This article is from My Corporation, Deborah Sweeney looks at 22 Women Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Biggest Role Model
Great female role models are all around us, from our moms to innovative entrepreneurs in the field. Many of the women I spoke to had more than one influential role model in their lives, and some inspiring figures were mentioned by several entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at female role models that encourage and motivate women entrepreneurs to go the distance.
1. Sara Blakely, Founder and Inventor, Spanx
“Sara Blakely specifically inspires me because she did it her way, with an emphasis on being a woman! She is self-funded, which I think is important for business owners to see is absolutely possible. When I am frustrated and wondering if I should keep investing money in my business, I go back to her story and get reinspired.” — Andrea Travillian, President, Aspirify, Inc.
“I modeled my company after hearing Sara talk about her How I Built This story on NPR. It gave me the confidence that I needed to not approach the business in a traditional method. Her tenacity and perseverance in holding true to her vision is incredible.” — Elyse Kaye, Founder and CEO, Bloom Bras
“One of my role models is Sara Blakely, the founder and inventor of Spanx. I admire her greatly because she started her business with only $5,000 of her own money. It was a side hustle in her apartment while she worked a corporate job. Now, it’s a billion-dollar company and she owns 100% of it! I also love that she was single for 37 years of her life because she was so focused on her business and now she is happily married with four kids. It truly shows the power of hard work and dedication. She gives other
women permission to be single so they can focus on growing their empires. Sara also shows that you can start a huge successful company without a huge investment and without having to quit your full-time job. Following her on social media is a daily boost of encouragement and inspiration. My dream is to go on Shark Tank for my business when she is a guest shark and get an investment from her. It will happen someday!” — Georgia McKinney, Founder, Flight Fillow, LLC
2. Emma Isaacs, Founder and Global CEO, Business Chicks
“By far my biggest role model is an Australian woman named Emma Isaacs. She is the Founder and Global CEO of a business called Business Chicks which is Australia’s largest community for women in business. I actually met her when she was pregnant with her first child and I was an intern at a pregnancy education center called Birthing Rites Australia. I got to know her a bit better, and I was so enthralled with her confidence and unapologetic attitude for getting things done. On top of running this multimillion-dollar company that fully supports women in every aspect, she’s also a mom to five children (with number six on the way!). Emma has grown one of the most empowering women-centered companies I’ve ever seen. She has truly built a life that shows you can have it all. I haven’t spoken with Emma in over 10 years, but I still find inspiration in following and watching her journey had a major impact on my decision to start my own company.” — Kristy Goodman Co-Founder and CEO, PreConception
3. Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Executive
“A female role model I look up to is Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Up until October, she was the head literary agent at William Morris Endeavor, repping other incredible female authors like Brené Brown, Glennon Doyle, and Oprah Winfrey. Before working for WME, she bought the first agency she worked at, and then later sold it to WME. This is a woman who climbed the ranks in a male-dominated industry and always held her own. The only reason she left WME was to further develop a conference series that she started with Glennon Doyle. In addition to her credentials being impressive, I also look up to the way she owns her message and her purpose. Jennifer Rudolph Walsh inspires me to step up and own my message, desire to serve others, and to get to work.” — Erica Wernick, CEO and Founder, Hollywood Success Coach, Inc.
4. Miki Agrawal, Founder, THINX
“My greatest role model has been Miki Agrawal. I initially came across Miki from reading her book, ‘Do Cool Sh*t.’ After reading her journey of starting the company, THINX, I began following her more closely on social channels. Her primary message of looking for areas of life that have room for disruption and her approach to business of not trying to be someone she isn’t has been very inspirational for my own journey. You don’t have to wear a suit to be successful.” — Monica Grohne, Founder and CEO, Marea Wellness
5. My Mom
“My mother, Pam Patterson, is my greatest role model. She is the most determined and confident woman that I have ever met and inspires me every day. You usually only hear the startup success stories, but there is a lot of turmoil that comes in the space. She gets it. The other day I called her to talk about some of our current challenges. I saved this quote in my phone to look back on, ‘You are the perfect entrepreneur because you are suffering.’ I am so excited about what we are building but there are some days you have to just put one foot in front of the other and my mom is who inspires me to do this.” — Chelsie Patterson, CEO and Founder, Give Memento Inc.
