2014 was a record year for women entrepreneurs. Over 9.1 million female-operated U.S. businesses were in motion last year, which represents a 68 percent increase since 1997, according to a Fox Business report. The takeaway message here is that women are increasingly making up a bigger piece of the pie.
Say hello to three female entrepreneurs who are using innovative ideas to turn heads in the business world.
The foodie: Lauren Abda
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It was through a series of internships, fellowships, and work experience that Lauren Abda came to be a rising voice in Boston’s food scene. With a passion for both food and tech, she noticed that no one was uniting these two sectors. Abda jumped on the opportunity to fill the void in 2013 with the launch of Branchfood. The company serves as a meetup group for food and tech entrepreneurs. At its core, the company is really all about uniting thought leaders in the field and providing resources to help move their businesses further.
“Over time, it evolved into an organization that showcased food innovation in the city through panel presentations, networking gatherings and speaking engagements, and also inspired others to get into the space,” says Abda.
Abda is also the managing director of The Food Loft, a coworking space for food and tech startups in Boston. For others toying with the idea of pursuing opportunities in the industry, she says there has never been a better time to do so.
“There are huge opportunities in the food space for innovation and creativity,” says Abda.
Abda was recently recognized as one of Zagat’s top 30 under 30 in Boston’s food scene.
The product developer: Rebecca Rescate
Serial entrepreneur Rebecca Rescate has been creating problem-solving products for the past decade. A two-time Shark Tank alum, she was pulled into product development back in 2005 after struggling to find ways to toilet train her cat. For Rescate, thinking like a consumer is what jumpstarted her success.
“I just saw an opportunity because this was the first time as a consumer that I wanted to go out and buy a product, and what I wanted couldn’t be purchased,” says Rescate, who launched a cat toilet training product called CitiKitty.
She pitched the idea on Shark Tank in 2011, which led to a $100,000 investment in the business. Since then, she’s gone on to create other problem-solving products including the HoodiePillowand 3Purpose.com . But according to Rescate, it takes more than a good idea to be a successful entrepreneur.
“A good idea is essential, and it needs to be well thought out, but that is not what makes a business,” says Rescate, whoworks justoutside of Philadelphia. “It’s really being willing to push on your idea every single day, declare goals, and then actually execute on it so that you can take it to the finish line.”
The problem solver: Caren Maio
Real estate maven Caren Maio is the founder and CEO of Nestio, a popular database for NYC brokers and landlords that features residential property listings. But the business didn’t start out that way. Maio and her team had originally launched an app with the consumer in mind. It was essentially like a TripIt for real estate that allowed you to streamline and view multiple property listings from various sites. There was just one snag.
“Users kept telling us the same thing,” says Maio. “Why are listings on all these other third-party sites either inaccurate or stale?” It turns out that flawed, antiquated systems were behind the problem.
Maio decided to pivot the company and focus intensely on backend software for landlords and brokers. The decision paid off. As of July, Nestio accounted for 30 percent of all NYC landlords.
Women like Maio are steadily carving out a presence in the tech industry. “I’m seeing a real sense of camaraderie and much less competition between women in tech,” says Maio, who advices new entrepreneurs to seek out mentors who can help guide them in a positive way. “In the tech industry as a whole, people are immensely supportive of one another.”