18 female founders who self-funded their businesses share their top advice for startup success

Female founders may not receive as much venture funding as their male counterparts, but they're more likely to start businesses, according to a recent report by Visa.

In honor of women who are shaping business and leadership, we've rounded up 18 female founders who started their companies by themselves and drove them to success.

These women worked, pitched, applied, and saved their way to the funding they needed to grow. Today, they maintain full ownership of their businesses, or otherwise share ownership with their cofounders. They bootstrapped their companies without outside investment (though some may take equity soon).

Subscribe to Business Insider to read how these female founders funded and grew their businesses. 

Lulu Cordero, founder of Bomba Curls

Lulu Cordero created a natural remedy for thinning hair out of her kitchen. Now she runs the brand full-time and is building a network of influencers.

She reveals how she used her side hustle to save up $5,000 and launch a direct-to-consumer beauty brand with a waitlist of 2,000 customers »

Maghan Morin and Jeanine Suah, cofounders of Thynk Global

Maghan Morin and Jeanine Suah started their coworking, event, and retail space Thynk Global to be a hub that would inspire people to produce their best work. They especially wanted to provide more career and business opportunities for women and people of color, for whom they'd seen a huge economic gap in accessing work space.

They explained the action steps they're taking to recession-proof their business »

Plus, here's the spreadsheet they used to help 80 entrepreneurs in Miami set business goals, manage expectations, and meet deadlines with a 95% success rate »

Venita Cooper, founder of Silhoutte

Last year, Venita Cooper launched an art gallery inside a sneaker store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Though the pandemic forced her brick-and-mortar store to temporarily close, she moved her sneaker and art experience online. 

Here's how she leveraged local business resources and classes in her city to start her store »

Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, founder of Fulton Street Books

Onikah Asamoa-Caesar owns  Fulton Street Books, a bookstore and cafe in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that provides a safe space for marginalized communities. She raised a total of $250,000 for her business through a mix of loans, personal funds, and a crowdfunding campaign.

Here are the two steps she recommends entrepreneurs consider when funding a new business »

Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate

CEO Jaclyn Johnson has self-funded two multimillion-dollar companies and landed on Forbes' "30 Under 30" list in 2015. 

She shares 5 secrets to successful bootstrapping all entrepreneurs should know »


Lisa Qu, founder of Lisa Qu women's clothing line

Lisa Qu is a Gen Z entrepreneur and fashion designer who was featured on Forbes' "30 Under 30." She bootstrapped her $250,000 women's clothing line from her own savings and her parents' retirement savings.

Read the exact pitch she used to convince her parents to loan her their savings just years before they planned to retire »


Deidre Mathis, founder and CEO of Wanderstay hostel

Deidre Mathis has won $75,000 in 12 pitch competitions since starting her hostel business, Wanderstay. The hostel is in Houston, Texas, and it offers shared dorms and private rooms for $35 to $60 per night.

She explained how entrepreneurs can nail their business pitches »

Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder of We Are Rosie

Palestinian-American Stephanie Nadi Olson bootstrapped a $5 million platform matching freelancers with brands and agencies.

Here's how she's taking on Accenture, McKinsey, and the biggest marketing companies in the world with independent talent »

Cate Luzio, founder and CEO of Luminary NYC

Former bank executive Cate Luzio says her business plan was instrumental in growing her bootstrapped collaboration space business, Luminary NYC, to more than 600 individual and over 20 corporate members in one year. 

She explains how she transformed her women-focused collaboration space into a viable idea by writing her business plan in one week »

Kristie Nystedt, cofounder and CEO of Raleigh Brewing Co.

Kristie Nystedt quit her job in healthcare to start a brewery with her husband with $100,000 of their own savings, $150,000 in a small-business loan, and a loan from a friend. Now she is making over $200,000 a year as CEO of Raleigh Brewing Co. 

Read how Nystedt created a three-pronged business that paid for itself »

Patrice Banks, founder of Girls Auto Clinic

Patrice Banks was was making a six-figure salary as an engineer at DuPont when she left the corporate world to launch Girls Auto Clinic, an auto shop where women can feel comfortable taking their cars.

She gives 6 principles women entrepreneurs can use to disrupt 'boys' club' industries »

Ana Gavia, founder of Pinkcolada

Ana Gavia started Pinkcolada, which sells stylish and affordable swimsuits, when she was just 25 and a medical student in Australia.

Here's how she took $200 and launched a $1.7 million swimwear business in a single year and out of her home »


Michelle Penczak, founder of Squared Away

Founder and military spouse Michelle Penczak exclusively hires women and men whose spouses are in the armed forces to become virtual assistants on Squared Away.

Here's how she grew her 6-figure virtual assistant business to over 80 employees and 100 clients in just 2 years »

Jamie Fairman, founder of Forage

Jamie Fairman worked in HR for a bourbon company before launching her plant shop, Forage. She opened her first store with $20,000 from her personal savings, and the business is still self-funded today. 

Here's how she tapped into the the millennial craze of buying house plants »

Katy Flannery and Gwen Burlingame, cofounders of Beckon ice cream

Katy Flannery and Gwen Burlingame went from selling their lactose-free ice cream in farmers markets to nationwide availability in 1,000 stores, including Whole Foods.

They shared how their past career experiences in pediatric nursing and marketing help them tackle the challenges of bootstrapping their business »

Carleigh Bodrug, founder of Plant You

Carleigh Bodrug used $1,000 of her savings to set up a website and begin offering memberships to paid subscribers to receive weekly meal-prep plans and recipes via email.

Here's how she grew a social media following of nearly 50,000 on Instagram by offering recipe and lifestyle tips for a plant-based diet »


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