15 Badass Female Founders Reveal the Craziest Thing They Did to Launch Their Business
Passion makes people do crazy things. Maybe that means running out in the middle of the night to get your new love interest’s favorite ice cream. For others, it might mean running on a couple hours of sleep, sitting on the floor of your jam-packed apartment cold-emailing several hundred journalists, hoping that someone bites. The hustle is real — just ask any of the seriously inspiring bosses on this list. In honor of International Women’s Day, read on to learn how Karen Behnke, CEO of Juice Beauty, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, co-founders and co-CEOs of Glow Recipe, our very own founder and CEO of Brit + Co, Brit Morin, and more fearless female founders overcame obstacles and launched successful businesses no matter what stood in their way.
Karen Behnke, CEO, Juice Beauty
“When I first launched my business, no one would give me a loan, so I opened 17 credit cards, with a $2,500 line of credit on each one. I paid them all off simultaneously throughout the month.”
Priscilla Tsai, CEO and Founder, cocokind
“When I first started, we received a large order for a couple pallets of cocokind products. I was working by myself and I had no idea what that even meant. I went to Home Depot and asked if they would sell me a pallet, and they looked at me like I was crazy. I ended up driving up to a neighboring business because I saw they had stacks of pallets sitting outside. I asked if they would give me one, and again they looked at me like I was crazy. I couldn’t fit the pallet in my car, so they ended up driving a couple pallets over to my warehouse unit and teaching me how to build a pallet (and handle a pallet jack). I don’t know what I would have done without their act of kindness. I’ve now taught all my teammates (all women!) how to build and move 2,000+ pound pallets! I can also drive a forklift, but that’s another story for another day.”
Brit Morin, CEO and Founder, Brit + Co
“Prior to launching Brit + Co, I was actually about to launch a different startup! I had a co-founder, a prototype, and we were preparing to raise seed funding. But I felt such a distinct calling to move in a different direction, so I “broke up” with my co-founder to take the risk all on my own to try a different idea. It was the hardest break-up of my life!”
Rachel Winard, Founder, Soapwalla
“When I first launched Soapwalla, every single penny went into the business. For an entire year (365 looooong days) I didn’t spend a cent on non-essentials, defined as anything other than basic food from the grocery store, utilities, and rent. Not a cent went to anything else. No coffee out, no movies, bye-bye takeout, not one piece of clothing, nothing. It was so hard. I basically had no social life. Also, I hated all of my clothing by the end of the year. But it enabled me to start the business without a loan or any debt, which I’m pretty damn proud of.”
Kate Cutler and Tal Winter, Founders, bkr
“One time, we flew to LA, drove around in a tiny rental car and ate only Wheat Thins with a trunk full of samples and some photos on an iPhone. No business cards, no website, no track record, no appointments. We went into every cool store we could think of just to see where we would fit best and who loved us the most. It was hard. And funny. And embarrassing. It taught us where we didn’t want to be, which is almost as important as figuring out where we did want to be. We also learned we didn’t want to drive around LA in a beat-up rental car eating only Wheat Thins ever again.”
Nyakio Grieco, Founder, Nyakio
“I had to learn very quickly how to be a one woman show. I managed manufacturing and sourcing, acted as my own customer service team, ran shipping and receiving and did it all from the confines of my tiny apartment that I shared with two friends. It’s those moments that shaped me as as a female entrepreneur and taught me how to truly stay focused and follow my dreams.”
Jenny Patinkin, Founder, Lazy Perfection Brushes
“I had a big shoot one morning and needed a few extra items for my kit. At the time, I didn’t have a team or an assistant to run out for me so I sent my husband out to Sephora with a short list, which included NARS Blush in Orgasm. He clearly did not want to ask a salesperson for help and came home with a handful of bronzers instead.”
Sarah lee and christine chang, co-founders and co-ceos, Glow Recipe
“In the beginning of our launch, we cold-emailed over 600 editors and journalists in the span of three days! I don’t think we slept over three hours each night, but our efforts paid off very soon!”
Jessica Richards, Founder, Shen Beauty
“The night before Shen Beauty opened, I realized I had mistakenly priced all of the products at wholesale cost instead of retail. It was about midnight, so I ended up staying until 3am to take off the wholesale stickers and re-price everything with the retail stickers. Nightmare!”
Karen Ballou, CEO, Immunocologie
“I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my career, but nothing comes close to chugging an entire glass of volcanic green clay for product research. The ingredient was so potent and incredible that I decided to make it the signature ingredient in our skincare line. To this day, I still drink this weirdly magical green clay every morning.”
Jennifer Behr, Founder, Jennifer Behr
“I started the business in my living room with an $8,000 severance payment after I got laid off. I made the first collection entirely myself, including sales, packaging boxes, and shipping orders. For the first year of business, I used to get up at 4am every morning so I could get five hours of work done before editors got to their desk around 9am. It wasn’t until my second or third year in business when I could start taking weekends off for myself!”
Charlotte Cho, Co-founder, Soko Glam
“My husband Dave and I both boot-strapped Soko Glam for several years. We were fulfilling orders for Korean beauty products out of our tiny Manhattan apartment, to the point that it became more of a fulfillment warehouse than an apartment. We sold our TV and lots of our furniture to make more space for products and packaging material and we would hand carry hundreds of packages to the postal office during snow, rain, or shine! It was worth it!”
Sage Lehman, Founder, LOVE + SAGE
“The official launch of my brand coincided with my kids’ summer break and a family vacation when we got our very first large order. I had no one to watch my children and a trip to take the next day so my girlfriends rallied around me and spent the night helping label, package, and ship that major order. It was absolute chaos but I wouldn’t change a thing. We got the job done and I’ve never forgotten that grateful feeling for good friends who will put in the effort to help out when in need. We all need women like that in our lives.”
Sara Happ, Founder, sara happ
“The first year of launching my company was basically only crazy moments. I put all of my personal savings into buying hundreds of pounds of sugar, which I then mixed by hand into The Lip Scrub ($24). I invited every friend I knew over to my apartment and made each of them wear a hair net and latex gloves as we scooped product into jars and folded every little brown box ourselves. I paid them in cupcakes (thanks Duncan Hines!). And I drove up and down the East Coast begging laboratories to work with me. All but one said no — that they’d never heard of a “lip scrub” and didn’t even have the machinery it would take to make such a thing. I told them that was proof that this idea didn’t exist and that there was a hole in the market. The day People magazine ran the story on Reese Witherspoon as a fan, my website crashed as orders flooded in from all over the world. It was the best nightmare ever. ”
Jessica Morelli, Founder, Palermo Body
“I spent my entire savings and maxed out my credit card to start a business I believed so fiercely would work! I also worked up to three jobs at a time so the money my business made could be reinvested and not go toward supporting me. I still worked two jobs until relatively recently.”
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Fall is right around the corner, and we're getting amped up for our next session of Selfmade, Brit + Co's 10-week interactive startup school. Designed to help you create a new business or grow your existing one, this course is personally led by Brit + Co founder Brit Morin and co-founder Anjelika Temple, and supported by more than a dozen of the top female entrepreneurs, creatives, and investors in the country. Students receive personalized coaching on everything from how to get out of your comfort zone to how to scale your business, and everything in between. And now, thanks to Office Depot, even more of you can join the course!
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