Female founder laughing

4 Female Founders Who Failed and Succeeded

Failing as a female founder can be hard to overcome. Everyone fails at some point in their life. Big or small, failure can be a frightening experience, and it’s easy to think that giving up is your only option. Here are the stories of four female founders who failed before succeeding, to show why you should never give up.

that more than 66% of female founders find failure hard to overcome, compared with 55% of male founders?

Remember, “not giving up” doesn’t mean “keep doing something that isn’t working”. It just means not accepting a failure as it is, and finding a way to change things so that they do work. Changing a business model that isn’t working is called a pivot. Sometimes, you do have to abandon the business that isn’t working, and try again with something new. But what you should never do is let a failure stop you from trying again, however that might be. 

Read about these four inspiring female founders who tried again, and succeeded: 

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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s story is not only amazing for achieving her incredible success after being born into poverty. It is also an inspiring story because even when she was successful, she still failed at things, and kept working. In 2011, after years of the Oprah Winfrey Show being in the top spot, she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network. But OWN was not a success – a year after launching it, newspapers deemed it a flop. In her commencement speech at Harvard University in 2013, Oprah called this “the worst period in [my] professional life”. 

However, Oprah did not let this stop her from working hard, and continuing her professional journey. It took Oprah a while to turn the network around. In 2012, she partnered with Tyler Perry, and shifted the focus of the network to appeal more to her audience. It took until 2013 for the network to be considered “cash flow positive”. 

Had Oprah accepted things when they were failing, she would never have had the opportunity to turn things around. She later said, “Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. Now when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure.”

Christina Wallace

Female founder Christina Wallace is currently the Vice President of Growth at Bionic, a growth solution company that installs start-up cultures at large companies. She previously founded BridgeUP: STEM, an education program aimed at encouraging young girls and women into STEM. But everything hasn’t always gone to plan. Wallace first became a female founder when she started Quincy, a fashion company, in 2012, together with fellow Harvard Business School graduate Alex Nelson. 

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But difficulties with Series A financing led to the company having to close its doors in 2013, as Business Insider reportedThe most important thing about failure is learning from it – and Wallace did just that. She has spoken frankly about why her company failed, and she even partnered with Harvard Business School to create a case study about Quincy, to teach others from her experience.

Female founder Kathryn Minshew image

Kathryn Minschew

Kathryn Minshew quit her corporate job in 2010 and founded Pretty Young Professionals, an online community and resource for young professional women. However, issues caused the management to split, and she and Alex Cavoulacos, one of the other 4 co-founders left the company. At the time, she was heartbroken. She said, “It felt like overnight we’d lost almost everything we’d worked tirelessly to build.” However, she decided to take the next step, and founded The Muse

The Muse is a career development platform, together with fellow female founder Alex Cavoulacos, and much of the original team. It was the right step: “We reached 20,000 active monthly users in our first month, something it had taken PYP a year to achieve.” Today, The Muse has raised $28.7 million in funding, and has more than 75 million users each year.

What did Minshew learn from this experience? As she said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she learned to discuss everything up front, and out in the open. She also learned to get everything in writing: “when it comes to business, you should never compromise on proper legal documentation.” Lastly, she learned to make sure everyone is on the same page before making big decisions. 

Jessica O. Matthews

Female founder Jessica O. Matthews is the CEO and founder of Uncharted Power, which creates energy harnessing products in order to provide energy to homes across the world. At 19 years old, she invented the Soccket, an energy harnessing soccer ball that could grant power to a home after a few hours of play. Matthews has family in Nigeria, and during a visit there, they lost power. This inspired Matthews to create a product that could provide clean and reliable energy. However, in 2014, Uncharted Power realized that the product wasn’t working, and that many of the Socckets had broken. They posted on their Kickstarter: “In summary, we totally f—– up this Kickstarter campaign”. The company then changed gears, and rather than focusing on the Soccket, they focused on the actual technology that made it possible, and created better products incorporating this technology. 

Female founder Jessica Matthews image

Today, Uncharted Power is partnered with Magic Johnson, and his firm JLC Infrastructure. Here’s what Matthews has to say about her plan going forward: “By 2021 it’s our goal to have successfully demonstrated an alternative standard for power and data infrastructure. Then in 2022 and 2023, we’re going to look at scaling within our pilot city and domestically. By 2025, we’ll look at taking that model internationally.”

Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. Now when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure.

Oprah Winfrey, on failing as a female founder

These four inspiring female founders are just a few of those who overcame a setback and still carved their path to success. If you enjoyed this article, check out some other articles from our Online Magazine.

This article is credited to Carla Roever, a former intern and now a volunteer at Female Founder Space.

If your fear of failure holds you back to making this one single important step towards unfolding our potential, then worry no more because we have just the course for you. Learn more on how to Think Like a Successful Female Entrepreneur in our Online Academy.

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