Real talk: the first woman ever to grace the list of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies was the late Katherine Graham of The Washington Post Co. in 1972, and as recently as 1995, there were zero — yep, zero — female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. In 2017, the share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 6.4 percent, with 32 women heading major firms, but that share fell this year to 4.8 percent after several high-profile women left their posts.
The playing field is certainly not level yet, but that won’t stop us from celebrating the women on the front line of transforming business for the better. We introduced the first annual World-Changing Women’s Summit in February 2018, where 175 established and emerging female leaders convened at 1440 Multiversity in a magical setting nestled among the redwoods to nourish themselves, connect with each other, and strategize about how to elevate humanity.
As a virtual summit of sorts, we launched our inaugural list of badass women in business in our 2018 winter issue, and this year we’re back with another summit and list to continue putting a spotlight on the courageous female-identifying game-changers paving the way for positive global impact. This list is comprised of social entrepreneurs (whose business models solve cultural or environmental issues), corporate leaders (who drive the success of their conscious companies), “intrapreneurs” (who innovate and impart change from within a company’s structure), thought leaders (who are transforming global paradigms), and impact investors (who are directing capital to conscious business ventures).
The 2019 lineup is not even close to an exhaustive list, but we feel confident it’ll leave you inspired.
Ball’s in your court, Fortune 500.
1. RAHAMA WRIGHT
Founder and CEO, Shea Yeleen
Rahama Wright’s health-and-beauty company is more than meets the eye. After observing her Ghanaian mother, who was not allowed to attend school because of her gender, navigate a new culture as an immigrant in America, Wright developed a passion for women’s rights globally. She studied international affairs in college and joined the Peace Corps soon after, where she lived in a small West African village. It was there that the idea for her shea-butter skincare company was born. Wright founded Shea Yeleen with two key issues to address: 1) the overuse of chemical and synthetic ingredients in beauty products and 2) the cycle of poverty created through supply chains that do not fairly compensate small-scale farmers and producers for their raw material.
In the shea butter sector, the majority of the 16 million African women who are active members of the supply chain each receive less than $2 a day from their labor, and yet they are part of multi-billion-dollar industries including hair/skincare and confectionery. Shea Yeleen partners with these women and invests in their businesses to produce top-of-the-line organic, fair-trade skincare products, generating living wages for women in small villages in the Tamale region of Ghana.
“The saying ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ resonates with me, especially in a social-media-saturated society where everyone appears to be living their best lives. Although difficult, fully embracing the pace and timing of our own progress is key to being an effective leader.”
2. ERIN PATINKIN
Co-founder and CEO, Ovenly
Brooklyn, New York
Erin Patinkin and Ovenly co-founder Agatha Kulaga were untrained bakers who met in a food-centered book club and decided to launch a bakery. They began by selling to existing cafes and gourmet grocers and now have five retail bakeshops (and more on the way) in Manhattan and Brooklyn and hundreds of wholesale clients. On top of peddling sweets, Patinkin calls for “radical responsibility” in business. Ovenly has reduced its landfill waste by 70 percent over the past two years and works with various job training programs to hire people who have historically been denied economic opportunities, including formerly incarcerated young people and political refugees. Through her writing and her podcast, “Start to Sale” on Vox Media, which she co-hosts with Natasha Case, founder and CEO of Coolhaus, Patinkin is also a thought leader in entrepreneurship, providing training materials and resources to owners of burgeoning businesses to help them build their companies.
“I love this advice from Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica: ‘I know that you can be a strong and effective leader, and you can also be kind. Kind doesn’t mean weak. I think that oftentimes people feel you have to be unkind in order to appear strong; I think it’s the exact opposite. … I think it’s important to always lead with empathy.’”
3. EILEEN MURPHY BUCKLEY
Founder and CEO, ThinkCERCA
Eileen Murphy Buckley is working to close the gap between basic literacy and 21st-century literacy skills. She taught English for 15 years in Chicago public schools before working at the school district’s central office overseeing more than 100,000 students across 115 schools, where she realized that the challenge of preparing students for life after graduation was not being addressed by existing pedagogy.
