Note: This article is part of a series. Check out the full series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13.

Launching a new business is not easy, never mind bringing to market an entirely new product or service.

In this series of articles, we gathered 100+ successful female entrepreneurs to share their stories and tips on building a business from scratch.

Tasha Booth

Founder, The Launch Guild

Tasha Booth

Q: What inspired you to found The Launch Guild and what were the main challenges you faced?

In 2016, I was working a side hustle as a virtual assistant supporting coaches and course creators. I loved their never-ending drive and passion for helping people. But there was one problem…they always needed something new and I could not be a jack of all trades. So I started The Launch Guild and grew a team to provide launch and systems support for established coaches and course creators who are making their mark on the world. We’re experts in helping them get their genius and passion out into the world while making sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

The main challenges I faced when starting were my money mindset issues. I had to release the fear of clients leaving if I wasn’t the primary point of contact for them. I learned to plan ahead and be proactive in my hiring, not reactive. We hire and onboard great team members before we need them, so they are up to speed and ready to take action long before a new client project begins.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a huge increase in the need for our services. Not surprisingly, with everyone stuck inside more, it’s an ideal time to create and launch a course or podcast. Because of this I was able to achieve my very first 6-figure month in revenue this August.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Yes, I started as a solopreneur (with the loving support of my husband, Scott, serving in the Air Force).

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We provide launch and systems support services for coaches and course creators and have grown our revenue by adding different programs that meet our clients’ needs, including:

Course, Group Program, & Membership Launches: custom-created project packages to help you launch your offering (tech + planning is our jam!).

Launch Day & Design Day Support: a full day of support to set up everything you need (tech, emails, content) to press “go” on your course.

Podcast Launches and Monthly Management: Our team can support your launch and also provide you with monthly management if needed.

Michelle Knight

Founder - Brandmerry

Michelle Knight

Q: What inspired you to found Brandmerry and what were the main challenges you faced?

When my son was born in 2015, I quickly realized that I no longer wanted to juggle working a 9 to 5 and raising my son. I didn't want to feel drained when I got home from work, without enough energy to enjoy my family. I started my business as a side hustle, while I dreamed of scaling it to impact the lives of many other women, allowing me to leave my 9 to 5 and maybe, just maybe, retiring my husband.

The main challenge I faced was my mindset, which as an entrepreneur, will make or break your business. I dealt with my old beliefs of “comparisonitis,” feeling like everyone was already doing what I wanted to do and that there was no space for me. I dealt with mom guilt, working from home while raising my son. I also dealt with the thoughts that as a mom, I didn’t have enough time to run my own business.

Once I focused on why I was doing what I was doing, who I was showing up for, and how my business would impact others, I started seeing results. I committed fully to my business, which in the beginning was only 3 hours per week. I streamlined everything so I would always know what to focus on, and when, during my working hours. I allowed motherhood to become a part of my brand story, even having my son join in on live streams from time to time.

Within nine months of starting my business, I left my 9 to 5 for good, and have built a thriving online business with the time, location, and financial freedom that allows me to support thousands of women while traveling the world with my family in our RV.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Yes, I started as a solopreneur (with the loving support of my husband, Ben).

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I am a personal brand coach serving female entrepreneurs. I have grown my revenue by adding different online coaching programs that meet my clients’ needs at various stages of business, including:

You! Branded - a course to help you fully step into your authentic voice and create a bold, captivating and money-making personal brand.

Roadmap to Freedom - a 90-day coaching program to help you create a simplified business and marketing plan to continue to scale your business.

Brandmerry Academy - a year-long membership with monthly marketing mini-courses, group coaching, and a community to help you up-level your marketing and sales.

Brand Strategy Intensives - 1:1 customized support to help you take your brand and business to the next level.

Doriane Mouret

Co-founder & CEO - Gravitr

Q: What inspired you to found Gravitr and what were the main challenges you faced?

I've always been someone who looks at a situation and immediately think about how it can be improved. After years in the industry, I had experienced all the ways in which marketing services could be improved. I wanted to make everything more efficient of course, but also make people who worked in it happier. I've always had a grand vision for what marketing services could really be, and that vision has been my drive over the years.

