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

Communicate with Impact with Ulrike Seminati

As entrepreneurs, we put a lot of energy into communicating our products or services to reach our clients. Often it feels frustrating when you try many well-known strategies but nothing seems to work. The reason is that impactful communication does not happen just by applying the right words whether you are speaking or writing a text. Impactful communication is “produced” first of all inside of us.
Learn how to communicate with more impact with Ulrike Seminati.

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

Get More Clarity on Your Goals with Besan Dahboor Engel

Starting or growing a business goes hand in hand with setting the right direction for your business and knowing where you want to end up. That’s why setting goals is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. However, most entrepreneurs struggle with setting and achieving goals, especially because we often feel overwhelmed with an endless list of tasks to accomplish. While chasing our dreams, our vision often can get blurry because of the load of responsibilities and challenges we have to face on a daily basis.

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

Build Wealth with Real Estate on Average Income with Nadja Raabe

Being an entrepreneur means choosing your own path through life and business and also for your future. Pension plans and a secure future are often not as easy to obtain as an entrepreneur. With the demographic change it is increasingly more difficult to make plans for one’s pension. Our expert Nadja Raab will show you how to gradually invest in real estate as a do-it-yourself-pension idea.

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

How to Prevent Burnout And Take Care of Yourself As An Entrepreneur? Gitanjali More Explains

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.

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