“My mother worked at UPS. She started off as a driver, then was promoted to supervisor and then into management. I used to ask the UPS drivers I saw at school if they knew my mother. Some actually said yes! I thought it was cool that she went out into the business world and made things happen, made money and managed and elevated people.” — Tiffany C. Wright, Founder, The Resourceful CEO
“My mom has been my greatest role model because she has grit and grace, a powerful combination. She was a single mom who ran several businesses successfully and never gave up. My mother always had a firmness of mind and courage while demonstrating kindness and warmth. She taught me how to set goals, focus and face your fears. You must learn from success and failure. Then, you do it again and again. She is confident, self-aware and resilient. I will always look up to her for strength and encouragement.” — Lisa Kinsey, Co-Founder and Chief Talent Strategist, Kinsey Management, LLC
6. Kylie Jenner, Entrepreneur, Kylie Cosmetics
“Kylie Jenner is one of my business role models because she has done an incredible job of building an ecommerce empire from nothing but her social media following and insightfully recognizing a gap in a market by filling one of her own needs and successfully bringing that product to market. A lot of people talk about how she isn’t self-made because she and her family were famous by the time she launched her business. However, although she had a slight social media advantage, she used what she had incredibly well. She inspires me to think of how I can use one of my own needs or wants to start a business idea, and then leverage everything I have to market and sell it. Anyone can learn from and be inspired by her story.” — Stacy Caprio, Founder, Accelerated Growth Marketing
7. Rachel Hollis, Author and Motivational Speaker
“Recently, I was inspired by Rachel Hollis’ book, ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing!’ In this book, Hollis laid out the common feelings and excuses many women face and make for themselves as to why they cannot pursue what they truly desire. After reading this book, I felt much less guilty about going after my passion of building a house-buying company. Even though it is an inconvenience to my family in the short-term, I know in the long-term we will be better for it. I’m pursuing my passion and this will trickle down to my family life, both financially and personally.” — Melanie Hartmann, Owner, Creo Home Buyers
8. Ava Duvernay, Producer and Director
“Ava Duvernay is my role model. What she has done for women directors in the entertainment business is groundbreaking. Not only is she a visionary with her own studio to help filmmakers and artists take their careers to the next level, she created a TV show, Queen Sugar, to shepherd female directors who are emerging or experienced, direct episodes of this show. Most of these women are now regularly working as directors on TV shows. Her show is so successful it is in its fifth season!” — Kate Rees Davies, Founder, New Hollywood Collective
9. Meekyung Chung, Former Manager, General Motors
“One of my role models was my first official boss out of high school. I was an intern at General Motors and Meekyung was my manager in a mid-level P&L role. Meekyung was only two to three years out of college, but she was fierce. She taught me how to hold my own and to politely but firmly challenge what I didn’t like and have empathetic confrontations with those who consciously or unconsciously demeaned me. She really honed my early leadership skills and showed me — with lots of practice! — how to stand up for myself while always pursuing, and achieving, excellence.” — Tiffany C. Wright, Founder, The Resourceful CEO
10. My Grandmother
“My female role model was my grandmother Mama Parney. She was a 17-year-old orphan and had no money, experience, or education. But she walked into a bank and asked for a loan to build a gas station/grocery store/house. She had no collateral but said she would pay the bank back a penny per gallon of gas until the loan was paid off. My grandmother worked in that store until the day she died.
I am inspired by her courage to take that bold of a chance with nothing. She had to learn business from actually doing it. She built the store on a busy highway. Back then, they didn’t have big box stores, so she didn’t have a lot of competition. Even when she did years later, people in the town still came to her store. When I decided to be an inventor I literally had $5.00 to my name. I remembered how Mama Parney had the courage to just jump off the cliff, and that’s what I did.” — Julie Austin, Founder, Creative Innovation Group
11. Chelsea Yamase, Influencer
“One of my greatest role models is social media influencer Chelsea Yamase. I remember first coming across her stunning underwater images and being inspired by the way she captured movement and beauty. It was her words that really hit home and motivated me to share my own truth and journey.
