Million-dollar business founded by mums
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
In celebration of women’s history month, this week, I will be showcasing 10 phenomenal mums who are behind some of the most popular global brands of today. These women come from different parts of the world, and were able to run their multimillion-dollar companies alongside growing their families, and definitely serve as examples of what is possible (although difficult) for other mums out there, if this is also your dream.
Sarah Tremellen co-founder of Bravissimo
In 1995, Sarah and a friend decided to launch the well-known lingerie and swimwear line Bravissimo, after experiencing her own frustrations with the lack of pretty looking bras available for women with large breasts. Sarah was still on maternity leave when her entrepreneur career took flight, but her mission to inspire women with big boobs to feel amazing, simply motivated her to keep going. Sarah’s company started off in a living room as a catalogue company, and although she had to face a number of adversities, the brand now has 700 employees, 26 shops throughout the UK, 1 shop in the US, and a website that delivers to Bravissimo girls all over the world. In 2018 a whopping £51.9 million (approx. $72 million) in sales for the year were reported. Not bad ey? (1,2,3)
Cher Wang co-founder of HTC and VIA Technologies
If you haven’t heard of the tech company HTC or VIA, where have you been? Despite the fact that the tech industry is heavily male-dominated, Cher Wang managed to make a mark for herself when she and her husband founded VIA Technologies and HTC in 1987 and 1997 respectively. In an interview about the smartphone company HTC, she tells Marie Claire
“When I started the company, my children were just babies so I would usually bring them along with me to work. If I went on a business trip, my children would usually stay in the hotel with my mother or a nanny. It’s very important to have that support network. It can be hard work getting the balance right, but it’s something that people have got to get used to”
Needless to say, this hasn’t stopped her one bit, because in 2018 a Forbes article reported that Google agreed to acquire most of HTC's design team for $1.1 billion, a substantial move for the giant company (4,5).
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder of soleRebels shoe line
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu founded soleRebels in 2004 as a way to blend her Ethiopian community’s creative artisan talents with the traditional ‘barabasso’ (Ethiopian recycled tire) shoe. These original and comfortable footwear have been featured in dozens of top-tier news outlets including CNN, Cosmopolitan, and Forbes. Her company is not only one of the leading shoe brands in Africa, but her shoes are now sold in as many as 22 stores spread across the globe, having found markets in places like the United States, Singapore, Greece, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, and Austria (6,7).
As a mother of 3 children, she has pioneered and worked really hard to break every popular perception of Ethiopia (8).
Ellen Diament, founder of Skip Hop
Back in 2003, new parents Michael and Ellen Diamant realized that their diaper bag options were limited. Surrounded by pink and blue baby bags, Ellen decided to sketch a bag that was fashion-savvy and super functional. The Duo Diaper Bag was born, and they’ve never looked back. Since then, Skip Hop has become a global lifestyle brand devoted to designing innovative products for parents, babies, and kids (9).
In 2017, Carter’s Inc, the largest branded marketer in the United States and Canada of apparel exclusively for babies and young children, announced that it had acquired Skip Hop Holdings. The total purchase price reported was $140 million, plus a potential future payment of up to $10 million if certain targets were met later that year 2017 (10).
Today, under Ellen’s creative leadership, millions of products have touched the lives of parents and babies in over 30 countries around the world. From China to Poland, France, Mexico, Brazil, Australia.
Cristina Junqueira, co-founder of Nubank
Cristina co-founded the online Brazilian bank Nubank in 2013 with the mission of giving people back control over their financial lives.
She was pregnant with her first child at the time, and (listen to this) signed Nubank’s first round of investment documents while at the hospital in labour with her first daughter (“what!” I hear you say). She has been a model of success in the face of gender bias and discrimination as a woman raising venture capital while pregnant. In 2020, Nubank was named the largest financial institution in Brazil with more than 25 million customers across Brazil and Mexico. Also in 2020, Cristina became the first woman to be featured pregnant on the cover of a business magazine in Brazil just a few days before giving birth to her second daughter, and was recognized as one of Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in Brazil. In 2020, she was elected by Fortune as one of the leaders under 40 years old that are transforming the world of business (11,12).
In early 2021, it was reported that Nubank's valuation rose from $10 billion to $25 billion, and their customer base also increased to 34 million users (13). I don’t know about you, but I am in awe of Cristina and her team, they have done very well.
