.”

Within 7 days of launch, IXORA made thousands of dollars despite the pandemic. Azmi has been featured in Harvard Business School articles and earned the Rock Summer Fellow, which allows Harvard students to explore their entrepreneurial path, obtain financial support and network.

  • Best Advice

    Her top piece of advice for fellow women entrepreneurs? “Prepare just as much mentally as you would technically in launching a business. Entrepreneurship is a mental game so make sure you can weather the ups and downs. When things get rough, take a breath, seek clarity, give yourself a break and get back to it.”

Erin Ryan Staff 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 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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