Celebrating Human’s Female Founders
Half of Human’s portfolio companies are led by female founders, and many are endeavoring to build better solutions for female consumers, too. From creating a new standard of menopause care, to pioneering the frontier of vaginal healthcare, to helping new moms ensure their babies are eating fresh, healthy meals, our founders are trailblazing the next generation of companies that fill unmet needs for women.
We asked our founders what advice they have for aspiring female entrepreneurs, how they define success, myths they’d like to dispel, what is energizing them, and who inspires them to challenge themselves. Not one of our founders spoke of driving returns or exits as their measure of success — instead, they talked about their ability to drive human impact, act in service of their customers, and build connections that will strengthen and uplift communities of women.
The most common myth our founders wanted to dispel? That female entrepreneurs need to act like men in order to succeed. Rather, it’s leaning into the traits that make women different that will drive game-changing leadership and performance.
How do you define success?
Success to me is about enjoying the journey as much or more than any single goal. — Alexandra Dempster, Lupii
To me, success is defined by service. The more lives you can touch by being of service, the more impact you will make. And to positively impact the lives of others and to help more people thrive in life is a big part of what drives me to succeed. — Jamie Pabst, Spiritune
I place a high value on personal freedom and the ability to make a meaningful impact daily, so success for me is rooted in the ability to spend my time working on things that inspire me, with kind, smart, loyal people. — Emily Slade, Valence
Success is using one’s unique superpowers to serve and elevate humanity. — Susie Jaramillo, Encantos
Degree of innovation. That’s why I am so stoked about web3. — Annie Reardon, GLOW Labs
What is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring female founder?
So many people are going to have a perspective on your business — what you should do, shouldn’t do, etc. You have to trust your gut. — Kathryn Minshew, The Muse
Be intentional about increasing your resilience. Resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait, but rather, it’s a psychological construct that you can learn and develop over time. If you focus on this, it will give you the tools to bounce back from the inevitable peaks and valleys that will comprise your journey as a female founder. — Brittany Hawkins, ELANZA Wellness
Create a support system. Mentors, women’s entrepreneur networks and cohorts, business partners, friend group, coach, therapist. I recommend all of it. Make sure you have places you can talk about how you are feeling and doing while you’re building. — Christie Marchese, Kinema
Never be shy to ask for the help and support you need. There are people around you who are ready to cheer you on, provide advice, and share resources — just ask! — Doreen Bloch, Ellement
Sounds trite but true: find your tribe of other early stage founders — female or not. They will be your greatest cheerleaders, teachers and eventually will help connect you with the right investors or talent needed to propel your company forward.
Also: send the cold email. In fact, send 50 cold emails. And don’t be afraid to brag in them — you are a star. Help the other person know the parts of you that shine brightest! — Alessandra Henderson, Elektra Health
We’ve really benefited from seeking out mentorship from other early stage founders. It’s tempting to only want advice from people who have been massively successful or who are 7–10 years into their startup journey, but we could not have made it without the guidance of founders who are just 3–6 months ahead. They acutely understand prioritization and immediate needs in a way that’s irreplaceable. — Priyanka Jain, Evvy
Remember that you are just as smart and capable as everyone else out there. Michelle Obama once said, “I have been at every powerful table you can think of… they are not that smart.” In other words, there’s no difference between you and the CEO of a Fortune 5 company. Your ideas and input are valuable, and you have a right to be here doing what you do. — Manon DeFelice, Inkwell
What is a myth you’d like to dispel about being a female founder?
We don’t need male bosses. We function differently and it’s a good thing. — Susie Jaramillo, Encantos
Myth: that you need to mirror the leadership style of a man (e.g., lead with male energy) to be successful. Truth: the most successful female founders (I know) lead and inspire with true authenticity and have embraced their feminine energy, making it part of their unique and brilliant leadership style. — Julie McClure, Hello.Me
The perfect resume or most relevant past experience isn’t the sole determinant of your startup’s success. Women are natural leaders with strength and good instincts. Have great mentors, build strong networks, and surround yourself with people that believe in you to help grow your business. — Jamie Pabst, Spiritune
Being non-traditional is not your downfall, it’s your secret weapon. There is a preconceived mold for female-founded companies to operate a certain way because of the scarcity of venture capital but in fact, female founders and underrepresented groups are often driving higher returns. A few years from now, there will be no traditional resume for female founders. These differences make you a better operator and provide you with a unique perspective. — Sofia Laurell, Tiny Organics
That the business playing field is already equal: the share of funding for all-female founding teams is down for the second year in a row, according to PitchBook, while a Lean In and McKinsey report calculates that it will take more than 100 years to reach gender parity in the C-suite. There’s still a lot of hill to climb. — Catherine Hendy, ELANZA Wellness
What is energizing you right now?
I am always feeling energized by my team. We are 50 strong now at Tiny Organics and wouldn’t be feeding babies in every single state without each and every person contributing to the collective. We are a predominately female team and were all female up until our Series A last year — women supporting women energizes me to no end! — Betsy Fore, Tiny Organics
Increased media attention on the need for greater women’s health innovation and support, a growing number of exits and IPOs for female led companies, and on a personal level, my daily evening gratitude practice with my husband as well as our 1+ year old daughter’s first steps. — Alessandra Henderson, Elektra Health
The incredible communities we are surrounded by, whether that’s a community of other female founders or our Evvy members. While they are incredibly different communities, they inspire us for a similar reason: they are both groups of women who are incredible builders and communicators, and most importantly they always come back and share their knowledge with their family and friends or the next generation of women who need it. — Priyanka Jain, Evvy
The natural world: cold water swims, early surf sessions, and the LA light (at this time of year it is absurdly beautiful). The LA art scene: it’s back in full force and it gives me a rush to be surrounded by so much creativity, beauty, and provocative work. Our mission: the rise and rise of the non-alc drinks category is more rapid than we could have hoped, as people become aware that booze should be optional, not default, and not drinking doesn’t preclude a social connection. — Lisa Farr Johnstone, Optimist Drinks
Who is a woman that inspires you to challenge yourself?
My grandmother. She was an immigrant, a refugee, had little formal education, many children, juggled multiple low-paying jobs simultaneously, spoke at least 3 languages, and was always cheerful and generous with what little she had. I try to keep her memory in my mind for some healthy perspective, especially when I’m feeling stressed. — Jannine Versi, Elektra Health
Mother Nature. When I see nature I’m inspired by it’s wonder and want to help protect it. — Stephanie Watson, Mimikai
Pretty much every woman I work with in the entertainment industry. Creating a work of art in the form of a film, and getting it to audiences successfully, is honestly sometimes nothing short of a miracle. I’m consistently inspired by the female directors, producers, and executives who are crafting, creating, and releasing films that move us to laugh, cry, and take action. — Christie Marchese, Kinema
My co-founder, Brittany. Finding the right co-founder is incredibly important, because when someone believes in you, you believe in yourself. — Catherine Hendy, ELANZA Wellness
I can’t stop thinking about this quote from Marie Daly, the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn a PhD in chemistry (she discovered the relationship between cholesterol and clogged arteries!). She said: “Courage is like — it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
So much of entrepreneurship is about learning courage along the way, not waiting to have it before you start building! So I’m always trying to rise to the challenge of making courage a daily habit. — Laine Bruzek, Evvy