Angela Hubbard, founder of Angie Watts, is a North Carolina mompreneur, small business owner and “skin food chef.” She created the natural, vegan and cruelty-free skincare collection out of her kitchen because of her daughter’s eczema issues. Hubbard's mission and commitment became to formulate her entire line using the natural healing properties of plant-based products.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

"My inspiration is drawn from those that have come before me, specifically my ancestors. My ancestors arrived to this country (not by choice), forced into free labor and subjected to daily acts of racism. Because of them, I am here. Because of them, I believe that anything is possible. Because of them, my dreams and aspirations are attainable."

How do you want others to feel while using your products?

"Our mission is always to exceed the expectations of customers by providing high-quality, chemical-free and cruelty-free products formulated to nourish, hydrate and promote healthy skin. They should expect this and nothing less."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"1. Don’t ever feel less than when your business idea or partnership opportunity is rejected, for every NO there are Yes’s on the way. 2. Always see opportunity when others see impossibility. 3. Network with other female business owners. 4. Your customers will determine the longevity of your business. Don’t take negative feedback personally. It will help to grow your business. Make customer service a priority! 5. Set goals and don’t be afraid to fail at some of them. 6. Don’t try to be a superwoman, ask for help! 7. You don’t need an MBA to run a business, but never stop educating yourself about things in your industry and all things business related. Be in the know! 8. Know and understand your target audience, otherwise, you will waste your time and energy marketing to an audience who is not seeking what you have to offer."

Angie Watts

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Erin Ryder, co-founder of Cesta Collective, has over a decade of experience bringing luxury brands to life. She was the director of brand at Rebecca Taylor and oversaw brand identity, art direction, store design visual merchandising and styling. Co-Founder Courtney Fasciano is the former accessories and fashion editor at T Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire.

What inspired you to start your business?

"We both felt that the industry could do better – fashion is the second most polluting industry behind oil. We didn’t want to build a brand that was an additional proliferation of this problem. As industry veterans, we felt a calling to be a part of the solution and a catalyst for change."

How did you start your business?

"We were introduced on a friend date in the summer of 2017 and immediately clicked. We were finishing each other’s sentences within a week. We both happened to be at a place in our lives where we were ready to jump into the unknown, so we held hands and did it – as virtual strangers...We currently support over 1,400 female weavers in rural Rwanda through our supply chain. Each basket takes between three to seven days to finish by hand. We honor the fine artistry of each basket by upholding supply chain integrity through to the end of the process – finishing each basket by hand in Italy with carefully selected, sustainable materials and luxury details."

How do you want others to feel while wearing your accessories?

"We like to say 'Shop Your Values' because every purchase you make is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Each of our artisans is herself an entrepreneur and most are the breadwinners of their family, supporting an average of five dependents each.​ A Cesta purchase helps these incredible mothers fund education, purchase livestock and create opportunities with their craft. Women helping women is what we’re all about."

Cesta Collective

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Melisa Denizeri Orley, founder of DENIZERI, was born in England and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. The brand draws from her childhood memories, combining elements of leisure and sport with the power of nostalgia. In 2011, Orley completed her BFA in Fashion Design and helped Maryam Nassir Zadeh launch her namesake brand. She continues to design for a diverse range of brands.

What inspired you to start your business?

"Denizeri was inspired by childhood summers spent by the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey, sailing with my family. I wanted to create pieces that were nostalgic of the early '90s emulating the comfort, humor and sport driven styles of this time. Later in life I kept coming back to swimwear as a category: How good quality swim can last multiple lifetimes and be passed between generations. This is the type of product and brand I wanted to create and continue to build on the message of: Swimwear created for women who are united in spirit more than body-type and attitude more than age."

How did you start your business?

"I started small from my home office in 2018, as I was freelancing as a designer for multiple brands in New York. Over the course of a year, I reached out to factories in Turkey and Italy, tested fabrics and developed five styles to launch for Summer 2019. Alongside product, brand development and logistics played a huge role in realizing the brand. I spent just as much time on the web development, image creation, packaging, customer service and the order fulfillment process. It has been a great journey building experience in these categories."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"Although some may suggest 'figure it out as you go,' I think that the more information you can gather on the industry, product development, sustainability and the more mentors you can absorb feedback from, the more clear the company mission will become, making the brand more attractive."