Alongside a handful of veteran educators and academics, Murphy Buckley developed ThinkCERCA, a flexible literacy framework that boosts critical thinking. The program teaches students how to make claims, support their claims with evidence, explain their reasoning, address counterarguments, and use audience-appropriate language, skills that Murphy Buckley strongly believes are the most effective for both improving achievement on assessments and preparing students for post-secondary life.
ThinkCERCA is the only personalized literacy platform to include all four core subjects: language arts, social studies, science, and math. An independent evaluation of 26 education-technology products showed that the platform has helped students achieve an extra year’s worth of growth in one school year.
“Make decisions based on customer actuals.”
4. AYLA SCHLOSSER
Co-founder and CEO, Resonate
Ayla Schlosser knows that investing in women is smart economics, but cultivating new skills and providing access to education is not enough. At Resonate, the programs aren’t focused on teaching hard skills — they’re helping women and girls shift their mindsets and shrink the gender-related confidence gap. Since its inception in 2013, Resonate has trained more than 5,500 women and girls in its leadership-building framework and has partnered with more than 50 organizations in East Africa. As a result of these trainings, 45 percent of participants take on new leadership roles, 38 percent start businesses, and 24 percent get a new job or academic opportunity.
“One of the most important elements of leadership is knowing when to give up ownership. The most intractable problems in our world are best solved by those who are directly impacted by them. That is why next year I am stepping down as CEO and transitioning leadership of Resonate to Norette Turimuci, the organization’s East African director. I will support the organization as a member of the board of directors while continuing to create systemic change for this global problem.”
5. CAROLINE DUELL
Founder and CEO, All Good
Morro Bay, California
Caroline Duell started her body-care company All Good to rebuild a connection between humans and their surroundings. Duell is more than committed to creating cruelty-free products that are organic, plant-based, and good to the environment. Her track record includes following the work of coral reef scientist Dr. Craig Downs to create a set of criteria that defines “reef-friendly” sun-protection products and developing a nationwide campaign that contributed to the historic legislation in Hawaii banning harmful sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate.
All Good donates one percent of all sales to organizations that are creating direct solutions to environmental issues like The Conservation Alliance, United Plant Savers, and the Surfrider Foundation in Hawaii. As a Certified B Corp, the company also invests in the wellbeing of its employees, offering among many things a monthly box of organic fruits and vegetables grown on its farm.
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As soon as I settle into any type of monotonous groove, I’ve lost the leading edge and lost the curious drive for innovation. There is no way to be perfectly comfortable while breaking trail.”
6. NOVA COVINGTON
Founder and CEO, Goddess Garden Organics
Nova Covington aims to make Earth cool again. After the birth of her daughter, Covington’s appreciation for nature grew into a pledge to clean up our oceans and leave the planet better off for the next generation. Since coral reefs support nearly a quarter of all marine life, and a healthy ocean can better combat the effects of global warming, Covington founded Goddess Garden Organics to create reef-safe sunscreen, skincare, and essential oil products made with benign materials and organic plants, and has also supported the Hawaiian ban on chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone and octinoxate.
“Follow your intuition.”
Photo courtesy: Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
Co-founder and CEO, Solstice
Steph Speirs is all about democratizing access to clean energy. In 2014 she co-founded Solstice, recognizing that consumers are often excluded from the rooftop solar market due to individual rooftop eligibility, homeownership status, and access to financing. Her company works with solar farms, community organizations, and households to provide a shared-solar option called “community solar.” At no additional cost, local residents can enroll in energy from solar arrays installed in a centralized location. Solstice has also created the EnergyScore, which analyzes data from customer payment records and other demographic data to predict future payment behavior without using their credit score.
Solstice has connected customers with solar energy from 17 solar projects in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. The Solstice team, alongside its Multiply Solar partners, was also recently awarded rights to build about 70 shared solar projects on public housing buildings in Queens and Staten Island.
“Great companies are built by great teams, not great founders.”
8. MELISSA GARREN
COO and Chief Scientist, Pelagic Data Systems
San Francisco, California
Melissa Garren is a marine biologist on a mission. She helped found Pelagic Data Systems in 2014 to address the interwoven challenges coastal communities face when it comes to food scarcity and the sustainability of fisheries.