Chelsea encourages her audience to explore often and consume mindfully. The way she’s able to dedicate her whole self, putting 110% into anything she does, inspires me to try and do the same. I look up to her not because she’s perfect, but because she’s real and relatable. She’s a believer in transformational growth because she’s gone through it herself. It encourages me to continue growing boldly into the person I am, too. Chelsea’s passion for adventure and positive outlook on life has helped me find the courage to pursue my own dreams and step up to the challenges of being an entrepreneur.” — Melissa Teng, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Wit and Folly
12. My Sister
“My role model is my older sister. She was independent since the teenage years and fought for the things she believed in. For instance, she always wanted to start her own business and be a young entrepreneur. To do that, she needed a lot of experience and training, so she ended up spending most
of her free time learning things. Oftentimes her friends perceived her as boring, but she believed in her vision so much and wouldn’t let others demotivate her. Today, she has more than a decade of experience as a successful business owner and time to travel around the world, meet new people and help other entrepreneurs develop their companies.” — Boriana Slabakova, Co-Founder of PetPedia
13. Kat Jamison, Clinical Psychologist
“One female entrepreneur that motivates and inspires me is someone who’s making a huge impact on global health, Kay Jamison. Kay was 17 when she was diagnosed with depression. This soon developed into bipolar disorder. Despite her struggles, she managed to become a skilled psychologist. Kay became the first woman to receive an endowed professorship in John Hopkin University’s psychiatry department. As someone who suffered from insomnia and depression, she inspires me to overcome my struggles and become someone who pioneers for mental and emotional health.” — Liz Brown, Founder, Sleeping Lucid
14. Brené Brown, Researcher and Author
“Although it is difficult to choose just one, Brené Brown is probably my greatest female role model. Her books have shaped how I lead and interact with friends, family, colleagues, and clients. She emphasizes the importance of embracing vulnerability and wholehearted living in every aspect of our lives. By showing up as authentically as possible, I am able to create longlasting, meaningful connections with others. Brené is funny, insightful, and down-to-earth. She is like the best friend I never actually met. Her willingness to share who she really is, have tough but necessary conversations, and live by the belief that everyone is doing the best they can has inspired me to do the same. — Kathryn Medina, Founder and Creative Director, Alpine Design LLC
15. Emily Best, Founder, Seed&Spark
“Not only is Emily an entrepreneur, but she’s one of my oldest friends! She has such an amazing work ethic and when it comes to what her company represents, it’s all about inclusion. I feel grateful and inspired by her courage to speak up and out and to take a stand for something she believes in. — Elisa Lewis, Co-Founder, The Baconer
16. My Mastermind Group
“I have the greatest women role models in my mastermind group! Liz Tucker, owner of Poppy, Beth Snyder who owns 1Canoe2 and Hemlock, and Jesse Bodine, owner of Scout & Nimble. Meeting with these ladies every other week for the past five years has changed my life and business. They all inspire me because they are mothers, creatives and business owners. Balancing work, life and managing people while navigating the unique role of female ownership. All three demonstrate grit, ingenuity and a whole lot of heart.” — Kristen Brown, Owner and Chief Creative Officer, Hoot Design Company
17. Gal Gadot, Actress
“I admire Gal Gadot, both as herself and as Wonder Woman. Gal inspires me for her integrity. She stands for important causes such as women dignity and underprivileged people. She is not afraid to speak out and to tell the world what she believes in. With two little girls and a successful husband, she works really hard to achieve her own goals. Gal is also very genuine and natural, down to earth and thankful. She doesn’t give anything for granted and appreciates everything she has. As Wonder Woman, I believe she was perfect for that role, exactly for the reasons mentioned above. To me, Gal was herself in Wonder Woman: brave, real, honest, ethical, and sensitive.” — Rachel Katzin, Co-Founder and CEO, All Day Alba
18. Wonder Woman, Superheroine
“Wonder Woman has always been my greatest role model, from childhood to adulthood. As an adult, I can better define how Wonder Woman affected my thinking and development as a young woman, and why I continue to revisit my relationship with her today.
As a symbol of truth, justice and equality, Wonder Woman was the first woman I saw who had real power in the world and forged her own way. I watched her on television with admiration and awe. Wonder Woman didn’t worry about outside influences; she always did what was right and looked great doing it. But what always stood out to me was that she used her strength to empower others. She once said, /I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.’ That’s exactly what she did. In turn, she encouraged women to be themselves and to be strong.
As a business woman, I try to apply all of the lessons I learned from Wonder Woman to how I lead and how I approach life. I bring my full, authentic self to every situation, whether it’s working with my clients or leading my team. As an entrepreneur, I strive to live with an outward mindset. I work hard to understand other people’s needs and help guide them to their truth. I am strong and I am able. And I am me.” — Gretchen Halpin, Co-Founder, Beyond AUM