5 Inspiring Women You Need to Know About
Jun 28, 2016
As Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
And there's no shortage of inspiring women doing precisely that, one step at a time.
In fields from food to finance to fashion, women are disrupting the status quo with innovative and trailblazing ideas - that are also helping our world and women of the future.
Here are five inspiring women to get on your radar...
1. Suzanne Biegel
The founder of Catalyst at Large and Women Effect, Biegel is an entrepreneur and investor with over 25 years of experience who is one of the leading advocates of investing through a gender lens - using capital to create positive change for women and girls. She also founded the Clearly Social Angels network in the UK for impact investment company ClearlySo, as well as senior-level group Women in Social Finance. So, yes, she's kind of a big deal.
Fighting to get more women to the table as investors and fund managers, Biegel is a big believer in using finance as a tool for social change. She thinks gender is a useful factor to consider in investments, from both a leadership perspective, as well as looking at issues which directly affect girls and women and that can be partially addressed with investment.
"I get such joy from thinking about where my money is working in the world, to make the world a better place. Whether it's investing in a woman-led chocolate company employing people on the autism spectrum, or investing in women-led financial service companies helping women to be financially independent and to thrive, or investing in a company with two great guy founders but helping women small holder farmers in Africa, I feel like I’m part of the world that I want to create. It's not the only way, but it's important," Biegel tells MAKERS UK.
Believe it or not, women fund managers still struggle to raise capital today, which Biegel has made it her goal to change.
"Whether you are thinking about the $12 trillion potential increase in GDP from achieving gender equality, globally, or whether you think about the fact that women-led SMEs already add around £70 billion to the UK economy annually, and there are so many more who are out there looking to grow, you must be looking at women and girls for every reason — for social impact and for market opportunity. It's not either/or, it's both. Think about using finance as a tool for social change. We have a lot of other tools. This is one we haven’t used nearly enough," she says.
"Every girl and woman should, must learn about finance. It is one of the keys to achieving our goals. Maintaining our independence. And thinking consciously about our interdependence. Women and men, backing women. That is a driver of social change. Women belong at the table as investors just as much as men. We need to step in AND be invited in."
2. Jenny Costa
For Jenny Costa (née Dawson), founder of Rubies in the Rubble, salvaging food waste isn't just a good idea, it's a delicious one. While working in a hedge fund, Costa was inspired to do her part for reducing food waste after reading Tristram Stuart's "Waste," and started to make delicious handmade chutneys and jams out of otherwise discarded fruits and vegetables (many of which are thrown out for cosmetic reasons or do to oversupply issues).
The company, founded in 2011, won the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award in 2014, and recently secured a £150K investment from Mustard Seed to expand the range, which has collaborated with EAT sandwich shops and Virgin Trains and is available in Waitrose supermarkets and fine delis across the country.
As for Costa's advice on how to build your own business? "Go for it. Full heartedly. Put your all into it with no plan B. Talk to as many people as possible, get feedback, be flexible and test your idea to see if there is demand before going for it on a larger scale," she tells MAKERS UK.
3. Bethany Koby
Designer and entrepreneur Bethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us, is all about putting technology into the hands of the next generation - her DIY kits for 4-12 year-olds encourage youngsters to invent, play, code, build and create. From taking Play-Doh to the next level by making it conducive to creating kits that allow you to build your own synth, games console and speakers, Koby's mission is simple: to let kids' imaginations run wild and equip the next generation with the tools they'll need.
The brand's latest release, the Mover Kit, is a wearable accessory with a myriad of potential uses (lightsabre, wizard's wand, dancing strobe light and so much more). The new design raised its Kickstarter goal of $100,000 in just 48 hours.
"We take on this philosophy and tap into the hobbies and passions we love – to create toys that kids make, code and invent with," says Koby.
4. Hanna Naima McCloskey
A former investment banker, NGO and United Nations worker, founder of Fearless Futures Hanna Naima McCloskey has made it her mission to empower young girls through mentoring and support. By running workshops on gender and leadership in schools and workplaces, McCloskey aims to give women the necessary tools to understand gender and the barriers to women's equality (from the wage gap to media depictions of females), encouraging girls and young women to disrupt gender stereotypes and become the leaders of tomorrow.
"I founded Fearless Futures because we needed a new way of engaging with a very old problem. Inequalities are deeply normalised across society, and a bit like gravity, while we may not know it’s working upon and around us, it’s a powerful force.
"So, Fearless Futures’ equality and leadership programmes, with girls in school and women in the workplace, surface the root causes of inequalities, so that we can act collectively to challenge them and lead transformational change. Because we need to fix the system - and not the girls and women," McCloskey tells MAKERS UK.
5. Kresse Wessling
Upcycling a waste product like London's decommissioned fire hoses might be great for our planet, and thanks to Kresse Wessling, MBE, it's also doing wonders for our wardrobes. One-half of the entrepreneurial design duo Elvis & Kresse, Wessling takes fire hoses from the scrap heap and transforms them into cool accessories, from belts and bags to wallets and cufflinks. Wessling first launched the business to solve London's decommissioned fire hose problem and rescue this stunning, life-saving material, but the brand has now expanded to create handmade, jigsaw-piece style leather rugs using excess leather rejected by British leathercraft manufacturers.
The company also reclaims other materials in its product designs: coffee sacks, military-grade parachute silk, waste tea bags, sail cloth and decommissioned fire hose couplings. Even better? 50% of all profits are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity each year.
"Do as much research and ground-work as you can before you start; know what you plan to do, what your USPs are, and how you will reach your market. Better still, make sure what you are doing makes the world better. We don't have time for you to throw your talent and energy into making it worse or in supporting the status quo!" she advises those looking to try something new," Wessling says of following your passions and starting your own business.
Photo Credit: Kresse Wesling of Elvis & Kresse