A few weeks ago, I was invited to a fancy gala and immediately dismissed the invite because I'm not fancy. However, a dear friend convinced me to attend and take her as my plus one. So we got all frilled up and went.
The event celebrated Canada's leading female entrepreneurs with a cocktail evening where the winner of the Business Woman Award (BWA) and New Generation Award (NGA) were to be selected and announced.
This year, the event was sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, that fancy French champagne that's been featured in movies like Casablanca and the James Bond books. However, the more interesting point was the fact that this world renowned champagne house was run by a woman.
At 27, Madame Clicquot took over Veuve Clicquot when her husband passed and grew it into something much bigger than anticipated. She became the first businesswoman to run an empire in the early eighteen hundreds, during a time when women couldn't open up bank accounts or own credit cards in their names.
This got me thinking, what are other female founded companies that may surprise us?
Rashmi Sinha is one half of the mastermind behind the world's largest community for sharing presentations. The company was co-founded with her CTO in 2006. LinkedIn acquired SlideShare in 2013 for a reported $118.75 million.
Sandra Lerner co-founded Cisco with her now ex-husband in 1984. "While working as computer operation staff at Stanford they realized the need for a device that would enable users across different networks to share and exchange data. Essentially a device that would connect distinct far-off computer networks. They called their device 'The Router' and set up Cisco to commercially sell it," says Hareen Kancharla, Cisco Engineer
Sandra further went on to co-design Urban Decay, a cosmetic company that creates bold, vibrant lipsticks and nail polishes, when everyone else was creating classic reds and pinks tones in the nineties. Wikipedia says L'Oréal paid an estimated amount of $350 million for Urban Decay." And now Sandra runs a certified organic farm in Virginia.
Adi Tatarko started Houzz with her husband when they couldn't find any online design ideas for their home. They built a site where people could not only browse home inspirational photos (like Pinterest), but they could also connect with designers and developers to do the job. The company is valued at more than $2 billion.
Leah Busque co-created TaskRabbit with her husband in 2008 to connect consumers with household help. Whether you're looking for someone to pick up your dry cleaning to grabbing groceries or standing in line for an autograph, this company takes care of all your chores. TaskRabbit roughly raised $50 million.
5. In-N-Out Burger
Esther Lavelle Snyder co-founded the popular burger joint with her husband in 1984. The more interesting fact is that the owners only had one grandchild, Lynsi Lavelle Snyder-Ellingson. As of this June, Lynsi became America's youngest female billionaire. Wait, it gets better for Lynsi, next year she'll turn 35 and will become the sole owner with full control of the company.
6. Liquid Paper
Bette Nesmith Graham first used water based paint and a thin paint brush to cover up typos during her job as a typist in 1951. She called her original product Mistake Out, in 1956 she renamed it to Liquid Paper. Bette first offered Liquid Paper to IBM who passed on it, she then sold it to Gillette for $47.5 million in 1979. Liquid Paper is now owned by Newell Rubbermaid.
Cofounded by Julia Hartz, her and her husband create an ecommerce platform to not only find and create events, but to also purchase tickets for events. Eventbrite has raised $80 million.
Founded by Payal Kadakia, this service offers members an unlimited number of classes to boutique fitness centers and yoga studios, for a discounted monthly flat fee. The startup is valued at around $400 million.
9. Radio One
Cathy Hughes founded Radio One in 1980. Today the media company owns 70 radio stations, nine syndicated shows, a cable channel and more. Radio One's revenue was projected at $433 million in 2012.
10. Tinder & Bumble
Whitney Wolfe co-created the online dating platform, Tinder, that took the world by storm in 2012 and is worth $750 million. Wolfe left Tinder to co-create Bumble, Tinder's spinoff, where the major difference with Bumble is that women are in charge of starting the conversations. According to Mashable, "since its launch, women have made the first move 50 million times on Bumble."
Can't forget to shoutout Canadian females founders and their companies:
1. Michele Romanow
Co-founded Buytopia, Snap By Groupon, and is the youngest entrepreneur to join Dragons' Den. Most recently, she cofounded clearbanc.com, a banking service for the self-employed.
