Learning about other entrepreneurs' journeys can be inspiring, especially when the person overcame the odds to create a successful company. Whether they blazed a trail or simply proved that it's possible, role models can help motivate you to chase your dreams, too. Here are three women in business who put their companies on the map — and the character traits that helped them do it.
Resilience: Jean Brownhill, Sweeten
Jean Brownhill is the founder of Sweeten, a website that connects home renovators with vetted contractors. Like many other women in business, she started her company to fill a void in the marketplace. In 2011, after having trouble locating a contractor for her townhouse renovation, Brownhill, who worked in Global Architecture at Coach, created a site that would help homeowners find qualified professionals.
During the first year and a half, the average project size was just $2,000. The company was named Best Contractor Locator by New York magazine and demand went through the roof. To date, they've posted almost $500 million in residential and commercial construction, according to their website.
Brownhill credits her success to her upbringing. Raised by a single mom in a low-income household, she never felt broke. She told Marie Claire that only later did she realize how resilient her childhood had made her.
"My advice to women in tech, and women who want to start their own companies, is to be joyful and passionate — maybe some people will call these 'feminine' traits — but don't allow people to convince you that you are on the wrong path," Brownhill told Forbes.
Focus: Julie Wainwright, The RealReal
Julie Wainwright is the former CEO of Pets.com — a high-profile victim of the 2000 dot-com bubble burst. Not afraid to try again, Wainwright ventured back into e-commerce in 2011, launching the high-end goods reseller The RealReal.
Wainwright's success can be credited to her extreme focus. The RealReal deals solely with luxury brands like Gucci and Alexander McQueen. Wealthy consignors (who, according to Forbes, include notables like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Khloé Kardashian) don't want to bother with listing their own items. To cater to this market, The RealReal designed a high-end customer experience, like a white-glove concierge.
Her dedication to a specific market has paid off. Today, The RealReal has 600 employees and is on track to see $500 million in gross merchandise value this year, according to TechCrunch.
"This business was so clear," Wainwright told Fast Company. "I knew if we executed properly and we did it quickly, it would be ours to lose."
Determination: Amanda Steinberg, DailyWorth
Amanda Steinberg had always been good at making money. Raised by a single mom who instilled a sense of financial independence, she chose a lucrative career as a computer programmer. When her savings didn't match her income level, she realized she didn't know what to do with money after earning it.
Discouraged that the financial planning information available was geared toward men, she launched DailyWorth in 2009. Bringing an outsider's perspective to the world of finance, the website offers advice for women about investments, financial planning and building net worth.
Eight years later, DailyWorth has more than a million subscribers, according to its website. In 2015, she launched WorthFM, a robo-advisor that helps users create an optimized financial plan.
"For many women, money is a source of deep anxiety," Steinberg told USA Today. "What I want them to do is to take ownership of money and to stop saying, 'I'm bad with money.' I would love for women to say instead, 'I'm learning how to become a money manager.'"
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