Pelagic Data Systems is raising the global standard for vessel tracking by bringing forth custom-made technology and data analytics in the form of an affordable, accessible, and rugged service that can document when a fishery’s product brought to market was legally caught, and it works for subsistence fishermen in dugout canoes and large industrial vessels alike. It is a powerful solution for the 95 percent of global fishing vessels currently lacking access to any data-collection platform. The company’s technology has already been deployed in hundreds of communities across 30 countries and recently won the National Geographic Marine Protection Prize.
“Flexibility, adaptability, and compassion will always be your allies when figuring out what the right face of leadership is for you in any given moment. If you give the moment your undivided attention and are fully present, the answers to the question, ‘What should my strategy be here?’ will come much more swiftly.”
9. KOMAL AHMAD
Founder and CEO, Copia
San Francisco, California
Komal Ahmad says that hunger is not a scarcity problem; it’s a logistics problem. After inviting a homeless veteran to join her for lunch one day, she learned that he had not eaten in three days. At the same time, right across the street, UC Berkeley’s biggest dining hall was throwing away thousands of pounds of food. This experience inspired Ahmad to create Copia, a company out to both relieve hunger and solve food waste at scale.
Ahmad has eliminated the logistical complexity of food donation by providing businesses with an automated pickup service that is made possible via Copia’s software and driver network integration. Meanwhile, the company helps businesses save money by using machine learning to provide predictive analytics for reducing over-purchasing and over-production.
“Don’t avoid mistakes — fail fast and learn quickly. We try so hard in life to avoid mistakes, but it’s not about avoiding mistakes, it’s about learning from them. It’s about growing from them and not making the same one twice. It’s about what you’re going to do after the mistake was made.”
10. MOLLY HAYWARD
San Francisco, California
Molly Hayward is giving women a modern method for managing their periods. While working in Kenya she became increasingly aware of how often girls skip school during their periods due to a lack of access to pads. After looking deeper into the issue, Hayward created Cora, a company that provides feminine products and tackles many of the social issues and stigmas surrounding periods, including the tampon tax and period poverty. Since its launch, Cora has absorbed the cost of the tampon sales tax on behalf of its customers because of the company’s belief that women should not have to pay more to manage their bodies. For every Cora purchase, the company donates pads to girls in India and Kenya so that they can stay in school during their periods. To date, Cora has donated more than two million pads.
“The most exciting thing you can do as a company today is to be real. Connect with us like an old friend. Show us you care about the things we care about. Show us you can feel our pain and fears, but also share our joys and ambitions for the future.”
11. ZAHRA KASSAM
Founder and CEO, Monti Kids
San Francisco, California
Zahra Kassam is closing the education gap in the most critical years of human development, those from birth to preschool. She founded Monti Kids, the only Montessori program delivered to the home for babies from birth to age 3. Every three months, families receive authentic Montessori toys, parental guides based on developmental research, and access to personalized support, classes, and a private community moderated by Montessori experts. Kassam herself is an internationally certified Montessori teacher for children ages 0-6, and in 2016 she was nominated for the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion Awards for her work with children.
“Love is a crucial part of building a brand that resonates. Build your product with love, treat your team and your customers with love, and don’t forget to be kind and loving to yourself. Your business, and the world, will be better for it.”
12. SUZY BATIZ
Founder and CEO, Poo~Pourri
Suzy Batiz has built an empire by tackling taboo topics and challenging societal norms. Fed up with the lack of natural bathroom-odor solutions, Batiz created Poo~Pourri, the cult-favorite, all-natural before-you-go toilet spray. Batiz grew the company into an enterprise worth $400 million without borrowing a cent or enlisting a single investor. She is also the force behind supernatural, a new line of all-natural, sustainably sourced cleaning products.
Today, Batiz teaches other entrepreneurs the feminine approach to business — how to tune in to intuition, turn on your body’s intelligence, and dive into creative energy to achieve a naturally abundant flow state — and she strives to share this process with as many people as she can through her lectures and workshops.
“I believe the most powerful leadership tool is a commitment to constant personal growth. The world is always evolving and as an effective leader, I have to commit to doing the same.”
13. KIT CRAWFORD
Owner and Co-CEO, Clif Bar & Company
Kit Crawford’s conscious business philosophy at Clif Bar & Company is not so much about a triple bottom line as it is a quintuple bottom line. In 2001, when the energy-bar industry was experiencing rapid growth and consolidation, Crawford and husband Gary Erickson made the decision not to sell their company. Staying private allowed them to further develop a business model which focuses on sustaining each of Clif Bar’s “Five Aspirations”: business, brand, people, community, and the planet.