Wu Yajun co-founder of Longfor Properties
Wu Yajun co-founded Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Longfor Properties in 1993 with her then-husband. Reports show that her only child was also born in 1993, hence why she too is on this list as a mum boss (14). She is featured on a number of Forbes lists including China’s rich list (2020), Billionaire list (2020), and Powerful women (2014).
According to Forbs, the total value of all company's shares of stock is $29.8 billion, and as of 2017, 300 million people have visited Lonfor’s shopping malls (15,16).
Janine Allis founder of Boost Juice
You may be familiar with the company’s eye-catching brand colours, but did you know that this Australian business was founded by a mummy? Yes, Janine Allis started her juice empire back in 2000 as a young mother, she had a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a seven-month-old at the time (17).
This lady is nothing short of amazing, she took the brilliant idea of making healthy living tasty, and built one of the most popular and loved juice and smoothie brands across the globe, with over 580 stores across 13 different countries and counting (18). A 2010 article reported that a US-based private equity firm paid roughly $65 million to purchase a controlling stake in Boost Juice (19). Hearing this makes me want to throw on an apron and pull out my juicer, Janine you are an inspiration.
Anne E. Wojcicki co-founder of 23andMe
Anne Wojcicki, is a co-founder of the popular genetics testing company 23andMe, which was launched in 2006. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in biology, Anne worked as a health care analyst for a number of years before deciding to pivot into a business of her own. She would later go on to co-found 23andMe, with the aim of bringing the power of genetic testing to everyday consumers, so they can better manage their own health care. Not too long after the launch, she welcomed her first child in 2008 then another in 2011 (20).
The genetic testing kit has become widely familiar, and even made its way on an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. As of 2020, Anne was listed in Forbes list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women (21).
In early 2021, news broke that 23andMe Inc is in talks of a $4 billion merger deal with a special purpose acquisition company founded by billionaire Richard Branson (22). Who wouldn’t like to be in on that conversation?
In both 2018 and 2020, 23andMe had a $2.5 billion valuation
Lisa Price founder of Carol’s daughter
Beauty products entrepreneur Lisa Price is from Brooklyn, New York and is the founder of Carol's Daughter. She launched her brand in 1993, and for the first 6 years worked out of her kitchen. She gave birth in 1996 and 1997 and yet still managed to build a thriving business; selling at flea markets and festivals, before opening up her first storefront in 1999. In 2000, she launched her e-commerce website, and when she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2002, her brand catapulted to new heights (23,24).
In 2014 Carol’s Daughter was acquired by L’Oreal, and was valued at $27 million dollars. She is a proud mum to 3 children, and still has an active role in the business. She attends speaking events and gives interviews aimed at encouraging other women and African Americans to go after their dreams as well (25,26). Notable quotes of hers include her saying “being an entrepreneur takes a lot of courage, but that doesn't mean you're not afraid” and “Dream out loud, dream big, and write it down. It's a corny saying, but if you can see it, you can be it.” I am not going to lie, that second one made me snap my fingers when I first read it.
Penny Streeter founder of Ambition 24 hours
Penny Streeter’s entrepreneur story is a remarkable one. After experiencing a failed business, enormous debt, and a marriage breakdown, a heavily pregnant Penny found herself living in emergency accommodation along with her two-year-old and six-year-old children. She would spend the next two years living on benefits and often struggled to put food on the table. In June 1995 she decided to jump back on the entrepreneur horse opening up her second recruitment agency, and by June 1996 her business had turned over £1 million (approx. $1.4M). By March 1999, she was able to buy a 3 bedroom house. Her company became the fasted growing in the UK in 2002, she received an OBE in 2006, in 2009 she had remarried, and in 2019, she was listed as being worth £208 million (approx $290.5 million) in The Sunday Times ‘Rich List (27).
In a recent article with the Sun newspaper, she shares her words of advice and is quoted advising other businesswomen to “follow your heart. I was homeless, but I’ve made it this far – if you have the determination, there’s no reason you can’t succeed, too.” We hear you loud and clear Penny, keep up the great work (28).
I came across a lot of fascinating stories when researching these ladies, many faced harsh adversities, inspired communities, and won prestigious awards, and they all built thriving businesses whilst juggling motherhood, which was the aim of this post.