7 Female Founders Share Real Talk

With only 15% of founders being female, there is definitely a serious need to empower more women to start their own business. I mean, quite many founder stories are publishing around the globe. Why did they start? How did they get funding? Why this particular business idea? And so on.


But how about some honest conversation with founders, especially the female ones, in order to understand the real motivators, personal challenges as well as biggest supporters. Meet 7 female founders sharing real talk:


1) Luisa Weyrich, Nele Groeger & Johanna Dreyer, Founders of SHITSHOW

@theshitshowberlin



Who are you and what’s your business about?

We are SHITSHOW, a mental health consultancy. We advise companies and organizations on how to better maintain and improve the mental health of their employees and contributors. Since mental health is complex and dependant on various factors, our consulting approach keeps both in mind: the individual and the culture in which it operates.


What motivated you to start your own business?

There is a personal story behind every business story - and ours is no exception. Having experiences with depression and anxiety ourselves, we missed sensitivity and knowledge on the part of former employers. We thought: this has to get better. Organizations need to be trained in how to better deal with mentally stressed people and how to maintain mental health – in order to maintain their creativity and performance in the long run. So we founded SHITSHOW.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

As an all-women team, we have to fight sexism still deeply entrenched in the German funding landscape. In addition, we occupy a rather "soft" topic and are not technically oriented. Our business model is simply overlooked by investors and sponsors – which, of course, is a pity. Especially for investors. :)


Who supported you the most along the way?

One of our former professors at UdK Berlin, Michael Häfner, has become a real mentor and confidant. We were also awarded the Bumble Bizz Grant by Bumble - a great example of how support can work: with a sense for social challenges.


What would you do differently today?

Nothing, to be honest. We firmly believe in the healing power of mistakes and in "strategy as wayfinding": The goal may also change along the way, turnarounds are totally fine.

Which advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Trust the process. This may sound completely stupid when you go through the third existential crisis in a week, but in the end, it is true. And: once you have found THE idea, the rest is above all to persevere.


Which advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Trust the process. This may sound completely stupid when you go through the third existential crisis in a week, but in the end, it is true. And: once you have found THE idea, the rest is above all to persevere.



2) Helena, Co-Founder of BRUNA the Label

@brunathelabel_



Who are you and what’s your business about?

Hi there :) My name is Helena and I am the founder of BRUNA the Label. Bruna The Label is a jewellery startup that stands for highest-quality, fashionable jewellery that is ethically and eco-

friendly produced.


What motivated you to start your own business?

I have always loved to dress up, to wear my mom’s clothing and jewellery and to kind of reinvent myself and create things. Since my teenage years, I spied for products, vintage or new, with a certain something to it (I hardly ever bought H&M stuff, I rather plundered my grannies wardrobe or hunted down stuff at flea markets or on foreign markets during vacations).

Everything actually started with that big disappointment I felt when trying to buy jewellery for myself which I was never satisfied with. I hardly ever found long-lasting, affordable products with the certain something. The things I liked were rather extremely expensive and kind of boring or had a nice design but the cheapest quality. So in the end, the unsuccessful search over years for fashionable, affordable yet sustainable (jewellery ) brands, made me create my own.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

There are many: My biggest goal has always been to create a product that my customers love and are proud of wearing because of the ethos behind the brand. For me, that always meant I could and would never do something at all costs, and just for the highest possible profits. I want to stay true to myself and be part of a real change in the industry. So I have to balance and consider many things at the same time to even make that possible. I kind of pressure myself to be the first company to get a 100% biodegradable packaging or to minimize our footprint in every sector of our business. Being a transparent, innovative brand in a very old, man-dominated industry includes quiet some obstacles.


Who supported you the most along the way?

100% my boyfriend who is also my business partner. He is my biggest supporter and nothing would be possible without him. He stays calm in even the craziest situations (Pretty sure he is the incarnation of Buddha) which is very helpful when running a startup which can be a rollercoaster at some point. Secondly, I would say definitely my family, mom, dad, my amazing sister who is a graphic designer and did all our designs and my two brothers (who love to challenge me since we were kids).


What would you do differently today?

Well, so far I wouldn’t really change anything because I think that making mistakes just helps you grow so much. Maybe know that I know, I would start earlier with writing down to-dos instead of believing that I can keep all the things in my head (which I obviously can’t).


What advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

I would say if you have a dream and you really really cannot stop thinking about it for a long time then you should probably try it. Always be aware that this journey can or maybe cannot work out and that you will go through many ups and downs (My daddy always preached me to have a Plan B in mind, so have a Plan B in mind kids ☺ ) Generally I believe that it is a combination of hard work, a strong will, the right timing and a grain of luck, but overall your desire and wish to change something. Oh and don’t get blown away by the first strong wind, entrepreneurship is a marathon and not a sprint so preserve your physical and mental energy well.


3) Britta - Founder of ruhi and Beautyshelf.de

@beautyshelf_de

@ruhi_rituals

Credit: Katja Vogt

Who are you and what’s your business about?

Hi, my name is Britta. I’m a skincare nerd, mother of a 14 months old and live with my partner and my little one in Berlin Mitte. Last year I founded ruhi, a brand for natural selfcare tools and skincare products.


What motivated you to start your own business?

Some of you may know me from my skincare blog beautyshelf.de. During my pregnancy (classic!), my interest shifted gradually from high-performance skincare to a more holistic approach to beauty, including self-care rituals like dry brushing, cupping massage or facial massage techniques. These ancient and natural techniques are very gentle, but can be highly effective as well! As I was always struggling to find the perfect tools & products, the idea of ruhi was born.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

Not to go crazy with new product ideas & launches and also keep an eye (or better two!) on costs and profitability. Another big challenge is to keep focus and organize myself better as I have a young child of 14 months.


Who supported you the most along the way?

My partner Sebastian and a network of smart female friends.


What would you do differently today?

Start earlier!


Which advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Not every business needs a big investor. Try to start lean & small and do as much as you can yourself. Don’t overthink it, just do it!



4) Nina Skarabela-Brennenstuhl, Founder of OZN Nails

@ozn_vegan



Who are you and what is your business?

My name is Nina Skarabela-Brennenstuhl and I am the founder of the vegan nail polish brand OZN. I have been working independently all my life and have never actually been employed. After studying graphic design, I immediately became self-employed and at the same time completed my training as a psychotherapist. Despite OZN, I still work with great passion as a therapist with a focus on family therapy. I love these two sides, the beautiful beauty world with Instagram and high aesthetic standards, where I can let my creativity run wild and the completely different world of therapeutic work with people and their concerns.


Who are you and what is your business?

My name is Nina Skarabela-Brennenstuhl and I am the founder of the vegan nail polish brand OZN. I have been working independently all my life and have never actually been employed. After studying graphic design, I immediately became self-employed and at the same time completed my training as a psychotherapist. Despite OZN, I still work with great passion as a therapist with a focus on family therapy. I love these two sides, the beautiful beauty world with Instagram and high aesthetic standards, where I can let my creativity run wild and the completely different world of therapeutic work with people and their concerns.


What motivated you to start your own business?

Before OZN I had my own small beauty label for a few years. In the middle of 2015, a former business partner called me and somehow we got into a conversation, he is a producer of nail polishes. Anyway, during the conversation, we came up with the idea of doing something together. I thought it was great to be right at the source of production and be able to implement new ideas quickly! However, it was clear to me that it has to be more than just a normal nail polish - after all, there are en mas on the market.

From the very beginning, I had a vision of how my brand should look and feel. Without harmful ingredients, but not eco, clean and modern, something I would buy myself immediately. A varnish that works in fashion stores as well as in organic beauty shops. I was inspired by 1000 little things, shops I like, products I love, products I have been saving the packaging of for years because it is too beautiful to throw away, art, magazines. I have tried to give the brand an individual touch, a feeling. The nice thing about having your own product is that I am my customer and first and foremost I have to love it and I have to like it. Nobody tells me what to do and I was able to design everything exactly according to my ideas, a dream for every creative person! I think you can feel that when you look at the packaging, we get so much positive feedback, which makes me very happy and proud.


Let's talk seriously, what are your biggest challenges?

When you start a new brand out of the blue without investors and in addition to the day-to-day business, which has to continue for the time being, that is always a challenge. My business partner David and I have defined clear areas of responsibility from the very beginning, who is responsible for what and who has the power to make decisions in the end. Nevertheless, of course we coordinate with each other. Nevertheless, there have always been and still are the typical discussions between production and creation, because we look at the matter from completely different perspectives. On the one hand, it's about feasibility, costs, etc. and on the other hand, it's about image cultivation or PR. But so far we have always found a middle way that has made both of them happy.

No real difficulty but not always easy is also the fact that we don't have a common office, I commute between Munich and Berlin, he is based near Bielefeld. We always have to discuss everything via Skype or email.