DENIZERI

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Phoebe Yu is the CEO and founder of ettitude. Prior to starting ettitude, Yu had founded two international trading and sourcing companies in Asia. Kat Dey, co-founder and president of ettitude, is a serial entrepreneur and executive, named one of “35 People to Watch in New York Tech” and “EY Entrepreneurial Winning Woman” in 2016.

How did you start your business?

Yu: “It took about two years to develop our proprietary bamboo lyocell or CleanBamboo™. I worked with a textile university in Shanghai to develop this revolutionary textile, and this was by far the greatest challenge to get right. It took a lot of trial and error to ensure we had a fabric that was sustainably made without toxic chemicals, but that was also very soft and long-lasting. One of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is achieving a strong ‘flow,’ whether that’s cash, product, supply or demand, so my experience definitely helped.”

Where do you draw your inspiration?

Dey: "We draw a lot of inspirations from nature, landscapes and the beautiful countries we live in to create a serene mood. Our colors represent the elements of nature, from the soothing Ocean shade to soft white Cloud to our earthy Sand tone. Our latest best-selling colors — Sand and Sage — celebrate the beauty of our homes (Melbourne and Los Angeles). Sand represents the sun-kissed California coast while Sage embodies the calming qualities of Australian’s native eucalyptus tree."

How do you want people to feel while using your products?

Yu: "ettitude is all about living with eco-attitude. It’s not just about one particular facet of our lifestyles but rather taking a bigger picture view of how we can all live with more consideration towards sustainability and the planet. Of course we want our customers to feel comfortable, well-rested and pampered with our products; but, more importantly, we want them to feel like they can help return the planet to harmony by making conscious choices, and every small thing adds up to a greater sum than their parts."

ettitude

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Brett Heyman, founder of Flower by Edie Parker, resides in New York City with her husband and two children. Prior to the brand’s debut, she served as the director of public relations for Gucci until 2010. In 2014, Heyman was a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.

What inspired you to start your business?

"I had been collecting vintage acrylic bags since high school. They are little works of art, and they represent a time in history when America was setting fashion trends globally. After working in fashion at Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana for eight years, I noticed a hole in the small accessory / evening bag market. I thought there was an opportunity for a charming, colorful, handcrafted item that looked as good with jeans as it did a gown. After I had my first child, my daughter Edie, I figured once I made a human, how hard could it be to make a handbag? And so I started Edie Parker to make acrylic heirlooms for a new generation."

How did you start your business?

"I was committed to keeping production in America, paying homage to the way the acrylic bags were originally made. I think I called everybody who worked with acrylic in every state. Sampling was tricky, nobody wanted to work with such a small item, but eventually we found a few willing partners. It was extremely difficult in the beginning. I knew nothing and made tons of mistakes. But I failed fast and had a lot of opportunities in press and retail because of my fashion background."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"Pick a lane. You don't have to be everything to everybody."

Flower by Edie Parker

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Lauren Chan is the founder of Henning, an ethical brand of luxury plus-size womenswear. She is a size-inclusion advocate who began her career as a plus-size model. She later landed at Glamour as the fashion features editor and owned the plus-size fashion beat.

What inspired you to start this business?

"I built Henning because despite having spent years as a savvy plus-size consumer and as a fashion editor invested in discovering emerging brands, I was never able to find a desirable, luxury brand that made clothes in my size. I was showing up to work at places from the Glamour office to the set of the Today Show to fashion weeks around the world, and all around me, my smaller peers were wearing designer clothing. In contrast, I was wearing cheap, fast-fashion, and the message I absorbed over time was that I was of lesser value than them — the exact message that fashion aims to portray by leaving plus-size women out of the luxury conversation. And I got sick of it. Henning aims to change that narrative and to tell women of all sizes that they are high-value people."

​How did you start your business?​

"One step at a time! As the saying goes, I learned to build the airplane as I was flying it. Sometimes it was overwhelming, but for the most part, I steadily crossed things off my to-do list and after a year, Henning was alive."