The biggest challenge we faced was that we hired the wrong cofounder. So far, most successful cofounder situation I see are people who are a couple in real life, or have been friends since childhood. I rarely see new friends or acquaintances become good cofounders. A cofounder situation is like a marriage and should be evaluated as such. There are dozens of decisions one needs to make every day when building a startup, and when you're not connected on a deep level, you will eventually encounter a decision where the cofoudners simply can't agree and compromise on.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I understand this should be a yes or no question, but it's a bit complicated. Both companies I started, I was the one with the idea and vision and I started the first few months alone. But in both cases, I added cofounders fairly quickly. My first and forever cofounder is my partner in life. He joined me 3 months into my first company and was there from the very beginning for the second one. For Gravitr,  we also added a third cofounder, but it didn't work out and we let him go after 3 months. It cost us a lot of time and money.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We have both a commission-based and subscription model. The truth is, if you're a software company without a subscription model, you will have a hard time raising money. Investors don't like marketplaces with revenues based on commission and small margins.

We grow our revenue using the network effect - users on the platform invite other users to join. It can be a customer referring another customer, an agency inviting their customer to the platform, or a freelancer suggesting it to a customer. For now it's very organic and slow because we are a closed, invite-only platform. But as we grow it will become much more exponential.

Spandana Nakka

CEO and Co-Founder - Sleek

Spandana Nakka

Q: What inspired you to found Sleek and what were the main challenges you faced?

I believe the best ideas for companies come from asking what limits of our daily lives that made sense in the past are no longer sensical given the emergence of new technology and ideas (of course, pandemics too). Sleek's inspiration came from spending hundreds of hours myself in all sorts of lines and realizing that there are billions of hours worldwide lost because of something that is basically unchanged for truly thousands of years [long before Ancient Rome]. We wanted to solve this problem in a way that would create value for all types of people - from the individuals in line to the merchants themselves. We thought about how new technology like the ubiquity of mobile devices advances in deep learning and algorithms broadly and letting users pay a price to not wait while sharing the proceeds with the merchants.

The biggest challenge in our case was perhaps pivoting our go to market because of COVID and aligning our product to the new normal. While our pre-covid target market was live events, Sleek has now shifted its focus to lines at essential businesses. From food trucks, COVID-19 testing centers to grocery stores, massive lines are ubiquitous and have grown 6 times longer (with social distancing).

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Gaurav Aggarwal, a colleague from my days at Google and I joined forces to co-found Sleek!  

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Sleek takes a percentage of the dynamic fees generated from the user's in the line while the rest is paid to the business itself. With COVID-19, businesses are universally struggling to stay afloat from the shut down and the additional revenue [~20% on the higher side is a difference between survival and failure for these restaurants]. We are on the track to making a couple of million dollars in our year 1.

Yvette Garfield

Founder - Handstand Kitchen

Q: What inspired you to found Handstand Kitchen and what were the main challenges you faced?  

After graduating from law school and working in children's rights, I wanted to combine my passions for working with kids and cooking. We launched Handstand Kitchen in 2007 with the goal of getting kids cooking from an early age, to empower them with lifelong healthy eating habits. The main challenges were building something from scratch and figuring out each step as I went. Also, the kids cooking space was not as popular in 2007, so there was a bit of a learning curve with buyers. Our business overlapped several categories, from Toys to Housewares and General Gift, so we had to find our home.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I started the venture on my own…had a lot of support from my mom, but this was my own company.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We sell to stores in the U.S. and internationally. We are primarily wholesale, but sell direct to the retail customer on our website. We create colorful themed cooking and baking sets for real kitchen use, designed for both kids and adults. We are always looking for emerging trends to bring into our line, to keep it fresh and exciting. Currently, we are expanding our offerings to capitalize on increased demand for cooking/crafting items as more people are staying safer at home. Next month, we are excited to be expanding into a new category, Arts & Crafts, and are looking forward to growing it as we have done with our cookware line.

