Celebrating our top female founders on International Women's Day 2022
In highlighting game-changing businesses founded by women, we're also hoping to increase awareness of the shocking fact that female founders raised just 2% of VC money in 2021. That means that inexplicably 98% of investment last year went to male-led businesses. This is clearly not representative – we need to amplify both this issue and the women behind the brands!
Read our special International Women's Day round-up below and make sure you follow these inspiring women on Instagram / newsletter / however you can to watch their progress and celebrate their success.
You can find out more about IWD directly here.
Thank you to everyone we've featured for driving the change!
1. Tobi Oredein - Founder, Black Ballad
After years of working in mainstream media and witnessing the dearth of black women in the offices and on the pages of magazines, Tobi Oredein decided to take matters into her own hands and launch Black Ballad in 2014. Alongside her co-founder Bola Awoniyi, the pair originally launched the site as a free access blog to tell the human experiences of Black women, but in 2016, shifted gears and launched a crowdfund to transition into the membership platform, that many know today. Since re-launching in 2017, the media and data company has commissioned over 350 Black female creatives and worked with brands that include the BBC, Dove, PUMA and Tangle Teezer. Black Ballad recently raised over £335,000 of investment through private investors and from an equity crowdfund that saw Black Ballad women become the company's highest demographic of investors.
By putting black women first in everything they do, Black Ballad's vision is to empower every black woman to change her world with every click she makes and every conversation she has.
2. Jade McSorely, Jen Charon and Lucy Hall - Co-founders, LOANHOOD
Jade McSorely, Jen Charon and Lucy Hall were all neck-deep into their fashion careers when they independently had their “ah fuck I can’t work in this exploitative, destructive industry anymore but I also kind of love fashion and also what else am I going to do with my life” moment in around 2018. But finding new jobs in “sustainable fashion” back then was barely a thing, so they were going to have to create the business they wanted to work in.
In 2019, Jade was studying for her MA in Fashion Futures at LCF, one night in the pub she used empty glasses and wild hand gestures to demonstrate system change (the way people usually explain the offside rule). She had an idea and that idea was LOANHOOD, a digital platform where people would access each other's wardrobes. By styling and restyling the clothes already in each other's wardrobes we could wean ourselves off of our addiction to buying new, cheap fashion week in, week out and reverse the race to the bottom. Lucy and Jen were sold on the idea immediately.
LOANHOOD is the peer to peer fashion rental platform made for people who want to wear new stuff without buying new. They are building the go-to brand for Gen Z in the super-hot fashion rental space. On the app, Loaners can borrow other people’s clothes or rent out their own to make some money. It’s reinventing the way fashion works (for the better). Why? Because we want to be more sustainable and fix the fashion industry but they still NEED that fashion fix.
3. Ana Rachel Estrougo - Founder, The Octopus Club
Ana is the founder of The Octopus Club - a marketplace for kind, responsible, parents where anyone can buy, sell and donate preloved baby, kids & maternity items.
With a successful career as a graphic designer, Ana is a natural at finding creative solutions to problems. So when she found herself overwhelmed and surrounded by barely used baby things, whilst scrolling for the next stage gadgets she needed to buy for her growing baby, The Octopus Club was born.
“I realised I was creating a never ending cycle in my home. I had fantastic, carefully chosen, nearly new items, that my baby no longer needed. The environment, my living room, and pocket needed a better solution.”
After running the club on her own for over a year, Ana successfully raised a round of funding and now has specialists on the team. The social media, customer care and marketing experts all share a few things in common - they have a passion for preloved, and are all mums. “My mission is to make preloved buying and selling mainstream, but in this space especially, I want to inspire other businesses to support parents coming back from maternity leave. Less than 1 in 5 women feel confident when coming back to work - this HAS to change.”
4. Eve Kekeh - Founder, Bundlee
Bundlee is the UK’s first baby clothing rental subscription, giving you an easy way to make a sustainable switch, save space in your home and be kind to your purse. Parents can rent bundles of premium clothes and simply swap as their baby grows. Bundlee then professionally clean and sanitise returned rentals, ready for the next renting family to enjoy.
On the decision to launch Bundlee Eve shares, "I’m the eldest of my family, and was pretty shocked at how quickly my little siblings outgrew their clothes. It felt like our home would get overrun with mountains and mountains of baby clothes! My parents were in a constant cycle of scrambling over what to do with them. And this is a problem faced by parents all across the UK. With babies outgrowing 7 clothing sizes in just 2 years, it really is the ultimate fast fashion!
Which is why I started Bundlee.
I’m so happy that we’ve now grown to hundreds of parents and together are creating a better future for children to grow into."
5. Amy Powney - Creative Director, Mother of Pearl
Amy Powney is best known as the Creative Director of contemporary womenswear label Mother of Pearl, a sustainable contemporary womenswear brand that celebrates individuality, authenticity and sustainability.. The brand was founded in 2002 and Amy joined 15 years ago as a junior, working her way up to Creative Director and has since taken over the business fully. Sustainability is the heart of everything Amy does, this informs her passion for creating cherished forever pieces that you’ll wear again and again.
“There’s no handbook on how to make a brand sustainable, but I wanted to know from start to finish where our product was grown or derived, who was making it and the social impacts along the way. I’ve journeyed and continue to journey to find the best factories, suppliers and farmers who care about the planet and its inhabitants as much as we do.”
In 2017 the brand launched No Frills, a core sustainable collection that forms the everyday Mother of Pearl wardrobe. Made from organic and natural materials, with a transparent supply chain that puts social responsibility, respect to animals and low-environmental impact first and foremost. Everything the brand learnt from this journey is infiltrated into the entire Mother of Pearl collections.