Female Business Disruptors
Who are female business disruptors? They are innovators and entrepreneurs who challenge the ways things are done and set out to do them better. To quote the American poet Marge Piercy, “A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.” In the spirit of Women’s History Month, we recognize a few inspiring women who were industry trailblazers.
Valerie Thomas: Coding To See Earth From Space
Next time you tune into a satellite video of Earth, you can thank Valerie Thomas. Born in Maryland in February 1943, Thomas grew up interested in mechanics and learning how things worked. Her passion for science and math was discouraged, but that didn’t stop her drive. At Morgan State University, she was one of only two women majoring in physics in her class. It was there where she discovered and fell in love with computing––the ideal combination of science and math. Thomas accepted a data analyst position at NASA in 1964 and thus began a brilliant career.
Translating Images For NASA
In 1970 NASA began using the Landsat program to create satellite images of Earth. The program was readable to computers but left very little information for scientists to understand. Enter NASA’s brilliant scientist, Valerie Thomas. Thomas knew the ins and outs of the Landsat computer code. She wrote a groundbreaking program taking the information stored on the computer tapes and translating it into an easy way for scientists to read and interpret. Over 40 years later, Thomas’ code provides critical data to scientists about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
At NASA, she was a pioneer for women scientists during a time when women only held 7% of STEM jobs. Throughout her career, Thomas always looked toward the future, using her incredible mind to develop tools that have helped us better understand space, our planet, and where we fit in the universe.
Jane Fonda: Revolutionizing At-Home Fitness
Following the release of her best-selling exercise book, Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda released a VHS in 1982 called “Jane Fonda’s Workout.” The video was one of the best-selling videos of all time––selling over 17 million copies worldwide and laying the groundwork for the modern fitness industry, valued today at nearly $100 billion globally.
Transforming the Fitness Industry
“Jane Fonda’s Workout” transformed the fitness industry with the first at-home exercise video. Fonda, and her leg warmers, led the way with a video that spread the message that anyone of any body type could get healthy and change their body—gym membership not necessary.
Do You ‘Feel The Burn’?
Why was this workout video so popular (was it just the hip leotards)? If you’ve never seen “Jane Fonda’s Workout,” we’ll give you a recap. Her video didn’t solely showcase 1980s women donned in legwarmers doing aerobics, but it also provided practical fitness tips all set to fun, upbeat music, of course. Fonda led a routine with training techniques that we still see in fitness videos today: warm-ups, cool-downs, and activities targeting specific muscle groups. She inspired people to get off the sofa and get into a workout.
Fonda tapped into a new consumer demographic for exercise culture, women, who often felt uncomfortable working out in typically male-dominated gyms. Her fitness video transformed the fitness industry, bringing workouts into homes, and creating a template for all fitness videos that came after.
Julia Hartz: Creating A Better Ticketing System
Leader in the DIY event scene, Eventbrite has helped event organizers, big, small (and in-between), ticket events for the past 15 years. Whether it’s a private company picnic or a sold-out stadium concert, Eventbrite allows event managers to create and sell tickets for both. Eventbrite was founded as a startup by American entrepreneur Julia Hartz and became the first worldwide marketplace for live experiences.
Bootstrapped Beginnings to Billion-Dollar Company
Founded in 2006 by Julia Hartz and her husband, Eventbrite went from a bootstrapped company for the first two years to a billion-dollar company, ticketing over millions of events worldwide a decade later. Since then, dozens of new ticketing services have popped up. So, what makes Eventbrite a pioneer in the ticketing tech field?
In the early 2000s, the ticketing industry was stale and limited. Consumers were frustrated by high ticket fees and bad experiences. Behemoth platforms like Ticketmaster lacked innovation, and there were limited options for self-service event ticketing (not every event needs to fill a stadium). Hartz and her team saw a huge gap in the market and were laser-focused on launching a ticketing platform for anybody who wanted to create a live experience. It was prime time for someone to come in and disrupt the ticketing industry. Hartz had the right idea at the right time.
Hartz’s innovative work led to Fortune naming her one of the most powerful women entrepreneurs, and she is one of only fifteen women to have founded billion-dollar startups. She was able to stay ahead of trends by thinking big, focusing on long-term opportunities, and not being afraid to take a few risks.
Myoko Schinner: Vegan Cheese Never Tasted Better
Plant-based foods—everybody wants some. Well, at least 57 percent of all U.S. households want (and purchase) plant-based foods. But, consumers don’t just want plant-based foods—they want delicious plant-based foods. That’s where Myoko Schinner stepped in as an industry innovator. Schinner has revolutionized the vegan and plant-based food industry as the “Queen of Vegan Cheese.”
Leading A Vegan Cheese Revolution
Giving up cheese can be challenging for many vegans and plant-based eaters. Schinner felt this pain as a 35 year committed vegan, and from this, Schinner published Artisan Vegan Cheese in 2012. After experimenting with plant-based cheeses, she decided to make her own stinky, creamy, and salty vegan version of cheese—the result: a savory, mouthwatering brand of plant-based cheeses, Myokos’s Creamery.
As a pioneer, Schinner has used a cutting-edge plant-milk fermentation process to create malty butter, remarkable cheeses, and a groundbreaking company that strives to compete alongside bigger companies in the dairy aisle. Schinner’s cookbook put vegan cheese on the map, and since then, vegan cheesemaking has spread like wildfire. Now, the vegan cheese industry is a 2.43 billion dollar industry and is expected to grow to reach $7.10 billion in 2030. However, Myoko’s Creamery was ahead of its time in 2014, creating high-end artisanal vegan cheeses when nothing like it was on the market—and now Schinner is considered an industry leader in plant-based dairy products.
Be Inspired By Fierce Female Business Disruptors
These are just a few women who are groundbreakers in their industries. One common attribute in all these female business disruptors, past or present, is that they see success as always possible if you do what you love and embrace innovation. These visionaries never shied away from taking risks, believing in the impossible, and going against the grain to make things happen.
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