Celebrating our top female founders on International Women's Day 2022

Happy #IWD22 to all the fabulous femmes! Team dotte are marking this year's theme #BreakTheBias by actively calling out gender discrimination in business. Today we're celebrating some of our incredible female peers in fashion, tech, ecom and more.

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.

Find out more about Black Ballad here / Follow Black Ballad here / Follow Tobi here

2. Jade McSorely, Jen Charon and Lucy Hall - Co-founders, LOANHOOD

L-R Jen Charon, Lucy Hall, Jade McSorley

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.

Find out more about LOANHOOD here / Follow LOANHOOD here

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.”

Find out more about The Octopus Club here / Follow The Octopus Club here

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."

Find out more about Bundlee here / Follow Bundlee here

5. Amy Powney - Creative Director, Mother of Pearl

Photo credit: Dvora.Photography

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.

Find out more about Mother of Pearl here / Follow Mother of Pearl here / Follow Amy here

Female founders raised just 2% of VC money in 2021. This is clearly not representative – we need to amplify both this issue and the women behind the brands.

6. Lyndsay Mason - Founder, For the Creators

A marketer by trade, Lyndsay had already established a successful London based marketing agency and led the digital media strategy for Visa Europe, Danone Global and ToysRus before For The Creators was born in November 2020 out of her frustration of not having anything to wear following the birth of her son, Hamish.

Shocked by there being no specific postnatal clothing ranges available, she was forced to buy clothes in a larger size from her usual retailers, finding pieces that were breastfeeding friendly and comfortable around her c-section scar.

After a few months she had amassed clothing in an array of sizes, most of which were now too big and redundant. A complete waste. Frustrated there was no single destination to shop for maternity and postnatal wear coupled with the negative impact on both her bank balance and the planet, she started thinking how this underrepresented area of fashion could be improved.

What started as a website she built from bed whilst recovering from birth has now become a thriving community of over 40,000 women and growing daily, addressing an underserved market of pregnant women and new mothers who want access to beautiful, high-quality clothing without having to repeatedly buy new clothes in different sizes as their bodies continue to change with pregnancy and postpartum.

Find out more about For the Creators here / Follow For the Creators here

7. Sophie Baron - Founder, Mamamade

Sophie Baron is the Founder of UK based parent/baby digital start-up Mamamade. Originally from New York, Sophie ventured to the UK to undertake a PhD before becoming Head of Operations at a fast-track tech company. In 2017, she gave birth to her first daughter and after six months, began to juggle the return to work with caring for her baby. Started from her kitchen as a 'side-hustle', Mamamade is now a fast-growing direct-to-consumer business delivering everything parents need to conveniently make delicious, nutritious meals for their little ones between the ages of 6 months and 4 years.

They offer 45 plant-based meals across four product ranges, all designed to empower parents to see every ingredient and introduce new, original
flavour combinations to their children’s palates. The meals are available to order directly via the website, with the option of purchasing pre-made bundles on a one-off or subscription basis, with an additional option to curate individual meal plans that best suit your little one’s preferences.

Find out more about Mamamade here / Follow Mamamade here / Follow Sophie here

8. Josephine Phillips - Founder, Sojo

Josephine Philips is a 24 year-old FashionTech founder who's on a mission to help make fashion circular by make clothing alterations and repairs mainstream with her start-up, Sojo. After ditching fast-fashion and becoming an avid second-hand shopper, Josephine realised that she would constantly find clothes she loved that weren't her size, but like much of her generation, she didn't know how to sew and felt like going to a tailor was too much time and effort.

Sojo works like 'Deliveroo for clothing alterations & repairs' where you book what you need done on their app and then they take care of the rest: working with their network of riders and tailors to collect, fulfil and deliver your order back to you. Josephine hopes that by making this slow fashion habit exceptionally simple and effortless it'll help people on their quest for a more sustainable wardrobe.

Find out more about Sojo here / Follow Sojo here / Follow Josephine here


9. Isabella West - Founder, Hirestreet and Zoa

Isabella West is the founder and CEO of fashion rental brand Hirestreet and rental technology platform Zoa. Launched in 2018, Hirestreet has helped consumers save over a million pounds by renting instead of buying – offering a sustainable and affordable alternative to fast fashion consumption. Zoa was launched in 2021 to lower the barriers for retailers looking to offer their own-brand rental service. Already working with leading global brands, Zoa offers white label rental technology, cleaning, fulfilment, and customer service.

Isabella and her businesses have received numerous accolades over the last 3 years including Drapers Sustainable Fashion Recommerce Award 2021, Forbes 30 Under 30, Drapers 30 Under 30, NE Young Business Person of the Year and GBEA’s NE Disruptor of the Year.

Find out more about Hirestreet here / Follow Hirestreet here
Find out more about Zoa here

10. Laura Harnett - Founder, Seep

Laura is a mum of two (plus dog Mango) and she lives in West London. She founded Seep in 2020 after a flash of inspiration in the supermarket. Why did every aisle have greener options except household essentials like sponges, cloths, washing-up brushes? She could buy eco sprays and detergent like Method and Ecover but the tools people use with them are still stuck in the 90s.

Seep has grown quickly since launch and is now a team of 5 people. The entire range is climate neutral, plastic free and vegan. Each product is designed to be circular right from the start with all products being home compostable or infinitely recyclable with lots more product ideas in the pipeline. Seep is available online, in Amazon and in a number of retailers like Selfridges.