Ksenia Yudina

CEO and founder of UNest

Ksenia Yudina

Q: What inspired you to found UNest and what were the main challenges you faced?

What inspired me to start UNest was seeing multiple families struggling to meet the cost of college and an entire generation drawing in student debt.

I came to the US from Russia when I was 18 and put myself through college. I always believed in the value of education and was passionate about Finance and Investment Management.  

To achieve my dream job in Finance, I received my MBA from UCLA Anderson and my CFA designation -- this is the crown jewel of financial designations where only 17% of CFAs are women. After my MBA, I joined Capital Group/ American Funds, the largest provider of 529 plans in the nation. That’s where I started to focus on the problem of how student debt is negatively impacting countless families, and the country as a whole. 

I graduated from UCLA Anderson with over $180,000 in student debt, and many of my friends were affected by similar issues. This led directly to my belief that saving for college should be the #1 priority for parents. I realized that countless families did not have access to a convenient way to avoid the kind of loans and debt I had experienced. 

Additionally, when my friends asked me to help them financially plan for their child's future education, I would send them a long 15 page application form. They were seriously put off by the paperwork and having to FedEx forms around, etc. As with most millennials, my friends were using apps like Venmo and Robinhood. Filling out long paper forms was alien to them. I realized that this was an opportunity to solve a huge problem for an entire generation of parents and their kids using technology. It was frustrating that large financial institutions couldn’t move quickly enough to solve the problem, so I decided to do it myself. 

This inspired me to leave a dream financial job and invest my own money in building an app that would make it exponentially easier for parents to set up financial plans that help build a better future for their kids.

In March 2018, I launched UNest with a mission to help parents save for their child's future. We believe that families from all economic backgrounds deserve this opportunity.

I faced a lot of challenges along the way. Trying to raise capital as a sole female founder in a male-dominated industry like Fintech is no picnic. At the seed round stage female founders are already perceived as high risk, and it was particularly hard for me without a technical co-founder or a CTO. I received multiple rejections from VCs claiming that the company was ‘too early’, that the market is too small, or that they didn’t understand the business model. 

I finally gave myself three months to either find the money or quit because I couldn’t keep adding to the burden on my family. Worst of all, I felt I was sacrificing time with my children and husband, as well as digging deep into our family savings. However, as my three-month window neared the end, I felt that the right momentum was building. I received a few ‘Yesses’ from investors, I found several people who strongly believed in the idea and became my advisors, and I received introductions to the amazing people who agreed to join the company should we raise our Seed round. 

What gave me courage to not give up was the support from my family and my advisors as well as the understanding that if I give up now, I will never see what’s on the other side of fundraising. It was important for me to see what I can actually accomplish if I have the capital, team and product to enable me to execute on my vision.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Yes, I was the sole Founder of UNest after leaving my executive role at Capital Group / American Funds. However, shortly after starting the company, I brought on experienced senior team members to help in key areas including technology and marketing. 

After the company launched in March 2018, I began the journey of raising funds to grow the business. Since 2018, we have added Frank Mastrangelo, former CEO of Bancorp and COO of Greendot Bank as a Board Member along with Mike Sekits, Acorn's first investor as a Board Member and Advisor. 

In addition, we have also added Marla Blow, SVP, Social Impact North America, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth as an Advisor; Bryan Wolff, Investor, Anthos VC as a Board Observer, and former NBA All-Star and Brand Ambassador, Baron Davis. 

When I set out to build UNest, I had a vision to allow all families, regardless of income level and background to responsibly save for their children's future education. I’m so proud of the team at UNest and the commitment we made that is enabling families to effectively save for their children’s education.

Q:What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We charge $3/month advisory fee per account to make it affordable for parents. This is considerably lower fee compared to traditional financial advisors. We also generate revenue from the UNest Rewards program through partnerships with partner brands like Disney+, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Haven Life, Liberty Mutual, and other national brands. 

Our revenue is increasing 30% month-over-month, and the pandemic has also fueled rapid growth as families have begun to save more and are turning to long-term savings goals for their children. 