Just a handful of Clif Bar & Company’s many sustainability efforts include diverting 85 percent of its office waste from local landfills, doing business in a LEED® Platinum-certified headquarters, and implementing an employee stock ownership plan starting in 2010. The company has become a category leader among health and lifestyle bars, with double-digit compounded annual growth over the past decade, proving that sustainability is good for business.
“Leadership is a lot about listening to yourself. Don’t ignore your feelings. Act on your intuition. Be brave with your decision even if it goes against the grain.”
14. KELLY SWETTE
Co-founder and CEO, Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods
Moss Landing, California
Kelly Swette wants to change the way people eat. After many years working for major brands like Calvin Klein, PepsiCo, and Baxter Labs, Swette put her global marketing career on hold to raise a family and pursue her passion for international cuisine and organic gardening. An engineer by training, marketer by trade, and foodie by love, Swette and husband Brian Swette started Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods on the belief that the world needs more sustainable food systems.
Under Swette’s leadership, Sweet Earth has produced over 5.7 million pounds of plant-based protein — that’s the equivalent of avoiding 37.5 billion gram equivalents of greenhouse gases (CO2) and saving 119 million BTUs of energy. As for health, that’s 121.5 million grams of saturated fat not consumed. Beyond their business, Swette and her husband Brian Swette founded the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University to study food systems from a holistic standpoint and uncover real solutions to the environmental impacts of the food industry. Kelly is also on the board of directors for Goddess Garden, an environmentally conscious skincare company.
“Clearly write out and articulate your vision; hire positive, can-do people for your team; and lead by example. I believe passion and enthusiasm is contagious — a leader must spread the energy across the entire team!”
15. BITA MILANIAN
Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Ribbon
Los Angeles, California
Bita Milanian is on a mission to use technology for good, and her leadership has no corporate boundaries. A refugee and immigrant from Iran, she is an advocate for Iranian Americans and for diversity in the workplace, balancing her duties as a senior executive of Ribbon with traveling the world to help others. She mentors the next generation of women and works to bring opportunities to women and girls in technology and telecommunications — on top of driving tremendous growth in corporate social responsibility programs as part of her role in a fast-growing global tech company.
“Working hard gives us a clear head, but when it comes to making the most important decisions, listening to our hearts helps us chart the course in ways where many benefit, and we can feel proud of not only our accomplishments, but our positive impacts on people’s lives.”
16. LYNN JURICH
Co-founder and CEO, Sunrun
San Francisco, California
Lynn Jurich loves the planet. After her travels in China, where she says she witnessed shocking levels of pollution, Jurich decided to leave her job in private equity and start Sunrun, a solar energy company. Along with co-founder Edward Fenster, Jurich invented the business model “solar as a service,” which unlocked consumer demand for clean, affordable energy that could be generated directly from residential rooftops. Sunrun, which is now the nation’s largest dedicated provider of residential solar, storage, and energy services, operates in 22 states, has 3,000 employees, serves over 200,000 customers, and has saved those customers more than $200 million in electric bills.
“If you make an agreement with somebody, keep it. If for some reason situations change and you can’t, then you need to go renegotiate it. Once you force yourself to make those renegotiations, you’re more disciplined on what you promise in the first place. Then you can operate as a company without having to check on people all the time. I think that eliminates so much of the politics and friction in how we do business.”
17. DONNA CARPENTER
In her own words, Donna Carpenter is an accidental entrepreneur. She met her husband, Jake Burton Carpenter, in 1981 after he started his namesake snowboard venture, and over time Carpenter’s position within the company has grown. Fifteen years ago, when Burton’s rapid growth weakened the diversity of the team, Carpenter realized something must be done to grow the women’s side of the business. Through Burton’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and other efforts, the company’s female leadership went from under 10 percent in 2002 to 45 percent today. Carpenter assumed the CEO role in 2016, became co-CEO alongside John Lacy in 2018, and has continued to tackle gender inequality within her workplace.
“Create your own personal board of directors. We all need mentors, people who can give us a fresh perspective or coach us through a challenge. The people on your board of directors should be your biggest cheerleaders and critics.”