Also a challenge: I am responsible in many areas. If I say that we are adding yellow to our range and yellow doesn't work, I am to blame. Besides, I don't have a boss and if I do nothing, nothing happens. It's not always easy, you have to be disciplined and look at what's important and what's not.


Who supported you most on the way there?

My parents. There was never any pressure from home to have a straightforward career or to do anything because that's what you do. They just let my sister and me out into the world and we marched off without expectations or accountability to anyone. That was incredibly beneficial for me!


What would you do differently today?

I have actually thought about this question for a very long time. I think I would do everything exactly the same. Even if there were one or the other wrong decision in all the years, it always made sense in retrospect and was important for the development. Even with things that didn't work out and totally frustrated us at that moment, it turned out in retrospect that we were spared a lot of trouble.


What do you like most about your job?

What I love most is that I can do everything exactly the way I want to. Since we are a rather small brand with David and me as the head, I gain insight in many areas. I do press, social media, sales, negotiations and I have to guess what the next trend is. That's how I learn so much. I also meet a lot of nice people from the beauty industry, whether they are bloggers or founders of other brands. How we help and support each other is really great.


What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming self-employed?

Baby Steps. just start, take the first step and be it ever so small. Concretely dream, do research, write a business plan, think about who I can ask, who can help me. Often the way is the goal. Things develop by themselves when there is energy on it. As stupid as it sounds, if you don't even start somewhere, unfortunately, nothing happens.

Don't let yourself be confused so quickly and believe in your vision, don't let yourself be talked into it too much, because quite often there is no clear right or wrong. Then you feeling will show you the right way.



5) Yara Jentzsch-Dib, Founder of XOUXOU

@xouxou



Who are you and what’s your business about?

My name is Yara Jentzsch-Dib (@YaraDib), I ́m the founder of XOUXOU (@XOUXOU) and we develop tech accessories to optimize our everyday handling with smartphones.


What motivated you to start your own business?

Back then I was a first-time mom and struggling with organizing everyday stuff like looking after my phone. l was searching for a solution to keep my hands free in order to be more with the baby and that’s where XOUXOU started.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

Becoming and fulfilling all the roles that I ́m facing since that time: Being a mom, partner, boss, businesswoman, me-time, it's a lot of responsibility.


Who supported you the most along the way?

My boyfriend.


What would you do differently today?

I would set up things more professionally right from the beginning.


What advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Make no excuses - start without thinking too much. Work generates work and by that, you can grow.



6) Ingrid van Onna, Co-Founder of Flowing-Cosmetics, Amazingy, Hiro & FYI

@iamazingy



Who are you and what’s your business about?

Hi! I’m Ingrid van Onna, mother of 2 boys, and married to my beloved husband Floris. I’m from the Netherlands but we have lived in Berlin since 2009. Together we are the founders of Flowing-cosmetics.com, Amazingy.com, Hiro.me & FYI-cosmetics.com.


What motivated you to start your own business?

I always wanted to have my own business. I studied small business & retail management, which is a bachelor to get you ready to start your own business. Both my grandfathers, great

grandfather & my own father had their own company, so it’s probably in my DNA :)


As long as I remember I have been thinking with an entrepreneurial hat on, always taking the

lead. While I was studying I worked at several companies, mostly small creative ones, which

was nice and good for learning and I even ended up at corporate one; a big Dutch bank. There Iearned a good salary, it was only 5 minutes from my apartment, and at 17h we were expected to leave; a dream job for many I guess, but after 7 months I simply couldn’t stand it anymore… I was super annoyed by all the procedures that in my eyes were a waste of money and not logical, the neverending meetings the incredibly expensive companies we outsourced stuff to we could easily do ourselves, and then I thought: F*** it, I’m going to say goodbye and invest my time in my own thing. That’s when me and Floris founded our first company: Flowing Productions in Amsterdam - we organized events, parties, and also DJ’d ourselves. It was the best decision ever, never going back to being an employee.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

Personel, it’s always a challenge to find the right people and to keep everybody happy. We’re working with a lot of fastly growing brands that keep being sold out or having other issues, which makes us so dependent and I don’t like being dependent. Running a family and a business can be challenging but my youngest is 3 years old now and it's getting easier now (meaning, I finally sleep through the night again).


Who supported you the most along the way?

Floris of course, since we run our businesses together. We say everything to each other. We love to talk about all our crazy ideas in a motivating way, we both try to have a growth mindset and for us there is nothing too small or too big or too crazy.

