From movie stars to designers to scientists, this year's class of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs is a truly eclectic set.
Though Alba is known for her work on screen, she’s spent this year behind the scenes at The Honest Company, the eco-friendly firm she co-founded with Healthy Child, Healthy World author Christopher Gavigan, LegalZoom.com, ShoeDazzle.com founder Brian Lee, and former PriceGrabber.com VP Sean Kane. Its mission of selling chemical-free diapers, wipes, cleaning products, and more has impressed: The Honest Company received $27 million in funding in March from investors like General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Institutional Venture Partners. Alba seems to have found her passion with this company. “it was important to me to that The Honest Company have a cause component as part of its DNA, engage in environmentally sound practices, and actively communicate with our customer base to deliver the eco-friendly products they most desire all under one roof,” she says. “We are a triple bottom line company, contributing to a better world and bigger mission extending beyond business.”
After graduating from Harvard with a Ph.D in Chemistry, Becker realized developed a love for Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). The process creates an ultra-thin film with special properties like anti-reflection, electrical conductivity, and UV-blocking that can be used on items like smartphones, solar cells, and sunscreen products. With her own money, she bootstrapped Cambridge Nanotech (which she ran from home) and personally built cost-effective ALD systems to democratize the use of them. Becker’s hard work has paid off: She’s was named one of Ernst & Young’s 2010 Entrepreneurs of the Year and her company’s revenue hit upwards of $18 million in 2011.
Blippar allows users to add interactive augmented reality layers to pictures you take on your smartphone (e.g. take a picture of a poster for Kit-Kat bars and it turns into a users choice poll). Companies like Nike NKE , Unilever UL , and Mercedes — who pay to develop and activate “blipps” — have embraced the augmented reality platform and its ability to bring a 2D image to life on mobile screens. Butcher expects her invention to alter the way consumers interact with the physical world. (Blippar recently launched an interactive experience with Maybelline, inviting fans to “blipp” a press ad for a chance to virtually “try on” 40 new nail shades on their mobile device.) The company, which has offices in London and New York, has yet to announce its Series A round of funding, but it received an undisclosed amount of seed money from Qualcomm Ventures earlier this year.
Fette’s company focuses on “self-directed” IRAs, helping about 30,000 clients look into alternative investments to boost their retirement funds. The Las Vegas-based entrepreneur created Provident Trust Group to revive what she describes as a stagnant financial world. With over $3 billion in client assets, Provident Trust sales are projected to top $5 million this year. Fette tries to keep things as flexible as possible. “No matter how well thought out the concept, reality throws unforeseen curveballs,” she says. “You have to have the ability to revise and rework a concept with considerable alacrity.”
After graduating from Parson’s School of Design in 1997, Lemieux was working on surface design at home goods store Portico in New York City. She tried out several trendier, fashion-driven pieces on the floor and customers seemed to love them, inspiring her to leave and start her own company. Lemieux considers DwellStudio to be the “new economy” version of more established brands like Pottery Barn, though success did not come overnight. “I made the mistake very early on of saying yes to everything and I lost some good years of growth.” Lemieux advises, “Say yes to the opportunities that grow the business and no to the ones that are clearly a distraction.” In 2010, DwellStudio opened its first retail location in NYC’s famous ABC Home & Carpet — and in May, it cut the ribbon to its first standalone store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
Mather got her Ph.D in computer science from the University of Colorado, and then worked at the National Security Agency, Britannica.com, and eBay EBAY , before deciding to start her own security software company. While at eBay, she says she was so busy reacting to the slew of criminals attacking the site that she had little time to think about strategy. Mather founded Silver Tail Systems in 2008 to combat this problem; the company provides e-commerce, financial, and federal organizations with web session intelligence and behavioral analytics to keep them informed and protected. Her clients include companies like StubHub and ING Direct, and Silver Tail Systems now protects more than 770 million Internet users from cybercrime. Mather be constantly surround herself with tough tech problems and even tougher hackers, but she remains optimistic. Her go to saying? “Success is not measured in the quantity of your failures, but the quality of your recoveries.”
Ransom’s career began at Morgan Stanley MS , where she worked in investment banking. As round after round of layoffs began in 2001, she hoped for something better in her career and founded adventure travel company Access Trips with her partner (and Wildfire co-founder) Alain Chuard. But after finding it difficult to market a company sweepstakes on Facebook FB in 2008, the two realized the business opportunity social media presented — and Wildfire Interactive was born. (They sold Access Trips in 2010.) New Zealand-native Ransom had just graduated from Harvard Business School at Wildfire’s inception — and the economy was in serious decline. Nevertheless, Wildfire managed to grow despite the challenging times. The firm has grown to about 400 employees over the past four years and in July, Google GOOG purchased Wildfire for a reported $350 million.
The India-born Sinha received her Ph.D in psychology from Brown University in 1998, but the lab bored her; she ended up moving into software development instead. She founded user experience consulting company Uzanto in 2003, which led to Sinha’s newest venture, SlideShare, a platform that allows users to share presentations on the web. “Being an entrepreneur is hard. So many nights you go to sleep thinking about a problem that seems intractable,” she says. “But you get up the next day, refreshed, and attack the problem with renewed vigor.” Sinha’s persistence has paid off. In May, LinkedIn LNKD acquired SlideShare for about $119 million.
Alexa Von Tobel
As a trader at Morgan Stanley in 2006, Von Tobel began filling out her first 401k and realized how little she knew about personal finance. Many of her girlfriends found themselves in similar positions — and there were no resources that appealed (or helped) these young women. While at Harvard Business School in 2008, Von Tobel took a leave of absence to create a business that could address the issue. What started as a blog has become a financial tool for women. The company has raised $25 million and launched LearnVest Planning Services, which connects users with financial planners to map out anything from a simple budget to a portfolio plan, this year. Prices range from $89-$599 for the different service packages. Indeed, Von Tobel aims to democratize financial planning, so it’s accessible to all. “Having a plan for your money gives you an undeniable feeling of security; it allows you to sleep through the night and go after your dreams,” she says. “I fundamentally believe that financial planning should not be a luxury.”
After nine years as an executive at two localization firms (companies that help businesses expand overseas) — including Lionbridge Technologies — Yee founded global communications firm CSOFT International. The opportunity to “unite business with creativity and bridge ‘global’ with ‘local'” by using the skills she had acquired was an offer she couldn’t resist, Yee recalls. Today, CSOFT has 14 locations spanning the globe and revenue has increased about 20% every year since the company’s launch.