18. SHANNON SCHUYLER
Shannon Schuyler is a tireless advocate for responsible business. Under her leadership, PwC is addressing the growing opportunity gap in the US by supporting innovative solutions to societal challenges. In 2012 Schuyler launched Earn Your Future® (EYF), a five-year $190 million investment that equipped 3.5 million students and educators with resources and training to improve their financial literacy. At the end of that commitment, Schuyler nearly doubled the EYF investment with Access Your Potential®, a five-year, $320 million commitment to digitally up-skill underserved youth as well as provide them with the financial and career-selection skills they need to change the trajectory of their lives. Through this initiative, PwC is working to reach 10 million students, train 100,000 teachers, and guide 10,000 mentees.
Schuyler works alongside PwC’s US Chairman, Tim Ryan, to drive the strategy for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, which it was a founding signatory of in July 2017. With more than 520 signatories, the pledge is the largest ever CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.”
19. MELISSA PERRIN
Senior Vice President and Senior Culture Officer, First United Bank
Melissa Perrin is all about making sure stakeholders are cashing in on physical, mental, financial, and spiritual wellbeing. Ten years ago, the First United Bank executive team (including Perrin) transformed the large financial organization into a conscious business, with the mission of inspiring and empowering others to “spend life wisely.” Perrin leads this effort to help all of the company’s stakeholders (employees, customers, partners, community, and shareholders) live a well-rounded, fulfilled life through four key pillars: faith, financial wellbeing, wellness, and personal growth. As a result, First United Bank has been named one of Oklahoma’s best places to work for 10 years in a row and has a high-performer turnover rate of less than 3 percent.
“Only work on the work that only you can do. I love this advice and remind myself of it almost daily. It reminds me to focus on my unique purpose and the gifts I have been given. It also encourages me to delegate and not hold on to work that I could teach others to do so that they have the opportunity to learn and grow while allowing me to invest my energy in new dreams and initiatives.”
20. SUNYA OJURE
Director of Sustainability, Salesforce
San Francisco, California
Sunya Ojure is passionate about creating happy, healthy communities. As the director of sustainability for Salesforce, she leads sustainability communications, event greening, and stakeholder engagement initiatives. She has acted as a champion of Pledge 1%, an integrated philanthropy movement Salesforce co-founded to encourage other companies to leverage their resources for social impact. With Sunya’s leadership, Salesforce has achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions globally; the company delivers a carbon-neutral cloud service to all customers and is on track to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2022.
“Know yourself and know your audience. If you’re able to be honest with yourself about your passions, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, then you can build an amazing, diverse, high-performing team around you. Ask yourself what keeps people up at night and then set about solving that pain point. When you bring value to the table, others are much more likely to support you and your work in return.”
21. DAYA FIELDS
Senior Vice President, Marketing & Product Development, Alaffia
Daya Fields’ work isn’t just about branding or profits; it’s about strengthening Alaffia’s mission, brand, and unique social enterprise. Each sale of one of the company’s Fair Trade skincare products supports Alaffia’s empowerment work in Togo, West Africa, the twelfth-poorest country in the world. Alaffia employs more than 700 cooperative members and pays fair-trade wages to over 14,000 Togolese citizens, making the company one of the largest employers in Central Togo — second only to the Togolese government. The company is also Fair-for-Life-certified, which means it pays its members four times the living wage in Togo and provides full healthcare benefits as well as one month or more of paid time off. Fields has had her team create marketing-led business processes, which have led to the promotion of gender equality, diminishing poverty, reducing component waste, and empowering a community that previously was voiceless, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Seek others’ perspective on larger decisions, even when you think you know all there is to consider.”
22. ERIN WADE
Co-Founder and CEO, Homeroom Restaurant
Erin Wade thrives on finding purpose — and on mac and cheese. Having an unfulfilled craving for her favorite comfort food one night inspired the former lawyer to pursue her dream of opening Homeroom in Oakland, California, an eatery dedicated not only to her family’s mac-and-cheese recipe but also to challenging the norms of the restaurant industry.
Over the last decade, Wade has built Homeroom into a thriving business, employing over 100 people, creating an inclusive and diverse workplace culture, and becoming a staple of the Bay Area food scene. Wade pays higher-than-average entry-level hourly wages, practices profit sharing across the company, and employs a leadership team of which 70 percent are women and people of color.