Where do you draw your inspiration?​

"Our pieces are inspired by the staples I always wanted but could never find, like menswear-spired suits, classic trench coats, genuine leather jackets. But they're not just any staples — when I’m designing, I pay special attention to creating silhouettes, picking fabric, adjusting the fit, etc. Plus, all of our Henning pieces have secret fit details, like hidden elastic waistbands or reinforced inner thigh seams. I personally think you can tell when a plus-size person is making plus-size clothes — because they can see where other options fall short — and I want to show our Henning community that I understand them."

Henning

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Lauren Bucquet, founder of Labucq, relied upon her long-standing relationships with family-run factories in Italy and combined an experienced singular designer perspective with the best leathers and materials. Bucquet was most notably the director of footwear and accessories for Rag & Bone where she helped shape footwear trends for the millennial generation.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

"I draw a lot of inspiration from vintage shoes, spending time perusing old editorials and scouring vintage stores (though these days that means spending lots of time on Etsy and Depop). If I find a pair of vintage boots or shoes that I know I want to buy and wear right now, there is usually a pretty good chance that a reimagined, modern version of it will resonate with other people, too. Starting there, I then mix in whatever materials I’m finding most interesting and work through every detail of the shoe until it finally feels finished."

How do you want people to feel while wearing your products?

"I really think that shoes can transform your everyday experience — they can not only totally flip an outfit stylistically, but sometimes it's just a little lift of a heel, pop of color or added volume to a silhouette to give you the extra confidence you need to start your day. I want my shoes to be the ones that she turns to without fail, because they make her feel great, and they also happen to be super comfortable. I read once that the best shoes are the ones that you don’t have to think about while you’re wearing them – I think this is so true. Luxury should mean that your feet don’t hurt at the end of the day!"

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"Starting a business can be a very daunting undertaking, and at times you may feel at a disadvantage because of your gender, age, experience, etc. It’s only natural to question yourself (in fact it’s often quite healthy!), but the important thing is to not lose sight of where you want to go, and keep pushing even when those around you may express doubt. For me, it's helped to set clear attainable short-term goals, while keeping a broader view on the macro. That way I’m less overwhelmed on the day to day and am always chipping away at achieving something bigger. Find people around you who can help you do the things that you might be less experienced at, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help when you need it. There are so many great women-focused communities and resources out there, especially for women-entrepreneurs, and all it takes is a little effort to join in and take advantage of what they have to offer."

Labucq

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Founder Nicole Saldaña attended The Fashion Institute of Design and Parsons The New School for Design. She worked with Opening Ceremony as design director for eight years, joined with Carol Lim and Humberto Leon on the re-launch of Kenzo in 2011, and worked alongside Tory Burch as the senior director of design. She has designed for Jason Wu, Jonathan Simkhai, Misha Nonoo and more.

What inspired you to start this business?

"I believe there was an opportunity in the market for playful yet classic footwear that was well made at an affordable price point. With my main experience in women’s ready-to-wear and footwear, I wanted to utilize my expertise, brand building and storytelling to help tell a story in footwear. I wanted to approach a collection with a playfulness with color, texture, material and silhouette that you typically don't see offered in a stand-alone footwear brand."

How do you want people to feel while wearing your products?

"I want anyone and everyone who is wearing the shoes to feel confident, flirty, fun, feminine and powerful. I think it's always important to feel like you're self-assured in anything you wear."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"I would recommend to make sure you have enough first-hand experience in whatever it is that you're focusing on. It's important to explore different jobs, genres, etc. Work and life experience is key as well as making sure you surround yourself with mentors and a network of friends that are supportive yet challenging within your specific area of interest."

Nicole Saldana

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Karina Sulzer, founder and CEO of Skin Gym, comes from a family of aestheticians. Sulzer loves everything beauty related and worked in the beauty industry before venturing out on her own to launch Skin Gym.

What inspired you to start your business?

"I ultimately drew inspiration from my mother and grandmother who were both aestheticians. I wanted to make the spa experience more accessible to everyone with non-invasive, professional quality beauty tools."

How did you start your business?

