Female Founded: Brands We Love by Women We Admire

In celebration of Women's History Month and International Women’s Day, Verishop is highlighting female founders we admire, all throughout March. Get to know the women behind the fashion, beauty and home brands you already love, as well as their inspiring stories.

Sarah Staudinger is the former Fashion Director at Reformation and founder of LA-based STAUD, a trend-defying line of classic yet modern accessories and clothing. 

 What inspired you to start your company? “I started STAUD because I felt that there was a gap in the market for a lifestyle brand that felt aspirational and elevated but at an accessible price point. I wanted to create a fashion brand that was chic but not pretentious.” 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career? “Learning how to be a good leader —managing both myself and others and having fun while doing it.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs? “Be authentic in everything that you do, from the pieces you create to your approach in business and your team. Don’t do something or create something because you feel like you should. If you stand behind whatever it is and believe in it, then it’s the right thing.”

Birgitte Herskind is the founder of her namesake fashion label, which has become synonymous with Nordic style.

What inspired you to start your company? “Making my own brand gave me the possibility to follow my own design philosophy and to be able to use all the energy it takes to create a perfect piece of cloth — choose the perfect fabrics with all small details, requiring as many samples as needed to have the perfect fit, etc.” 

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs? “Keep believing in your ideas and keep fighting. I am sure that what you give out comes in again — so hard work and down-to-earth humility will pay back.” 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career? “There have been a lot. This was harder than I believed it’d be 5 years ago...Thank God I didn’t know how many bumps on the road I would and will meet. But it’s all worth it, and yes I would do it again. I am no good with administration and economics at all. I tried in the beginning to handle it, but faced the fact that I needed to have a partner to help with this part of having your own company. But finding the right partner wasn’t easy, and here I met the biggest challenges: The first was cheating me big time, and I almost lost my company. But now I found the perfect partner — Ulrik is driven by data and I am driven by intuition and we have big respect for each other’s work.”

Blogger-turned-designer Karla Deras is the founder and creative director of The Line by K, an elevated collection of effortlessly sexy pieces for the fearless woman. 

What inspired you to start your company? “The inspiration was simply to create unfussy clothing that alters the way you carry yourself. I  was reworking vintage and creating personal designs with the help of a tailor and I decided I wanted to share that with other women."

"I had no idea how to run a business, nor did I have any prior experience at another company or any internships under my belt. I just had a feeling for what I wanted to create. I knew it was going to take a lot of work, but I made a promise to myself and to God that I would do the hard work and create something that would grow with value over time.”

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career? “I think one of the biggest challenges of my career is that most days you don’t see the results of your stressful days and long hours. You keep working and having faith (trusting in something you cannot see), but sometimes it can become difficult to stay motivated. In those moments, I try to practice my self-coping skills and just remind myself of what’s important, what I’ve accomplished thus far, what I’m working towards, and most importantly, I remember that the creator of the universe has never let anyone down.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs? “Surround yourself with teammates who push you, teammates who don’t allow you to become stagnant or comfortable, teammates who elevate you. I am beyond grateful to work with my brother — he is brilliant, passionate, intense and incredibly wise. He has taught me so much by example and always challenges me to push beyond what is comfortable and easy. I’ll admit, sometimes I do get frustrated at him, but I am beyond thankful that he sets the bar so high for himself and for everyone else around him. Besides teammates, I would say the most important piece of advice is simply to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work.”

Allison McNamara is a seasoned TV host, fashion and beauty influencer, and founder of clean algae-based skincare line MARA

What inspired you to start your company? “I grew up with my family working in the beauty industry and always knew I wanted to pursue my own company one day. I was inspired to create MARA on a trip to Istanbul — MARA comes from the Sea of Marmara and also my last name, McNamara. I had used so many face oils and while I loved the idea, I wasn’t wowed by the results. I set out to create a product with a unique ingredient profile that hit all of my key attributes, like sinkability, long-lasting hydration and a velvety smooth texture. The result was our Universal Face Oil, which was our first product and to this day, still our best-seller.

