Problem solvers, change makers, 21st century discoverers, for these women-entrepreneurs it all started with a single idea. In their journey to discovering new products that solve our everyday problems, they have also discovered something deeper, their own strength and passion! From mothers to graduates to girls who are passionate about what they do, we have identified these five women who we really look up to!
Erin Balogh discovered the hot iron holster while she struggled to get ready with her two daughters, one a toddler who followed her around in the whole house and 5 month old baby. As she scorched herself frequently while ironing her hair and had no place to hoist her tools on a pedestal sink, she decided to find a way around the problem instead of being a mess every day. For starters she just sewed two silicone pads together and made her first holster at home. A year later she had earned two utility patents and a million dollars. As both Balogh and her husband quit their day jobs to expand their business, their future vision includes growth of their company by bringing in more employees and expanding into an office outside of their home. Balogh said, “we plan to continue to add more retailers in the US and Canada and expand our international distribution. We are also launching a re-designed website (www.holsterbrands.com) to combine all three product lines, the Hot Iron Holster, the Lil Holster and the Hobby Holster, into one convenient online shopping experience.”
London’s cyclists have frequently encountered the problem of being in the blind spot of many drivers. Brooke often thought, “if I was just 5 metres ahead, I would be safe – I wished I had a virtual me just 5 metres ahead, if I could just project myself there,” she said. While studying product design in her final year at the University of Brighton, Brooke got the idea of a laser light that projects a virtual cyclist 5 metres ahead of a rider who may be in the blind spot of the driver next to him. After three years of working on her ideas, she has today sold more than 3,000 Laserlight units from her company Blaze. The aluminium device that combines a light and a laser, projects a green image of a bike onto the ground 5 metres in front of the cyclist. It attempts to make drivers, who may not see the bike in their blind spot, aware of their presence, especially at night. It also alerts pedestrians about to cross the road. The product is priced at £125 and the light comes with a bracket to attach it to handlebars, is waterproof and the internally sealed battery is charged via a USB cable. Blaze will make the product available through its website as well as through Evans Cycle shops in UK. “Purchases from renowned cycle-friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam have highlighted different concerns for cyclists, said Brooke. Her company has raised £500,000 in investment. The investors include Richard Branson’s family and Index Ventures. More investment indicative of £1m, is being finalised. Brooke also envisions a new type of rear light, expanding on her vision to become the company that caters for the urban cyclist.
In the last 9 years of the total 15 spent working for Dell, Liz worked from home. She felt isolated and lonely. She wanted to share her space with like minded individuals – people working independently/ freelancers/ consultants etc. Since she couldn’t find a place like that, this professional based in Austin, Texas founded one. Link Coworking – her company today offers open plan coworking, small meeting room spaces, conference room rentals, office space, dedicated desk space and event space. She recently opened Link’s second coworking space, Link Too, has organized and grown GCUC, The Global Coworking Unconference Conference, and is also a founding member of LEXC, The League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces. What does the future hold? Huge numbers if you ask her and see the survey. Elam says, “Coworking continues to grow, year after year. There are over 4,000 Coworking spaces worldwide, I believe the US is a little less than half of those numbers. Coworking begets coworking – once a city ‘catches on’ it tends to have strong numbers. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and L.A. are all pretty solid. Up and coming regions are Dallas, D.C., Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, and Atlanta. The move to mobility, people choosing where they work and how they work (independently) are all driving the populations towards coworking spaces. By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelancing in some way shape or form (according to Intuit survey done by Emergent Research). There are over 100,000 people working in coworking spaces today, that number will grow to over a million by 2018.”
SARA DIMITROFF and BETSY BOSWELL
When these two women began Two Peaches Design in March of 2013 by cutting and sewing burlap left over from Betsy’s wedding to make pillows by adding designs and sayings (most with a southern US attitude), they had little idea of how many people were actually going to love it. Success came flying as they sold their pillows through the website Etsy. “The sales started coming in and then they just didn’t really stop,” says Dimitroff. Today they have 40 wholesale accounts and it’s growing every week. Burlap seems to be a product in demand as Two Peaches Designs continues to sell anywhere between 500-750 pillows every month. “It’s really trendy in the South right now, but you’d be surprised, it’s trendy all over the country, as well,” says Boswell. Their pillows are not sold internationally but go to Maine, Ohio and California in the US. Boswell adds, “I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into something like this with my very best friend”.
JANE NI DHULCHAOINTIGH
She wanted to hack everyday objects. Instead of throwing everything away, she wanted them to be fixed, have a sustainable solution for them all. Jane ni Dhulchaointigh is the Irish inventor of Sugru (inspired by the Irish word for play), an innovative product that has been described as “21st Century Duct Tape” byForbes.com and was named alongside the iPad by TIME magazine as one of the top 50 Inventions of 2010.
A student of product design at the Royal College of Art in London in 2003 she had her big idea moment. She asked herself if it were possible to be able to fix and improve things instead of having to buy new ones each time. And from that moment on she dedicated six years with a small team of material scientists, designers and business people to make that dream a reality. The result was Sugru – a brand new silicone that’s like play-doh or modeling clay that the user can form into whatever shape they like before it air cures into a tough, flexible, colorful silicone rubber. It can make all kinds of products more comfortable, safer or simply better.
“We saw it as this completely utilitarian, democratising design, and our vision was always big,” says ni Dhulchaointigh. “We wanted to develop the science and license it to a big company to do sales and marketing. Then a friend said this to me: ‘start small and make it good’ and it was the best advice I ever had.” Most incredible, she shares the story of a canoeist from Canada called Joanne. Joanne wanted to compete in a race that would take three days and three nights, but as she had fingers on only one hand the strain would have been too tough. Moulding Sugru around her oar so she could get a solid grip meant she could compete, and she later told ni Dhulchaointigh it was one of best things she’d ever been able to do in her life, and something she couldn’t have done without her mod.
“All our growth comes from a community of people that take Sugru and share online what they’ve done. It’s not because of anything to do with Sugru, it’s because people are really awesome. People have an amazing feeling of pride and confidence when they see they can fix something — even when fixing a fridge, they think ‘I’ve beaten the system!”
Five is just a number. There are many women identifying small little gaps in everyday life and trying to solve them. Know any such heroes? We would love to hear about them! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.
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