4 Female Founders Who Failed and Succeeded

Female founder laughing

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: 

Woman's hands on laptop

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. 

Two women at laptop

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.

Online Course "Think Like a Successful Female Entrepreneur"

Learn how you can conquer your fear of failure in our online course. Having a healthy attitude towards failures is an important aspect of an entrepreneurial mindset. Learn from our experts their top tips on how you can set your mindset up for a long-lasting success. Also, find other 17 courses which will support you to create your own business which you desired for so long.

Related Articles

How to Prevent Burnout And Take Care of Yourself As An Entrepreneur? Power Talk & Network with Gitanjali More

Unlock the secrets to preventing burnout and nurturing your well-being as an entrepreneur with exclusive insights from our online meeting with Gitanjali More. In this engaging event, Gitanjali, a renowned entrepreneur and wellness advocate, shares invaluable strategies to prioritize self-care while juggling the demands of running a business. Gain practical tips, personalized routines, and effective stress management techniques tailored specifically for entrepreneurs. Join us as we delve into the world of work-life balance and discover how to thrive both personally and professionally. Don't miss this opportunity to revolutionize your approach to entrepreneurship and embrace a healthier, more fulfilling journey!

This content is for Membership - Billed Annually, Membership - Billed Monthly, and Membership - Community Only members only.
Log In Register

Marketing Automation for Your Business Growth with Sarah Seyr

This speech is about marketing automation and how to build an effective marketing strategy. The speaker highlights the importance of having a business case in place to justify the budget for buying traffic, as well as the need to continuously provide value to customers at each step of the sales funnel. The talk also emphasizes the need for human involvement in the marketing process, in order to effectively track and plan marketing activities.

This content is for Membership - Billed Annually, Membership - Billed Monthly, and Membership - Community Only members only.
Log In Register

5 Elements of Courageous Conscious Leadership by Violetta Pleshakova

In this talk the speaker discusses leadership and the qualities that make a successful leader, such as courage and mindfulness. Courageous conscious leadership is defined as a way of showing up that is driven by higher purpose and that cares holistically for everyone involved. Violetta emphasizes the importance of living with purpose and aligning one's values with one's behaviors. She advises entrepreneurs to prioritize their message and purpose rather than rushing to achieve success.

This content is for Membership - Billed Annually, Membership - Billed Monthly, and Membership - Community Only members only.
Log In Register

6 Steps to Owning Your Niche

Think of a bag. When you own it, you feel secure knowing that it’s yours and that you can utilise it in a way that feels best for you. You have the confidence to know it’s not borrowed, stolen or rented. You must still be careful with it, but it’s not a worry.
It’s the same when it comes to your business niche. Ownership prevents us from fearing a saturated market.


Sign up for our newsletter and get 10% off.

Please Check Your Email

We are very excited for you to join!  To complete your subscription and receive your discount code, please, confirm your email. Don’t forget to check your spam, just in case.