Before starting Seep Laura worked in the consumer and retail industry her entire career. She’s been retailer-side, with Selfridges and Kingfisher plc, advisor-side, with Deloitte and Booz, and investor-side where she has been an angel investor to female-led tech businesses for a number of years.

The decision to become a founder wasn’t an easy one since it felt really scary to step away from corporate life and into the uncertain world of running a start-up. However it’s been one of the best decisions she’s ever made. Laura would encourage other women to take the plunge especially if they have a great network, relevant experience and the strong motivation to get stuck in.

Find out more about Seep here / Follow Seep here

6. Lyndsay Mason - Founder, For the Creators

A marketer by trade, Lyndsay had already established a successful London based marketing agency and led the digital media strategy for Visa Europe, Danone Global and ToysRus before For The Creators was born in November 2020 out of her frustration of not having anything to wear following the birth of her son, Hamish.

Shocked by there being no specific postnatal clothing ranges available, she was forced to buy clothes in a larger size from her usual retailers, finding pieces that were breastfeeding friendly and comfortable around her c-section scar.

After a few months she had amassed clothing in an array of sizes, most of which were now too big and redundant. A complete waste. Frustrated there was no single destination to shop for maternity and postnatal wear coupled with the negative impact on both her bank balance and the planet, she started thinking how this underrepresented area of fashion could be improved.

What started as a website she built from bed whilst recovering from birth has now become a thriving community of over 40,000 women and growing daily, addressing an underserved market of pregnant women and new mothers who want access to beautiful, high-quality clothing without having to repeatedly buy new clothes in different sizes as their bodies continue to change with pregnancy and postpartum.

Find out more about For the Creators here / Follow For the Creators here

7. Sophie Baron - Founder, Mamamade

Sophie Baron is the Founder of UK based parent/baby digital start-up Mamamade. Originally from New York, Sophie ventured to the UK to undertake a PhD before becoming Head of Operations at a fast-track tech company. In 2017, she gave birth to her first daughter and after six months, began to juggle the return to work with caring for her baby. Started from her kitchen as a 'side-hustle', Mamamade is now a fast-growing direct-to-consumer business delivering everything parents need to conveniently make delicious, nutritious meals for their little ones between the ages of 6 months and 4 years.

They offer 45 plant-based meals across four product ranges, all designed to empower parents to see every ingredient and introduce new, original
flavour combinations to their children’s palates. The meals are available to order directly via the website, with the option of purchasing pre-made bundles on a one-off or subscription basis, with an additional option to curate individual meal plans that best suit your little one’s preferences.

Find out more about Mamamade here / Follow Mamamade here / Follow Sophie here

8. Josephine Phillips - Founder, Sojo

Josephine Philips is a 24 year-old FashionTech founder who's on a mission to help make fashion circular by make clothing alterations and repairs mainstream with her start-up, Sojo. After ditching fast-fashion and becoming an avid second-hand shopper, Josephine realised that she would constantly find clothes she loved that weren't her size, but like much of her generation, she didn't know how to sew and felt like going to a tailor was too much time and effort.

Sojo works like 'Deliveroo for clothing alterations & repairs' where you book what you need done on their app and then they take care of the rest: working with their network of riders and tailors to collect, fulfil and deliver your order back to you. Josephine hopes that by making this slow fashion habit exceptionally simple and effortless it'll help people on their quest for a more sustainable wardrobe.

Find out more about Sojo here / Follow Sojo here / Follow Josephine here


9. Isabella West - Founder, Hirestreet and Zoa

Isabella West is the founder and CEO of fashion rental brand Hirestreet and rental technology platform Zoa. Launched in 2018, Hirestreet has helped consumers save over a million pounds by renting instead of buying – offering a sustainable and affordable alternative to fast fashion consumption. Zoa was launched in 2021 to lower the barriers for retailers looking to offer their own-brand rental service. Already working with leading global brands, Zoa offers white label rental technology, cleaning, fulfilment, and customer service.

Isabella and her businesses have received numerous accolades over the last 3 years including Drapers Sustainable Fashion Recommerce Award 2021, Forbes 30 Under 30, Drapers 30 Under 30, NE Young Business Person of the Year and GBEA’s NE Disruptor of the Year.

Find out more about Hirestreet here / Follow Hirestreet here
Find out more about Zoa here

10. Laura Harnett - Founder, Seep

Laura is a mum of two (plus dog Mango) and she lives in West London. She founded Seep in 2020 after a flash of inspiration in the supermarket. Why did every aisle have greener options except household essentials like sponges, cloths, washing-up brushes? She could buy eco sprays and detergent like Method and Ecover but the tools people use with them are still stuck in the 90s.

Seep has grown quickly since launch and is now a team of 5 people. The entire range is climate neutral, plastic free and vegan. Each product is designed to be circular right from the start with all products being home compostable or infinitely recyclable with lots more product ideas in the pipeline. Seep is available online, in Amazon and in a number of retailers like Selfridges.

Before starting Seep Laura worked in the consumer and retail industry her entire career. She’s been retailer-side, with Selfridges and Kingfisher plc, advisor-side, with Deloitte and Booz, and investor-side where she has been an angel investor to female-led tech businesses for a number of years.

The decision to become a founder wasn’t an easy one since it felt really scary to step away from corporate life and into the uncertain world of running a start-up. However it’s been one of the best decisions she’s ever made. Laura would encourage other women to take the plunge especially if they have a great network, relevant experience and the strong motivation to get stuck in.

Find out more about Seep here / Follow Seep here

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