"I started Skin Gym at a time when beauty tools weren’t as popular as they are now. People went to spas to have estheticians give them a professional facial, but I wanted to bring the spa home to the consumer so they could have a spa-like routine from the comfort of their bathrooms. That was my vision for Skin Gym."

How do you want people to feel while using your products?

"Skin Gym provides the tools to aim at achieving an effortless healthy glow from within and out. We are a source to help you be your authentic self and feel beautiful in your skin. At Skin Gym we love encouraging self-care in everyone’s daily routine. We do believe feeling your best will empower you to conquer your daily activities."

Skin Gym

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Alnea Farahbella, Toit Volant designer, graduated college and lived in Asia for 10 years, teaching design and discovering her Asian, Filipino roots. In 2017, she launched a mini collection inspired by her experiences and travels. She realized that her brand would serve as a platform for a visual manifestation of the contemporary woman that relates to unconventional beauty and lifestyle.

How did you start your business?

"We started the business with a small capsule collection that we shot in our living room. We sent out our first look book via cold emails to buyers. We sewed everything ourselves for the first five seasons. I bought the materials at the Garment District’s retail price. I put my first industrial sewing machine on a credit card. We had no idea what we were doing back then. It has been a wild journey."

Where do you draw your inspiration?

"My inspiration comes from my surrounding world. Families, friends, women that I interact with, current happenings, events, life happenings. I love when dresses blend in with the environment that women can communicate themselves through style.

How do you want consumers to feel while using your products?

"I want women to feel empowered when wearing our garments. It sounds so cliché but I want them to know they are special."

Toit Volant

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Founder Lyndsey Butler launched VEDA in 2008 with the intention of creating the perfect leather jacket. The focus was on quality and fit of the highest standards. Butler designs for the women in her life. She starts the design process the same way she puts together outfits for herself; beginning with the outer layer and working her way in.

How did you start your business?

"I was working full time for another fashion brand when I started VEDA. But, I was incredibly lucky to have the support and guidance of my boss at the time. She encouraged, pushed and guided me through the first few years and was originally a partner in the brand. It was amazing to have that infrastructure and support while building a business in those early years. And it was still a ton of work!"

Where do you draw inspiration from?

"Art, movies and travel are usually big sources of inspiration each season. But, my forever inspiration are my hometowns. Both New York City, where I have lived for the past 18 years and Texas, where I grew up and spent my first 18 years are the starting points for each collection. NYC is pure sensory overload but when I find quiet moments to sift through it all I am endlessly inspired by the people, the culture and the food."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"Dive in, work super hard, know that you don’t know everything, be proactive and take responsibility."

VEDA

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Founder April Gargiulo founded Vintner’s Daughter on the principles of unparalleled quality and efficacy, inspired by the world of fine winemaking and its uncompromising standards. She is passionate about making the world’s finest skincare and hopes to forge a lifelong connection with her incredible customers through mutual respect, giving back, deep gratitude and a shared reverence for beauty in all its forms.

What inspired you to start your business?

"Believe it or not, I had skin issues my entire life​. ​One day I started looking at the ingredients. I was shocked to realize that they were .01% active ingredients, the rest was low quality filler that was also in many cases toxic. I come from Napa Valley, a community dedicated to making the finest wines in the world through meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship. Short cuts are not allowed and practically every grain of dirt is considered for its quality. That to me is the true definition of luxury; beginning with the finest raw materials and honoring them through the most thoughtful formulation practices to achieve something even greater than the parts. The so-called luxury products I had been using were anything but."

​How do you want people to feel while wearing your products?

"Beauty is about feeling confident in your own skin. It shows itself in how you interact with yourself and the world. When you feel truly beautiful, you have more joy, respect, gratitude, compassion and belief in yourself and the world around you. ​So much of traditional skincare is about creating a fear or struggle with our skin. I hope that we can shine a light on what true beauty is, namely confidence and a sense of worth and help our customers celebrate their beautiful skin no matter the age, issue, tone or gender."

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs?

"Have a very clearly-defined mission. Pursue it with heart and hustle. And surround yourself with joyful, smart, kind people. The road is long and having a great team around you is everything."

Vintner’s Daughter

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