An unexpected outcome of Wade’s conscious leadership style is the development of a new system that has received national attention for drastically reducing the number of incidents of sexual harassment committed by customers against team members.
“Spend a lot of time getting to know yourself. Where I’ve stumbled over the past eight years is when I lacked the self-awareness to see where I even was and what was keeping me and the team from moving forward.”
23. MINDY CORPORON
Co-founder and President, Faith Always Wins Foundation
Overland Park, Kansas
Mindy Corporon knows the heartache and healing process brought on by gun violence all too well. Her father and teenage son were murdered by a white supremacist in a 2014 shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas City. Now she’s on a mission to build resilience, transform hurt into love, and drive kindness across the nation as a spokesperson and activist.
Corporon believes that when a tragedy occurs, a healthy workplace is a critical part of the healing process. Only months after the tragic hate crime, she founded the Faith Always Wins Foundation. After three years, Corporon stepped down from her job as CEP of a wealth-management firm to invest 100 percent of her time in developing resources to assist others with healing after a tragedy. The Foundation stands on three pillars: kindness, faith, and healing. The Foundation also formed a community-wide event, SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World, and high school programs for productive inter-faith dialogue.
“My dad told me at a young age, ‘Do not be afraid to fail, and when you do, admit it.’ Because of this, I have confidence to take risks, knowing I will learn from the leap or the fall I take.”
24. SARU JAYARAMAN
Saru Jayaraman is a warrior for the restaurant industry. In response to 9/11, the young organizer and attorney joined forces with displaced World Trade Center workers to create the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) of New York, which has organized those who work in restaurants to win workplace justice campaigns, conduct research and policy work, partner with socially responsible restaurateurs, and launch cooperatively owned restaurants. Over the last 17 years, the ROC has grown into a national organization with 130,000 restaurant workers, employers, and consumers fighting for better wages and working conditions.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
25. JANA MCCLELLAND
Co-owner and Farmer, McClelland’s Dairy
Jana McClelland starts her day by strolling around her 100-percent-organic 3,300-acre dairy farm. The third-generation dairywoman is changing the face of farming and blazing a climate-smart trail for others. In the next five years, McClelland’s carbon farming and manure management methodologies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount of carbon that is the equivalent of saving 46.8 million miles of driving by standard passenger vehicles.
With the help of Organic Valley, her farm’s work at local and regional events is already shaping the conversation around how farms in California and other states might follow suit.
“Get involved! Lead by example. Don’t just sit on the sidelines. By nature, people are scared to do things differently. Once they can see other people implementing new practices and being successful, they are not as scared to try it themselves.”
26. KONDA MASON
Konda Mason holds an impressive resume. Her career in the entertainment industry as a Grammy-winning artist manager in London turned to being an Academy Award-nominated film producer in Hollywood, and then an Off-Off-Broadway theater producer in New York. Mason, along with her partners Laura Louie and actor Woody Harrelson, owned the first home delivery service of organic food in the Los Angeles area and were the first to negotiate an organic food section in a major grocery store in 1997.
Her roles as a social entrepreneur, earth and social justice activist, and spiritual teacher include being co-founder of Jubilee Partners, a business of wisdom-keepers and wealth-holders exploring the deep end of the pool in direct impact investing; being strategic director of The Runway Project, a micro-lending fund for African-American entrepreneurs intended to close the “Friends and Family” gap in funding opportunities; being co-founder of the annual COCAP conference in Oakland, focused on “Building the We Economy”; and being co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, an inspiring co-working space that connects social entrepreneurs and supports their missions.
“We have bought into a mindset of lack, of not-enoughness, of hyper-individualism, creating disconnection. So, [change] begins with our minds and opening up and moving through that ignorance. The root word of ignorance is ‘ignore.’ Ignoring is a willful act. There’s an abundance of information everywhere. Be curious and move with that curiosity. Create an internal space to understand who we need to ‘be’ to create the world that we really want.”
27. ROBIN GENTRY MCGEE
Founder, Functional Formularies
Robin Gentry McGee is revolutionizing clinical nutrition. In 2005, after her father endured a freak accident and was placed on a feeding tube, Gentry McGee learned that his feeding-tube formula was high in sugar and other questionable ingredients and that there was no wholesome alternative available. As a chef who specializes in whole foods, she became determined to solve this lack of nutrition in medical liquid diets and devised a recipe that significantly improved her father’s condition.