2. Ilana Kadonoff
Created Sweets of the Earth, an egg free, dairy free, vegan baked goods company, manufacturing 150 types of sweets.
3. Marie Chevrier
Founded Sampler, a SaaS company that gathers real-time analytics on who is buying company products based on sample giveaways.
4. Nancy Peterson
Started HomeStars Inc., a review site that posts reviews from homeowners about their home improvement experience, while also connecting homeowners to contractors and vendors.
5. Susanne Langmuir
Came up with Bite Cosmetics, a handmade, edible ingredient beauty line that specializes in lipsticks and sells exclusivly at Sephora.
6. Ruth Tal
Founder of Fresh, one of Toronto's healthiest dairy and meat free restaurants.
7. Manjit Minhas
Co-owner of Minhas Breweries, Distillery and Wineries. Their breweries are the 10th largest in the world and sell over 120 beers, spirits, liqueurs and wines.
8. Shahrzad Rafati
Founder of BroadbandTV, the "largest multi-platform network in the world," says The Globe and Mail. And it's only ten years old.
9. Lauren Friese
Founded TalentEgg, Canada's most popular job site for students and recent grads.
10. Heather Reisman
Had to mention the founder of Canada's biggest bookstore, Indigo.
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Elsie Knott The First: Woman in Canada to serve as chief of a First Nation in 1952, according to the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA). Knott passed away in 1995 at the age of 73. Notable achievement: She started an Ojibway language program at Ontario's Curve Lake First Nation school, which is still taught by her daughter today, AMMSA notes. Get to know her more: You can read more about Knott and other female chiefs in Firekeepers of the Twenty-First Century: First Nations Women Chiefs.
Mary Ann Shadd The First: Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper (The Provincial Freeman) and the first female publisher in Canada, Black History Canada says. Shadd was also the first black woman to get a degree from Howard University and the first black woman to vote in an election. She passed away in 1893, aged 69. Notable achievement: As an educator, abolitionist and one of the first female journalists in the country, she also wrote extensively on black men and women leaving the U.S. to come to Canada through the Underground Railroad, the Canadian Encyclopedia writes. Get to know her more: The Toronto Sun has a great write-up about her other achievements and biography.
Alice Munro The First: Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Notable achievement: She has also won a Man Booker International Prize, as well as two Scotiabank Giller Prizes. Get to know her more: With so many other book awards under her belt, check out some of the 84-year-old's popular titles here.
Angela James The First: Openly gay athlete and second black athlete to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. Notable achievement: Known as the "Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey," James, 51, joined team Canada at the inaugural Women's Championship and earned a gold medal after making 11 goals in five games, the Hockey Hall of Fame writes. Get to know her more: A hockey arena in Toronto's North York region has been named in her honour.
Rose Fortune The First: She's considered to be the first unofficial female police officer in Canada, the Canadian Encyclopedia writes. According to the Annapolis Heritage Society of Nova Scotia, Fortune's direct descendent, Daurene Lewis, became the mayor of Annapolis Royal, N.S. in 1984, making her the first black Canadian woman to attain that position. Fortune died in 1864, aged 89. Notable achievement: While she was never an official police officer, she was well-known in her community and also set curfews for the town's youth. Get to know her more: A part of the province's history, you can learn more about Fortune at the Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada in Annapolis Royal, N.S.
Jean Augustine The First: Black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in 1993, Women of Influence notes. Notable achievement: Retiring at 77 (she's now 78) and dedicating a majority of her life to politics, she became Ontario's first Fairness Commissioner in 2007. Get to know her more: You can check out this interview with Augustine and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights here.
Dr. Roberta Bondar The First: Canada's first female astronaut and first neurologist in space. Notable achievement: As a scientist, Bondar worked for NASA leading an international space medicine research team for decades. Get to know her more: As a photography and an author, check out some of the 70-year-old's other work here.
Jennie Trout The First: Canadian woman licensed to practice medicine, according to Historica Canada. She passed away in 1921, aged 80. Notable achievement: Trout, as well as Emily Stowe (the first female doctor to practice in Canada), both broke barriers to allow more women to work in a male-dominated medical world. Get to know her more: You can watch her Heritage Minute here — it's quite powerful.
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