And next to Floris I am my own biggest supporter :) I never had a mentor or anything. I think when you’re an entrepreneur you have to be sure about what you are doing and you should always be your own biggest supporter. I had so many people telling me I was wrong to quit such a good job at the bank and risk everything. That’s when I decided to only discuss business-related stuff with people who are supportive (mostly other entrepreneurs) and don’t ask for other people's opinions too much, because it can make you very insecure. Luckily I’m very strong headed and I’m always pretty sure about what I want to do even if sometimes it turns out it wasn’t the best decision, but that’s how you learn. I’m the one to blame.


What would you do differently today?

Not much to be honest. I don’t like to think a lot like this either, because I can’t do things differently since we live now. Of course, I made mistakes but those mistakes also taught me how to do things differently and brought me where I am now. One of the things I learned is to take more time before making difficult decisions. I tend to be very quick-acting & direct, from my emotions - this is not always for the good. So what I do now is I sleep on it so and the next day I see things much clearer and can make a more rational decision. People can wait a bit, we don’t always need to act straight away.


Which advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Firstly read this very motivating book: The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, which is great for anyone looking to learn more about how to use the mind to achieve higher levels of success. I also love Tim Ferris’ books and blog, very motivating.

Then go for it. Don’t be afraid. Feel the fear and do it anyway (also a great book :). I think fear sets a lot of people back. Just ask yourself the question: what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Write a small business plan so you get a good overview of the market, competitors and most importantly profile your future-client/customer. For example; meet Lisa, age 36, living in Hamburg. She works in advertisement, loves yoga, is a vegan & enjoys cooking. Her favorite influencers are: The Devi, favorite magazines are Vogue & RED and so on. Gather as much information as possible in order to get to know your future client as best as possible.


7) Paloma, Founder of Wonderbar

@wonderbar.soap



Who are you and what’s your business about?

Hi, I’m Paloma and I am the founder of Wonderbar. Wonderbar is a beauty brand that specializes in soap bars. Our soap is 100% all-natural, vegan and handmade in small batches that need to ripen for one month. We strongly believe it is important to say no to animal testing, palm oil and harmful chemicals. That is why we only use skin-loving ingredients for our soap. Our Wonderbars are all-rounders and can be used as a hand, face and body wash.


What motivated you to start your own business?

Starting my own business was a decision of 3 seconds. I had used liquid soap all my life until one morning I stood in the bathroom washing my hands and began to read the ingredients label on the soap bottle. I only understood half of the ingredients and everything sounded quite toxic. So I researched and came to the conclusion that it was full of nasties! I looked for alternatives but couldn’t find what I was looking for. So that’s when I decided that I would just have to create it myself. It was important to me that my soap was all-natural, vegan and only made with skin-loving ingredients. I wanted it not only to be good for your skin and good for the environment but also super fun! Something that would speak to my generation and make soap more exciting! Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. In the end, it’s all about taking small steps, such as replacing your plastic bottle for a soap bar, that can make a big difference.


Let’s talk real, what are your biggest challenges?

One of my biggest challenges is to try to switch off once in a while. I am not a fan of the term „work-life-balance“ because I don’t separate those two words. My work is my life and therefore I find it hard NOT to constantly work on something for Wonderbar. But I do believe it is important and healthy to take breaks, even when you are completely in love with your job. I’m definitely still figuring out what takes my mind off it - so far it’s reading a good book or going on a trip without my laptop! :)


Who supported you the most along the way?

My Mom! She was the first person I talked to about my idea. I literally whatsapped her in the middle of the night saying: „Mom! I’m going into the soap business!“ And I got enthusiastic clapping hand emojis back from her! My mom is the most supportive person I know and is always open to new ideas, no matter how crazy they might sound at first. What’s most important is, that she takes my ideas seriously, strongly believes in me and gives me the feeling that I can do anything I set my mind to.


What would you do differently today?

Absolutely nothing :)


Which advice would you give someone who thinks about starting their own business?

Always listen to your gut feeling and get started! Being passionate about your idea or product is the key. Don’t be afraid to fail - I think positive thinking and actually having fun at problem-solving is an important trait for every entrepreneur. Never put much weight on the question „What if my idea doesn’t work out“? In my case, the answer to that question would have been: „ I’ll end up with a lifetime supply of soap for family and friends!“ And that actually doesn’t sound that bad, does it? :)

Text by Bernak Kharabi

Preview Image: SHITSHOW


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