Gentry McGee founded Functional Formularies in 2006, and after many years of researching and investing her life savings to get the product to market, she and husband Brian McGee created Liquid Hope and other formulas. Liquid Hope is the world’s first and only feeding-tube meal replacement formula that is certified as 100 percent organic, nutritionally complete, made from whole foods, and shelf-stable — and now billable through insurance and sold worldwide, further demonstrating Gentry McGee’s fervent belief in the famous mantra, “Let food be thy medicine.” In November 2018, Swander Pace Capital acquired Functional Formularies, and McGee continues to work closely with the company.
“When pursuing your passion, mission, or purpose, always seek help along the way. If someone tells you that it can’t be done, this only means they are showing you their limitations, not yours.”
28. ARLAN HAMILTON
Founder and Managing Partner, Backstage Capital
Los Angeles, California
Arlan Hamilton was homeless when she built a venture capital fund from scratch in 2015. As founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, she is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are of color, women, and/or LGBT. Since its inception, Backstage Capital has invested nearly $5 million in more than 100 startup companies led by underestimated founders.
“I try to practice what I preach, because I know I can’t tell someone what to do then not do it myself.”
29. MONICA JAIN
Founder and Executive Director, Fish 2.0
Monica Jain believes we can balance our love of seafood with our love — and need — for diverse sea life in healthy oceans. She was inspired to launch Fish 2.0 in 2012 when she saw that impact investors looking at food systems, local foods, and farm-to-table distribution were overlooking seafood.
Fish 2.0 is a global network and competition for investment opportunities with the goal of building connections among entrepreneurs, investors, and seafood experts in order to spur growth, investment, and innovation in the sustainable seafood sector — and the enterprise has become a powerhouse in the sustainable seafood world. Finalists in the competition get instant credibility as well as key connections; at least 75 percent of finalists in Fish 2.0 2017 made connections during the program that resulted in investment, new partners, or new customers. This has made Fish 2.0 a launch pad for high-impact businesses.
“A rising tide lifts all boats! If we help others achieve their dreams, then we will achieve ours.”
30. DEB NELSON
Vice President, Client and Community Engagement, RSF Social Finance
San Francisco, California
Deb Nelson has advanced economic justice, women’s rights, and diversity in leadership through impact investing and social enterprise for more than two decades. After a 15-year tenure as the executive director of Social Venture Network, a community of over 500 mission-driven entrepreneurs and investors, Nelson joined RSF Social Finance, where she concentrates on empowering women in the field of impact investing and training other conscious leaders to leverage capital for positive change.
For the past two years, Nelson has led RSF’s Women’s Capital Collaborative, the first initiative of its kind to provide integrated capital for women-led organizations that support women and girls. To date, the Collaborative has raised over $4 million for women-led ventures and has disbursed nearly $2 million to support groundbreaking social enterprises benefiting women. Nelson is also the driving force behind RSF’s Integrated Capital Institute, a nine-month program dedicated to training the next generation of financial activists.
“Be brave, and keep your eyes on the prize.”
31. NATHALIE MOLINA NIÑO
CEO, BRAVA Investments
New York, New York
Nathalie Molina Niño launched her first tech startup at the age of 20. A technologist and coder by training, Molina Niño is a consummate entrepreneur and a storyteller at heart. She led the launch of SELF MADE, the company, mobile app, and learning platform curated from the New York Times Best Sellers list book “Self Made” by Telemundo’s former Entertainment President Nely Galán, co-authored with Guy Garcia. With the mission of leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs, she also co-founded Entrepreneurs@Athena at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College of Columbia University.
Molina Niño launched BRAVA Investments to focus on creating wealth for a billion women rather than obsessing over creating the next woman billionaire. As CEO of BRAVA and author of “Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs,” co-authored by Sara Grace, Molina Niño is committed to delivering returns to investors while making an economic impact on women at scale.
“Impostor syndrome is real. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it, most of us don’t succeed at silencing those skeptical and sometimes cruel voices in our head. Sometimes the best you can do is drown them out with other things, like this mantra gifted to me by my mentor, the amazing opera singer Awilda Verdejo, that goes simply, ‘I am the source of my own supply.’”
