How do women entrepreneurs determine the ‘right’ time to start a business? The latest infographic from 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization SCORE uses findings from SCORE’s “The Megaphone of Main Street: Women’s Entrepreneurship” data report to uncover the answer.
The results, based on survey data collected from 20,000 business owners, are broken down by age ranges for female entrepreneurs. 27.8% of millennial women start a business because they see a market opportunity. Starting a small business coincides with starting a family for 25.8% of Gen Xers while 28.2% of baby boomers open a business out of necessity.
Sometimes starting a small business is a happy accident. These five female entrepreneurs received the chance to become masters of their own destiny — even if it didn’t look like an opportunity at the time — and made the leap forward to build their dream businesses.
Turning Life’s Unlikely Lemons Into Lori’s Original Lemonade
Life dealt Lori Volk several unpleasant lemons in the summer of 2011. At the time, Volk had three children in college and found out she was losing her part-time job with the local school district due to budget cuts.
Volk, who had turned 50, panicked. She worried how she and her husband would afford their children’s education. Simultaneously, Volk was concerned that she wouldn’t be hired and did not want to return to the corporate world again. What could she do next?
Volk’s next move was to try making lemonade out of life’s lemons. Literally. For years, Volk had been making and serving delicious lavender lemonade to friends and family. She always tossed the idea to bottle and sell the drink aside — until now.
“I don’t know why, but I believed in my heart that this was the answer to all of my problems.” Volk says.
The pieces quickly fell into place once Volk decided she would go into business. Lori’s Original Lemonade was first sold locally from Ojai, California. As the company’s Chief Believer, Volk utilized the years of sales and marketing experience she had in the cellular phone business from the early 1980s to sell bottles of lemonade.
Over the past six years, Lori’s Original Lemonade has sold more than one million bottles. Today, Lori’s Original Lemonade may be found for sale at stores like Whole Foods and Pavilions across multiple states.
Volk surrounds herself with a strong support team that includes her husband, children, suppliers, retailers and customers. She believes lavender lemonade chose her at the time in her life when she needed it the most and as a willing steward to bring it into the world. “I always envisioned myself in a white van driving around for my business. I just didn’t envision it would be filled with lemonade!”
A Nonprofit Inspired The Creation Of MinkeeBlue
Before Sherill Mosee became the owner of handbag company MinkeeBlue, she ran a nonprofit organization called Family Care Solutions. The nonprofit worked to help low income women in college pay for childcare so they could stay in school. Over the course of its time in business, Family Care Solutions awarded over $3 million in childcare scholarships to more than 500 women and a few men.
However, Mosee lost her grant funding during the economic crash and was forced to close the nonprofit’s doors. Mosee was 50 and attempting to figure out what to do next. Her next business idea was inspired by the college mothers she worked with at the nonprofit. For years, Mosee had watched these women struggle with their bags. They carried more than a purse. There were diaper bags, laptop bags and lunch bags to haul around every day. Women were facing a bag-overload problem. It was time to “end the three bag schlep” as noted by the MinkeeBlue website.
Mosee dreamed up one simple, stylish bag that would allow her to separate and organize her stuff. This type of organizational bag makes up MinkeeBlue’s product offerings. These travel and work bags have a patented folding panel design in the middle of each bag. Carriers may use it to convert the bag from one to two compartments, eliminating the need to carry multiple bags.
Unlike running a nonprofit, Mosee did not have experience in fashion design, manufacturing, marketing or sales. She did not let this deter her. Mosee tapped into her former engineering background as she figured out how this business could solve a problem and fulfill a need. She conducted research, developed a prototype, sought out help from bag and business savvy mentors and funded the startup’s launch with a Kickstarter campaign.
Since forming the business in 2012, MinkeeBlue has been featured on Todayand is available for purchase on QVC. Mosee believes she got started with the business at the right time because any time is the right time for a women to solve her bag-overload problem with a MinkeeBlue bag.
“Something amazing is always happening that keeps reminding me of my vision and goals.” Mosee says, “I get an email from a customer thanking me for creating the bag or a call from a friend walking through an airport who randomly sees a woman with a MinkeeBlue bag. It gets me every time! All of this has an impact. I know if I stick with it, it’ll grow into a household brand name.”
How Pip & Grow’s Founders Let The Industry Find Them
Bassinet box manufacturer Pip & Grow’s trio of founders Lauren Hughey, Kate Compton Barr and Amber Kroeker collectively describe entrepreneurial life as a happy accident.
Kroeker, a mother of three and child injury prevention program coordinator, specializes in infant safe sleep. She reviewed heartbreaking deaths of babies that had suffocated while sleeping and recognized that parents needed access to a safe sleep space for infants. However, Kroeker could not find one that fit her needs in the U.S. market. The sleep space she envisioned needed to be portable and easy to use — and since one didn’t exist, she decided to do it herself. Pip & Grow was formed in 2016 as a baby box company. The baby box, Smitten, has everything parents need for baby’s safe sleep including a firm mattress, fitted sheet and large cardboard bassinet.
Pip & Grow wasn’t entirely started by Kroeker alone. Kroeker teamed up with friends Hughey and Compton Barr to turn her safe sleep space invention into a baby box business. Kroeker told Compton Barr she had received a grant to develop a prototype baby box for the United States. She wasn’t sure how to take it to market, so Compton Barr volunteered to help. “The next thing we knew, we were waist deep in trademarks, patents and website development.” Compton Barr says, describing how quickly they fell into entrepreneurship.
Hughey also heard about Kroeker’s baby box prototype and jumped at the opportunity to start the company alongside her friend. Hughey had worked for a children’s hospital for the bulk of her career and saw the brilliance of Pip & Grow’s Smitten bassinet box for its simplicity.
In the few years that have passed since Pip & Grow launched, the company is already turning a profit. According to Compton Barr, almost half of Pip & Grow’s sales are for gifts particularly at baby showers.
Pip & Grow’s greatest motivation is simply to do good and make a difference in the lives of families nationwide. The company uses 10% of its profit to donate baby boxes to families in need and has plans to introduce more safe sleep products in Spring 2019.
When reflecting on how Pip & Grow came into her life, Kroeker is grateful for the sudden lightbulb moment. “I didn’t start out with plans to start a business.” Kroeker says, “I started out to try and save lives.”