Women’s History Month aims to elevate the voices and experiences of women around the world.
And these four entrepreneurs and small business owners are no exception, blazing a trail in their respective fields, encouraging other women to stand up for themselves, and in some cases helping the environment and breaking barriers in the process.
Check out their stories below.
Sandra Velasquez as Nopalera
Sandra Velasquez, 46, said she started Nopalera to focus on the beauty of its Latin heritage.
“I love seeing the impact our brand has on the community,” she said. “It galvanized them and made them feel seen and proud of who they are. I want that for everyone.
Velasquez said it wasn’t easy launching her brand. At the age of 43, the California native found herself unemployed, with no savings, high student debt and a child to raise.
“I knew the only way I could change my financial future was to build something bigger than ever before,” she said.
According to the brand message, Nopalera pays homage to the nopal cactus, an ancient symbol of Mexican culture and one of the most sustainable plants in the world. Velasquez said that when she was young, she would cut the plant from her own garden and incorporate it into recipes or use it in bath and body products.
“I was raised by Mexican immigrant parents and founded Nopalera to celebrate my culture,” she said. “Loud and proud. No excuses.”
Velasquez said she is very passionate about her Cactus Flower Exfoliator – a multi-purpose body scrub that cleans and moisturizes the skin. Its popular botanical bar also doesn’t use plastic packaging.
When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Velasquez kept it simple.
“Release all judgment and dream big,” she said.
Eliza Ganesh as Sunwink
Winka health and wellness brand, was launched after founder Eliza Ganesh was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which she said was triggered by stress.
“I was faced with the choice of using high-potency steroids as a preventative measure against flare-ups for the rest of my life or learning to manage my stress in a different way,” the Maine native said.
Ganesh, 34, said she had a particularly hard time finding super natural and herbal products on grocery store shelves that wouldn’t cause breakouts. So she decided to create her own.
Sunwink currently has half a dozen different products on the market, ranging from green detox fibers and powders, to mocktails and mocktail toners, to herbal bundles. Ganesh consistently incorporates his Citrus Lime Prebiotic Fiber Powder into his drinks to aid digestion and bloating.
Sunwink, according to its website, also likes to help in other ways by donating a portion of its profits to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which supports the Black trans community and helps elevate women and non-binary individuals in business.
“I think ‘startup life’ is a bit romanticized: the first year was more like me in a dark warehouse, packing pallets alone or with my mother,” she said.
“It’s easy to get caught up in this thinking pattern of ‘I have to prove myself,’ but I think it’s essential to combat that,” Ganesh said. “You are already worthy. You deserve to have the same evaluations as your male founder counterparts.
Shay Elaine Carrillo as Mother
Shay Elaine Carrillo, 47, said she started Mother Linena fabric and linen brand committed to reducing waste in San Francisco, after realizing it needed a change.
“After working for a major fashion brand for several years, I knew it wasn’t for me,” Carrillo said. “Ethically, it didn’t meet my needs or my values for the world I want to live in, and it didn’t allow me to be the mother I wanted to be and believed I could be. »
Carrillo said it was her family who encouraged her to create a “feminist brand committed to embodying aspirations for a ‘female economy'” after developing reusable pads that launched her entrepreneurial journey and became the foundation of her brand.
“Our main message is to make space to do the things that support us in our daily lives – the cornerstones of being, nourishment and rest,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo said there is a strong movement underway in Oregon, where she grew up, and other communities across the country to start growing and processing flax for linen textiles.
“This is very important to us because it fits perfectly with many things we care about: land management, organic farming, mid-level job creation, skills development and reduction of our carbon footprint by working with locally manufactured materials,” she added.
Carrillo said she is grateful for all the other female entrepreneurs she has had the chance to work with over the years, including her business partner, Jeanie Kirk.
“It was with her that I was able to give birth to this bigger vision,” she said. “I am deeply proud of how we are growing together, each of us bringing similar but different and distinct skills, ideas, visions and perspectives. »
Serena Kerrigan: “Let’s go out together”
When it comes to dating, Latina influencer and content creator Serena Kerrigan has you covered.
Kerrigan, 29, created a sex-positive card game in 2020 after leaving her job in the media.
“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m going to start a business,’” she said. “I had created a live dating show on Instagram during quarantine and from there I saw an opportunity to create a product that would allow my audience to go on virtual dates themselves. ”
Kerrigan’s card game, Let’s go—- See you, or LFD, focuses on body positivity and female empowerment to help young women navigate the dating scene. The game is divided into four bases: first base, second base, third base and home run. The higher the base, the hotter the issue.
“Although I market them as a game, they are actually a disguise for a communications tool,” the New York native said. “I thought about all the times I’ve gone on dates or had a crush, and the questions I wish I’d asked them but didn’t have the courage to do so. This game offers people a way to open up.
At first, Kerrigan said she only made about 250 games, which sold out within 24 hours.
“That’s when I realized I had a business opportunity on my hands,” she added. Today, Kerrigan said she has sold more than $1 million worth of decks of cards.
Kerrigan said the card game is a fun and positive way for players, especially women, to feel comfortable sharing their beliefs and experiences.
“I’m on a mission to inspire women to love themselves unapologetically,” Kerrigan said. “I feel like if there’s one thing I’ve done, it’s shed light on the importance of communication in relationships, whether it’s with a lover, a friend, a partner or with yourself.”
When asked what advice she would give to other young women looking to start a business, Kerrigan answered it bluntly.
“Don’t be afraid to be your most authentic self, as scary as that may seem,” she added. “Realize that you will broadcast your own insecurities and moments of doubt, but it will resonate with hundreds of thousands of people, sparking a self-love revolution.”