In September 2020, we completed the acquisition of a complimentary fintech platform called Littlefund and doubled our user number and assets under management as a result of this acquisition. This allows us to add a very valuable gifting feature into our product. The integration of Littlefund’s technology and platform into UNest’s makes it easy for family members, grandparents, uncles/aunts etc. and friends to contribute to a child’s UNest savings plan.

Karen Wicker

Founder - Candor

Karen Wicker

Q: What inspired you to found Candor and what were the main challenges you faced?

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, though I’m what you might refer to as an “accidental entrepreneur.” I started my own business when I was 15 and had another one in college, both of which were out of necessity to help pay for my schooling.

I was in my mid-40s and region president of another public relations firm when two things happened which made me decide to venture out on my own.

First, I felt I’d outgrown where I was employed. I’d been reading this book called “Know Your Value,” and when the company I was working for — the one where I helped grow a huge book of business – offered partnership to a relatively new male employee, it just opened my eyes. To be true to myself, I didn’t feel I could stay in that environment. I am so appreciative of my experience there, and I was given a great deal of opportunities, but this proved it was time to move on.

Second, I was (and still am) married to a business coach who kept saying I should consider going out on my own. He gave me the extra push I needed, and I’m forever grateful for it.

The challenges I faced in the beginning are the same challenges we face today: scoping services and staffing. Being able to staff accordingly is always hard. The first nine months, it was all me on every project. Then, you have to finally bite the bullet and hire your first employee, which is the scariest hire you’ll ever make, but it gets easier with each new hire.

Perception was also a challenge. I can’t tell you how many people commented that I likely went out on my own to slow down — of course, this wasn’t the case. From Day 1 I talked about Candor as if it were an agency and not a one-woman shop. Anyone who has ever started a business knows you’re putting in 90 hours a week. It’s not like you have tons of free time.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Yes. I have never taken out a loan for Candor, and when I look back it’s truly amazing this was the case. I did get a nice break on my first office lease, and I think the owner gave me a good deal because he knew I was on my own. I hired my first employee at about the nine-month mark, and we soon added two more. Today, Candor employs 17 professionals with a wide variety of skillsets.

Q: What is your business model and how have you grown your revenue?

We’re an integrated agency which offers professional services, and the quality of our product is top-of-class. The people we hire and the culture we have centers around a certain level of performance.

In the beginning, most of our revenue growth came from word-of-mouth. There were also very intentional moves to grow revenue, like adding video production services and increasing our digital and marketing capabilities.

Neisha Hernandez

Founder - Neisha's Dance & Music Academy

Neisha Hernandez

Q: What inspired you to found Neisha's Dance & Music Academy and what were the main challenges you faced?

From a very young age, dance and music spoke to my heart and filled me with complete joy.  Singing and dancing were my WHY for existing.  It began as fun enrichment activities but with attention, repetition, dedication, and persistence the arts developed into my passion.  In fact, dance and music are like breath for me - they give me wings to fly - not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. After college, opening a school to share the arts and serve the community I grew up in was an obvious next step for me. That was 25 years ago and it’s been an honor to live my passion and share it with the children.

I’d say, starting out, the freedom that comes from owning your own company and making a difference is intoxicating.  It is important to consider however, that this freedom is not instant and it comes with 100% responsibility.  That means, in the beginning you hold all the company jobs - from janitor, to accountant, to providing whatever widget or service you are selling. Later, there are growing pains that come with staffing, facilities, creating business systems, and more. For example, one challenge I faced was when a trusted employee embezzled money from me. I took the opportunity to look into her eyes and ask, "Why did you do this to me?", to which she had no answer.  The feeling was complete violation, but my lesson was learned. I immediately improved security and business systems to protect my company.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I did, but the success of my dance and music academy would not be what it is today without the support of family, teachers, students, and neighbors who have believed in me, and who constantly remind me the reason why I decided to venture into the world of entrepreneurship in the first place.