What are the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in your career? “Patience. I am naturally a super impatient person (hellooo, I’m an Aries!) so building a business and reminding myself that great things take time has been a definite challenge. We have run into so many wild issues with manufacturing — including super dramatic things like worldwide ingredient shortages, a delivery on a boat that got stuck in a huge hurricane, I’m talking wild crazy stuff you can’t even make up — that have majorly set us back, even pushing product launch timelines. I’ve learned the world has a beautiful way of timing things out for you, even when you feel like everything is messed up or ruined.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs?  “Anyone can start a business, but not everyone has what it takes to make it successful. It seems really glamorous to have your own brand, but it’s so much more work than I could have ever imagined. I absolutely love it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but you really have to love it and believe in your product or message. There are thousands and thousands of brands, so if you really want to create your own, spend time.”

Justine Liu is the former Design & Buying Director at Reformation and founder of Billie the Label, a line of refined essentials for the modern woman.

What inspired you to start your company? “I’ve changed a lot over the past few years — largely due to becoming a mom but also from evolving as a full-time working woman. Somewhere along the line, I struggled to find a clothing brand that reflected my changing tastes and my own personal confidence. Billie is my take on everyday essentials for the modern-day woman who’s equal parts badass, feminine and confident.”

What are the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in your career? “I've had many moments of letting insecurity be my worst enemy. Moments where, despite my awareness that I have the skills or tools to overcome a challenge, I've lacked the required confidence. In the months leading up to the launch of Billie the Label, I continually struggled with psyching myself out — thinking about what would happen if things were a flop, envisioning the worst possible scenarios instead of rational ones.  What's helped me work on this is continually reminding myself that I can't expect other people to show up for me if I don't show up for myself.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs?  “Don't surround yourself with yes-people. While it's important to have a support group who builds you up and encourages what you're doing, I also believe in finding people who can challenge you in productive ways. If all the feedback you get is positive, you're missing the opportunity to grow from the creativity and experience of others around you.” 

Beauty therapist Laura Ferguson and former advertising executive Hannah Measures are co-founders of advanced skincare spa and line The Light Salon

 What are the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in your career? “Taking things too personally. Don’t be afraid to hustle. Sometimes timing just isn’t right and you need to be brave enough to say no to opportunities. Learn patience and that serendipity is real (if you allow yourself to be open to chance) — everything happens for a reason, and timing is everything.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs? “Don’t go it alone, there are seriously low times when it all becomes overwhelming and you will need a partner to lift you up and lean on. There is no one person who can do everything. Believe in yourself, but also understand that what you lack isn’t a failing, it’s because you can’t do it all  — solidarity and sisterhood is a winning combination."

"Lean on experts, because they will strengthen you and fill in the gaps — they are experts after all. Be kind and generous with your time as you will rely on a lot of kindness and generosity from others, in the early days. Celebrate the highs and learn from the lows — there will be lots of both, but don’t let the big moments pass you by. Be brave, honest, listen to your gut, but be open-minded. Allow space and flexibility for your business to evolve and grow into something else. You don’t want to lose the essence of your brand, but sometimes you don’t know what an idea is going to become until you actually do it. It isn’t easy starting your own business, but it is very exciting.”

Kessylr Dean is the founder of her eponymous home decor studio, which partners with artisans to source modern, handmade goods for your home.

What inspired you to start your company? “About four years ago, I was working in the fashion industry and eventually got to a place professionally that was completely uninspiring and emotionally draining. I was at a crossroads in my life and I knew I had to make a change to be more aligned with my personal beliefs. So with my background in painting, love of prints and textiles I began to explore how I could create something that would be a positive change for me and inspire people's most sacred spaces, their homes.”

What are the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in your career? “I would say the biggest challenge at the moment is doing it all myself. I am a one-woman shop, apart from my artisans in India and Mexico. I design everything, ship orders, respond to emails, manage wholesale accounts, organize photoshoots and shoot the product (with the help from my husband), and handle all the marketing and social media. It's a lot at times, plus being a full-time mama, but I will say, it's been such an amazing experience and I wouldn't change any of it except maybe some extra help.”

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs?  “Don't underestimate your values and what you're capable of doing. I think that you should always follow your intuition and don't be discouraged when times get tough. That harder the time, the more opportunity for growth.”

Trine Andersen is the founder and creative director of contemporary Danish design studio ferm LIVING.

What inspired you to start your company? “It all started with wallpaper, or rather, a lack of it…In 2005, I had just moved into a house with my husband, and just couldn’t seem to find a wallpaper that fit our taste. I, therefore, decided to make my own, which resulted in 10 different wallpaper designs. I applied to exhibit them at a trade fair in Denmark but couldn’t afford to manufacture all 10 designs, so with just one wallpaper and a handful of printouts, ferm LIVING was born.”

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