“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
— Michelle Obama
Never has this statement been more true than in the world of world-changing businesses and the women who are running them. Almost daily I come across a new story of an awe-inspiring woman who has created something I could never have dreamed of. Every time I read a story about a woman who is creating sustainable fashion from fabric that would otherwise go to the landfills or has made foundation out of broccoli seed oil, I am overcome with pride and joy. I am also a big fan of the limit pushers: the women who are doing things with a mentality of “I see what you are doing, and it is great, but I’m gonna up the ante.” The first time I heard about Blueland, a company that creates cleaning solutions in the form of pellets so there is less plastic and less waste, I felt like I was watching my favorite team win a game (if I were into sports at all, that is).
“Yes! Natural cleaning products are amazing and almost make me want to clean things. But natural cleaning products that also help reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our lives? Sign me up!”
I’ve also been lucky enough to have personally met hundreds of women who are doing inconceivably amazing things with their businesses. From coffee shops to coworking spaces, intimate masterminds to immense conferences — online, in person, over the phone, and more — I have truly been in the presence of greatness more times than I can count. I have often left an event or disconnected from Zoom and thought, “The world is made up of women who are creating solutions to some of the toughest problems. And we will all be better because of it.” Each of these conversations has shaped both me and my business in massive ways.
That’s why it’s so important to share as many stories as we can. I urge you to share yours. There’s a wonderful quote by Lee Strasberg that says, “If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it?” I’m going to up the ante on that quote, and say: if we cannot see the evidence of greatness in people who are like us, how can we know we are possible of greatness?
That is my calling in this movement to create a new economy. I am here to share the stories of the people who look like you, come from the world you come from, and are doing the things you dream of doing (or would if you knew you could achieve them). I am here to help propel their stories into our collective conscious: both so that their businesses can succeed and so that we all know that we are truly capable of great things.
This month, in honor of the World-Changing Women Summit, I am sharing the stories of 13 women who are changing the world with their business. And, although they are each doing it in their own unique way, there is one theme that rings true: they are all addressing more than one struggle in our world with their business.
Gone are the days of launching a social enterprise that aims to cure one injustice. These women are creating multi-tiered businesses that are changing society in numerous ways and across numerous industries (tech, academia, retail, wholesale, design, advertising, media, human resources, and fashion). They are doing it alone and with a team. They are doing it locally — in small towns — and globally. They are looking at the things they want to be different and figuring out what they can do to make them different. No challenge is too big.
The women in this series are truly leaders in the fourth wave of social enterprise, the profit-focused social enterprise. Rob Schuham, founder of COMMON, describes this fourth wave as the new inevitable economy that is emerging: consumers are already demanding better practices and products from the companies they do business with; employees and leaders are already demanding better practices and policies from the companies they work with; and the state of our planet is simply demanding more sustainably focused businesses. He also points out what many of us who live in this world of conscious business or social impact say frequently, “You cannot make real social impact if your business fails.” That’s also what all of these women know. They are doing everything they can to create, launch, nurture, and grow successful businesses that just happen to also be changing the world. And they are limitless.
Bold Insight #1:
Turns out the Master’s tools can sometimes dismantle the Master’s house.
This insight is embodied by Jennifer Moreau-Chick, Founder, President, & CEO of World For Good, fabric-bag company that is solving multiple social and environmental issues by creating an economic difference for women living in poverty and providing consumers a quick and accessible alternative to plastic bags. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #3:
You can be intentional without being obvious.
This insight is embodied by Beth Bell, Founder & President of Green Product Placement, a product placement company dedicated to getting small-batch, sustainable, and natural products into the background of TV shows and movies. By increasing the visibility of these conscious businesses and brands, Bell hopes to change the face of retail. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #4:
Being an ethical company really just requires deciding you will be.
This insight is embodied by Jessica Day, Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer of IdeaScale, a crowdsourcing software platform that allows companies to ask for ideas and solutions from its stakeholders. IdeaScale was founded on the belief that it is possible to be a good/ethical company and care about your employees and the environment, regardless of what your mission is. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #5:
Small businesses bring massive impact.
This insight is embodied by Emily Charette, Owner & Principal of We Are Charette, graphic designer and small business owner who is changing the world by mastering the art of creating visual and emotional dialogue for her design clients and for her two daughters. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #6:
You get to get paid for this.
This insight is embodied by Cecile Gauthier, Co-founder of Lime Agency, a marketing consulting and design agency helping companies grow awareness, sales, and impact through highly intentional communication campaigns and strategies. Read more of her story and insights here.
This insight is embodied by Melissa Barker, Founder & CEO of The Phoenix Project — a digital platform to make trauma-informed healing and care more accessible to survivors of domestic abuse everywhere. Barker is, herself, a survivor. Read more of her story here.
This insight is embodied by Jessica Yinka Thomas, Director of the Business Sustainability Collaborative at NC State University and Founder & President of B Academics, the global B Corp Academic Community, working to advance the state of academic study into business as a force for good. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #9:
Do what you can when you can. When you can do more, do more. Tell everyone what you are doing and why it matters.
This insight is embodied by Jennifer Perry, Founder & President of Jelt, a company she created after a near-death experience and a promise to make big positive impact if and when she healed. Jelt creates belts out of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, employs incarcerated women, pays a thriving wage, and reduces recidivism rates. Read more of her story here.
Bold Insight #10:
Women’s voices will save the world.
This insight is embodied by Juliette Roy, Founder of Be Your Change, impact-centric podcast is inspiring women to do small things that make a difference, one episode at a time. Read more of her story here.
BONUS Bold Insight:
Start with the people you want to help and build a business around them.
This insight is embodied by three rising stars who started their businesses to help someone and created a product to do just that: Sydney Badger, Founder of Public Habit, a fashion e-commerce site that eliminates layers between producers and consumers, resulting in bespoke, on-demand pieces; Afshan Abbas, Co-founder & CEO of Fuchsia Shoes, a company that works with artisans to create original, beautiful, artful shoes that are made in an ethical way; and Sarah Cottee, Founder & CEO of immi, a watch that allows women and girls to track their menstrual cycle without being connected to a smartphone or app. Read more.
LaKay Cornell is a culture critic, writer, speaker, and feather-ruffler. She is on a mission to change the way we create change. Using her unique combination of exciting anecdotes and enticing data, she positions her clients’ work in the context of the social problem they are solving. LaKay also writes, speaks and moderates discussions on Intersectional Feminism, the Language of Empowerment, and Womxn’s Entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit lakaycornell.com.