Today, and especially this year, I’ve had help from the community and many families that belong to the dance and music academy. We setup outdoor dance studios when indoor activities in California were forced to close, and our neighbors were so supportive of us expanding beyond the studio. We had also families help with building the tents and flooring for these outdoor studios. So during such a challenging time, the support has been overwhelming!

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Our Business Model is based on the Rotary model of Service Above Self.  In all things we do, starting with the leadership team, servant leadership is at our core.  We provide the very best in performing arts training but we do not stop there because we are so much more than just great dance and music.  We are teaching kids about resilience and leadership, about positive self-talk, community involvement, and more. By serving our customer base and meeting more than their minimum needs, we are able to grow the company and our revenue.

Midgi Moore

Co-CEO - Global Tours Connect

Q: What inspired you to found Global Tours Connect and what were the main challenges you faced?

Lauren and I are both food tour operators. We had worked together on a project that unfortunately didn't come to fruition. We were approached by a reservations technology company about working together on a page for food tours. Being the entrepreneurs we are, we decided it needed to be more. We really wanted to help our industry and to create a solution that would encourage ticket sales for tours, as well as support the food tourism community.

The main challenges have been the impact on tourism and travel due to COVID. While ticket sales aren't where we want them to be, we are developing opportunities for our partners to create new products and we're providing training and education.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Lauren McCabe Herpich and I are both Co-CEOs of Global Tours Connect and have equal shares in the company.  

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Our business model is similar to other online ticketing agents (OTAs). We collect a commission when tickets are sold. However, we are very different in what we do with the commission. One third of our earned commissions are shared back to our partners in a twice-yearly bonus pool. We encourage our partners to help market one another, as when one ticket sells, we all earn. It's a win, win.

We have also launched educational webinars and consulting services. Our revenues for these have been slow by steadily growing. The business is less than six months old, but we are seeing continued growth with onboarding of new tour operators and requests for assistance.

Sarabeth Perry

Founder - Bace

Sarabeth Perry

Q: What inspired you to found Bace and what were the main challenges you faced?

Back in 2018, I was working at Mount Sinai hospital in the palliative care research department. I've always been passionate about working on problems that help to solve the massive crisis in chronic health in the US, and was excited to be a part of one of the leading palliative care departments.

My interest in the space came from two different places. On one hand, I was experiencing debilitating anxiety and panic attacks for the first time in my life, and needed to find a solution. Having had health issues all my life, including cancer as a young child, fainting spells, benign bone tumors as an adolescent, and most recently hypothyroidism, I was determined to find a solution that wouldn't require medication. Cannabinoids were intriguing to me because of the promise shown in initial research as well as the anecdotal evidence, and eventually I found a solution that worked for me.

At the same time, more patients began coming to me and the research team with questions surrounding hemp/cbd and cannabis more broadly. They wanted to know if they could use hemp/cbd, whether the medical team could prescribe medical marijuana, and more than anything, how to use it responsibly.

As hemp/CBD became more commonplace on the East Coast, most companies have moved towards recreational use and beauty because it's easier to get into stores like Sephora, and you can make medical claims based off of the additional ingredients added into the products.

It became painfully clear that there needed to be solutions for the people earnestly coming to the market for health. Bace was created in order to design products and experiences that cater towards the needs of those coming to hemp/CBD for health, and to close the care gap between healthcare and cannabis. Our mission at the end of the day, is to advance applications of hemp/CBD for public health good, empowering people to have more agency over their health, and increase positive health outcomes responsibly.

One of the first challenges we faced was that launch coincided directly with the onslaught of COVID. Like many others, we had to make quick decisions and change our strategy around launch and go-to-market.  

Personally, I've been challenged to learn many different skills in a short time frame. We took a very lean approach to our company, so it's been an incredible journey to figure out the ins and outs of everything from social media, to email marketing, to packaging.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I am so grateful to have started this venture with my partner, Justin as well as friends who are now collaborators.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We are primarily DtoC and are beginning to push into retail. We've grown our revenue by focusing on particular demographics and retention optimizations.

Note: This article is part of a series. Check out the full series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13. Stay tuned for more articles!