32. KRISTIN HULL
Founder, CEO, and CIO, Nia Impact Capital
Kristin Hull is working to empower women — and their finances — so that they are able to live fulfilled lives as well as direct their money toward the issues that matter. Hull started Nia Impact Capital — “Nia” is of Swahili origin and translates to “purpose” — seeking to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues. Her Nia Global Solutions Equity Portfolio currently has over $20 million dollars working toward six solution themes: a sustainable planet; healthcare; natural and organic foods; sustainable and affordable transportation; education, communication, and financial services; and affordable housing.
Hull’s investment philosophy also boasts a heavy emphasis on inclusive workplaces and thriving communities. The Nia Global Solutions Portfolio weaves a gender lens into its process of choosing companies; all companies in the portfolio have women in executive leadership positions or on the board of directors. Nia Community Investments has deployed more than $5 million in investments and loans in its community since 2010, and the Nia Community Foundation has granted over $1 million since 2007.
“Walk the walk, and lead by example. Make change fun, inclusive, and irresistible.”
33. ERIKA KARP
Founder and CEO, Cornerstone Capital Group
New York, New York
Erika Karp believes socially conscious investing is the most financially sound investing. With a deep, fundamental understanding of investment research, corporate governance, and client advisory work, Karp and her team at Cornerstone Capital Group have learned that the systemic integration of environmental, social, and governance performance is critical to an investment process allowing for robust risk-adjusted return analysis. With this systems-based investment philosophy, Cornerstone Capital Group drives capital toward positive social impact on issues ranging from climate change, resource scarcity, and waste elimination to gender and racial equity, sustainable food systems, and healing the seas.
“You build trust with a combination of credibility and intimacy while minimizing risk as best you can. And trust then allows for innovation.”
34. BETSY MOSZETER
COO and Partner, Green Alpha Advisors, LLC
When Betsy Moszeter learned about impact investing after 14 years of traditional investing, she was excited but could not bear the fact that many of the portfolios that claimed to advance the cause of sustainability were riddled with companies that were doing more harm than good.
At the beginning of 2015 Moszeter joined Green Alpha, where she is building a resilient, scalable company that offers environmentally and socially innovative portfolios and educates wealth advisors and their clients about creating change with the power of their investment portfolio. Rather than taking an existing index of stocks and screening it to create something marginally greener, Green Alpha starts from scratch. They begin with a model of a sustainable global economy and then conduct deep research to identify leading companies that are building this economy and creating innovative products and services that are solutions to the world’s greatest systemic risks.
“Be authentic. Nobody succeeds by trying to be someone else. Being yourself, especially as a woman in so many industries dominated by men, can feel uncomfortable, but it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as pretending to be someone you’re not. Happiness and success can only be achieved by developing and using strengths that are truly yours and are consistent with your deep values.”
35. LISA KLEISSNER
Co-founder and board chair, Toniic
Big Sur, California
Lisa Kleissner is on a mission to change the way people invest. When she and her husband Charly came into wealth in 1999, Kleissner knew that their journey would be about redefining how wealth can serve both humanity and the planet. In 2000, the couple launched the KL Felicitas Foundation with $10 million. The foundation actively advocates its impact-investing strategy, which connects the entrepreneurial spirit and business discipline of social enterprise with the significant capital of a growing network of impact investors. Today, KL Felicitas Foundation’s 99.5 percent impact portfolio provides models for a broad range of investors.
In 2009, Kleissner co-founded Toniic, a network of impact investors. About two-thirds of Toniic investors, with portfolios ranging in size from $3 million to $1 billion, have pledged to run a 100-percent impact-investing portfolio and have their financial and impact results reported on anonymously to be used as a guide for other investors.
In 2005, Kleissner co-founded Social-Impact International, a program that enables social entrepreneurs worldwide to develop and grow sustainable, scalable enterprises with high measurable social impact. She also brings her passion to her home state: in 2013 she founded Hawaii Investment Ready, an accelerator for helping innovative island social enterprises scale.
“The 80/20 rule. Nothing is perfect. If we celebrate the 80 percent that is working and focus on solutions for the remainder, we will go farther faster.”