From the desk of our co-founder Rachel Cohen
I spent my childhood looking up to a pair of unlikely icons: Smurfette and Barbara Walters. Smurfette was on a poster in my room telling me, in all caps, that “girls can do anything!” The legendary Ms. Walters told me the same, in her own way as I watched her, the first female co-host on 20/20, fresh off holding the same honor at the ABC Evening News.
These messages came from my parents as well – and I’m so lucky for it. My mom and dad, both teachers, encouraged my sister and I to be independent, confident, and comfortable trying new things. And they pushed us to excel when it came to STEM subjects in a way that felt completely normal to us, but turned out to be ahead of the curve.
As an adult, I gained a new role model in my mother-in-law, a talented architect and interior designer who raised her sons – including my partner and business partner, Andres – to respect and revere women while championing equality. I wish I could say that as an entrepreneur I’m never dismissed or underestimated in meetings that skew more “old school boys club.” But I am proud to be in the room with a partner who has my back, who also picks up on these slights, and helps set the stage for me to steer things in the right direction. That kind of support doesn’t come out thin air; it comes from strong female role models and a devotion to raising children with values that push the status quo.
Today Andres and I lead a company in which 50% of the team is female. That’s not something we set out to do – it happened that half of the time, the people who were perfect for each job were women. That sounds simple but I know it’s not the case for everyone – I have plenty of smart, capable female friends who have had to endure awkward interview questions, jump through additional hoops, or have have been looked over unfairly. I’d be remiss to not point out that women of color face an even steeper disadvantage when it comes to hiring and pay equity. (Even though it’s been well documented that diversely-staffed companies perform better financially.)
As we mark International Women’s Day 2018 (and week one of Women’s History Month!), I’m thrilled to take over the magazine for a moment and putting the spotlight on a handful of women-founded, women-run companies I admire. They remind me what a joy and privilege it is to create, to lead, to empower – really, to do anything.
Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah, co-founders of CUYANA
We’ve been watching these two brilliant women for a couple years now, and have been thrilled to collaborate a few times as well. It’s been incredible to watch them grow and shape a company on the idea of “fewer, better things.” That might be the antithesis of how other businesses are built, but for them, it’s central to their DNA and exactly what draws conscious and loyal shoppers to fall in love with the brand. Their point of view on thoughtful design and premium craftsmanship obviously resonates a lot with what we’re building at SNOWE, and I’m forever honored to hear our two brands come up in conversation together.
Erin Loos Cutraro, founder of She Should Run
Getting qualified, smart, and thoughtful people in positions of political power matters now more than ever as our country is so desperately in need of change. And Erin has led the charge in moving women to the frontlines of the conversation with her non-profit, which has encouraged over 40,000 women to run for office since it launched in 2011. Her next goal? Seeing 250,000 women running by 2030 and being there for them every step of the way, from demystifying the process to helping them gather the resources they need. What’s more, Erin helped Mattel launch their President and Vice-President Barbie (and accompanying leadership workbook) to nudge future generations from an early age. I like to think those kids will look back at their Barbies with the same fondness I had for Smurfette.
Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies
I first learned about Brother Vellies when I read about the way Aurora responded to ripoffs of her signature marabou sandals, by shifting the focus to the talented artisans she employs. She volunteered to fly to Africa with the copycat brand so they could source the work properly. “I don’t want a penny,” she told Refinery29. “I just want the people who I worked with on actually making these shoes to still be given the opportunity that they deserve.” It’s incredibly inspiring to see her support and enthusiasm for the artisans, and how she puts a true premium on sustainability in every sense of the word, from materials to fair wages.
Jaime Derringer, founder of Design Milk
Design Milk has become a bible of sorts for the design obsessed, and Jaime’s focused, modern, and clever take on this world makes it a must-read – even more so than some legacy publications that have invested many years, dollars, and rounds of staff to building something similar. It’s a testament to how far a strong voice and drive can take somebody, and how hard she’s worked since launching the site in 2006. I’m constantly impressed at how she runs such a powerhouse business and finds time to stay creative, constantly launching new projects and artwork as well.
Miry Whitehill, founder of Miry’s List
How does a single person tackle something as daunting as the refugee crisis? One at a time. Miry, a stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles, met a family of refugees and instantly felt compelled to crowdsource a bounty of necessities for them; a year and half later, she’s helped hundreds of families through organizing donations, online wish lists, and a pop-up dinner series. It’s impossible to not be moved by her story, and initiative to turn a single interaction into a movement, especially at a time where it’s so easy to bury your heads in the sand. Miry’s harnessed the good in social media and online shopping to make it easy to help and welcome refugee families into our communities.
Sarah Lafleur, founder of MM. Lafleur
Sarah’s dream of creating a line of beautiful yet professional dresses has turned into a godsend for working women who, as the company’s tagline goes, have better things to do. I met her in the early days of launching SNOWE, and she was so generous with her time and help, even as she was growing her business at an incredible pace. It’s been exciting to watch the business evolve, and see the incredibly positive reaction toward a brand creating high-quality, beautifully-designed wardrobe essentials. This is a someone who clearly walks the walk – putting out collections of clothing meant to empower women, and doing the same even beyond business hours.
©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm
Anastasia Cole Plakias, co-founder of Brooklyn Grange
Did you know the largest rooftop farm in the world is in New York City? Not only is Brooklyn Grange responsible for growing over 50,000 pounds of organically-cultivated produce a year, they also keep bees, host events, teach New Yorkers to farm, and help clients install their own green roofs. As someone who cares deeply about broadening access to sustainable, healthy food, I’m so inspired by the charge they’re leading with their work with farmer’s markets and CSA shares. It’s no secret that Brooklyn and Long Island City, where the dual rooftop farms are built, have been transforming rapidly, and it’s exciting to see the companies coming out of the borough working hard to give back to the community while building a vibrant business.
These companies, led by thoughtful, forward-thinking, and hard-working women, are a motivation to lead, listen, and support the aspirations of others. I never tire of hearing women’s stories, especially as they relate to a person’s work transforming an industry or an idea for the better. So here’s to women everywhere – and making every day women’s day. Let’s share our stories, amplify each other’s voices, and keep the momentum going. We’ve got generations in the wings waiting to do big things; let’s set the stage for them.