Queens, New York, 1920’s. A young woman named Esther who had a passion for beauty products sat beside her chemist uncle in their kitchen, watching and learning how to make beauty creams. Esther spent years making and selling her own oils and creams directly to hair salons before officially forming her cosmetics business in 1946. She grew her business into a multi billion dollar empire. Esther named her business Estée Lauder Cosmetics Inc in honour of her childhood nickname, Esty.
‘I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.’ - Estée Lauder
Fast forward 70 or so years to the here and now. A lot of things have changed for the better. Some things still have a way to go. But there are still trailblazing female-founded businesses making the headlines for all the right reasons.
Just last month Whitney Wolfe Herd (founder of the dating app Bumble, designed to put women in the romantic driving seat) became the world's youngest self-made female billionaire and the youngest woman ever to take a company to IPO.
We are fortunate enough to have a range of incredible female-founded businesses as part of the Hibana collective, so we wanted to use this year’s International Women’s Day as an opportunity not only to shine a light on these powerful women, but to share what they’ve learnt along the way to hopefully inspire anyone out there who has an idea they dream of making.
Staring into the scary void of getting started.
So, what does it take to become a successful woman in business? Well, don’t take it from us. We asked our incredible female founders for the one piece of killer advice they wish they had been given before building their own business. The answer? Just dive in. It can be oh so tempting to wait for the perfect moment. Until all your ducks are lined up. But that moment - it rarely comes along.
“Nothing changes if you change nothing. If you’re not happy with where you are in life, start making changes today - figure out where you want to get to and how to go about it, and have at it.” - Nina, Nightire
And what would they say to any woman who’s teetering on the edge of change but afraid to take that leap? Follow your gut. Female intuition plays a big part in many of our founders' stories and it is not to be underestimated.
“...listen to your gut. We are so obsessed with data, and data is massively important, but there is a real intelligence and wisdom to your instinct, and we often are taught to suppress it.” - Paola, Mayamiko
“Trust your intuition. When starting out, that’s sometimes the only thing you have. Always follow your gut, it generally knows best!” - Katie, Loft & Daughter
Keeping going when the going gets tough.
Starting and running a business is hard. So what’s the one thing that has kept our female founders motivated when the odds are stacked? Passion. Behind each of their brands, was a desire to create something, that meant something, to them. And when the going got tough (which it inevitably does when building your own business) it was their passion that kept them going:
“Keeping creative. Developing new products is what makes me tick. And keeping focused on why I’m doing what I'm doing - whenever I get Whatsapp messages or photos from the artisans in India, it’s an instant moral boost & often quite humbling.” - Katie, Loft & Daughter
“For me it’s the positive/constructive feedback, the moments of joy Mayamiko brought, when someone wears Mayamiko at a graduation or wedding (both happened!).” - Paola, Mayamiko
There’s also a sense of realism and pragmatism that can help get you through...
“What keeps me motivated is remembering that these challenges are all part of the journey of building a business. I have a poster in my office that reads 'progress is not linear'. Remembering that building a business is a process, helps me switch off and come back to it again the next day.” - Banasa, Ksoni
Finding the space to decompress.
Possibly one of the most important questions we asked our founders is how they maintain a work life balance, as come on...we’ve all been there burning the candle at both ends. Quite simply, the answers all relate back to self care. Finding time to make ‘me time’. Whether that be exercise, sleep, or finding the time to do the things that you love.
“I prioritise sleep:) I also spend lots of quality time with friends as often as possible (because surrounding myself with good people keeps me inspired and energised), and I like to mould my life and work around each other so I can chill and work when I am at my best on both counts.” - Nina, Nightire
“Three things I do to maintain work life balance? Breathe, laugh, dance.” - Paola, Mayamiko
Our female founders are pretty inspirational and the brands that they have put their blood, sweat and tears into are what makes Hibana the vibrant and bustling marketplace that it is.
Lastly, while it may not be from one of our founders, we’ll leave you with this quote from the wonderful Whitney Wolfe Herd - as she is a woman who is quite obviously doing many things right;
“Never neglect the things that matter most in life, which is your friends, your family, your health. I think work is amazing and finding success is very rewarding, but there is no reward in the end if you neglected the things that matter the most.”
Nina Clarke, founder of Nightire, discovered a gap in the nightwear market while on her personal quest to get a better night’s sleep! And guess what? She did something about it! Nightire was created to bring us nightwear which not only looks good, but with its silky soft 100% organic bamboo material, helps you to sleep!
Katie Sheehan, founder of Loft and Daughter to her horror found herself an unwitting part of the fast fashion industry and decided that no matter how small, she wanted to be a part of the solution, rather than the problem. Whilst backpacking across India and Sri Lanka Katie handpicked a selection of local organisations to help her bring Loft and Daughter to life. Her mission, to create a brand which would impact positively on people and planet, without compromising quality or design.
Paola Masperi, founder of Mayamiko began her journey by creating the Mayamiko Trust in 2008, a charity which aims to provide skills and opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged women in Malawi. Several years later the Mayamiko brand was created to bring a global collection of beautiful and sustainable garments to our wardrobes, inspired by the indigenous cultures where they are made. Pretty incredible!
Banasa and Joti, founders of Ksoni met in 2018 and were drawn together by a mutual love for all things health and wellness and a desire to tackle the plastic waste problem in this industry. For Joti, the wake up call was the amount of plastic she came across while diving in South East Asia and she became determined to cut down on the amount of plastic in her life, yet found there was a lack of bathroom products catering to this lifestyle. Banasa became aware of the growing number of people who wanted to make a positive change in their lives and their impact on the planet, and also wanted to remove the stigma surrounding natural beauty products being a lesser quality. Ksoni was born!