Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs alumnae: Where are they now?
For each of the past six years Fortune has welcomed a new generation of 10 entrepreneurs into its community of Most Powerful Women. Choose the buzzword—groundbreaking, innovative, game changing: These business leaders define it. On the fifth anniversary of the first MPW Entrepreneurs list, Fortune caught up with some of the e-commerce gurus, nonprofit founders, and mathematicians—to name a few—who have captured this honor while on their quest to create the next great company; and as all great entrepreneurs do, some have struggled to build on their success. Here’s what they’ve learned.
Sama Group, founder and CEO
Class of 2013
In 2008, Janah founded Samasource, a nonprofit that outsources digital jobs to workers overseas. Seeing an opportunity to provide jobs in the U.S., Janah approached her board with plans for an expansion. Disagreements resulted in three board members leaving. “I felt so strongly that we had to do something in the U.S.,” Janah says. In 2013 Sama launched SamaUSA, a program that teaches digital skills to low-income workers. So far it has conducted eight 10-week training sessions in California, Arkansas, and New York. Students earned $2,000 on average in supplemental income through digital work—$800 more than the original goal. “Speaking my truth” paid off, Janah says.
Susan Gregg Koger
ModCloth, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer
Class of 2010
A clothing retailer can distinguish itself aesthetically, but it can also appeal to consumers emotionally, Koger says. Connecting with more than customers’ pocketbooks helped the vintage-inspired e-retailer surpass $100 million in revenue in 2012 (the last time it disclosed its finances), up from $15.6 million in 2009. ModCloth has increased its engagement by offering more plus sizes and launching an app that now accounts for half of all consumer traffic. But that expansion has hit a speed bump: In July the company was forced to lay off 70 employees, just under 15% of ModCloth’s workforce. “For any business that’s grown as fast as we have, it’s not uncommon to restructure,” she says.
Vosges Haut-Chocolat, founder and CEO
Class of 2011
Markoff aims for her chocolate empire to grow from $31 million projected revenue in 2014 to $100 million in the next three to four years. How will Vosges reach nine-figure territory? With its cheaper Wild Ophelia chocolate brand, tours of its Chicago headquarters—complete with “chocolate meditations”—and a hot cacao elixir that Markoff says will challenge the coffee market. Its Ophelia line—intended to target millennials—was launched in Whole Foods and Walgreens, but it has already missed its sales target. Markoff learned the hard way that millennials don’t buy gourmet chocolate at drugstores. So Vosges is “correcting that mistake,” she says, and moving out of Walgreens.
Daytner Construction Group, owner
Class of 2010
Daytner’s Maryland-based construction management company was in the limelight four years ago when President Obama, at the Most Powerful Women Summit, lauded her for building a startup while managing a family with six kids. But it hasn’t been easy. Last year she lost some big contracts, and revenue dropped from $20 million to $7 million, forcing her to lay off the majority of her employees. Now Daytner plans to specialize in work for public utilities whose infrastructure needs updating. “It’s almost like it took 11 years of business to develop a niche,” she says.
LogiCore, president and CEO
Class of 2011
When Bouldin was named an MPWE, her then-nine-year-old tech logistics company was at $24 million in revenue. Last year LogiCore brought in $35 million. That growth is attributable in part to winning bigtime contracts. LogiCore now oversees all personnel records for the Navy—a new customer—and handles logistics for the Army’s aircraft survivability program, which aims to prevent troop deaths. “I started this as a single mom as a way to manage my time,” Bouldin says. “Turns out I have a real knack for entrepreneurship.”
Sheila Lirio Marcelo
Care.com, founder, Chairwoman, and CEO
Class of 2009
Marcelo’s online directory helps people find housekeepers and caregivers for children, seniors, and pets. She took the company public in January 2014 with an IPO that raised $91 million. Though shares closed at $24.30 on the first day of trading, they were selling below $9 in early September. Still, Marcelo expects Care.com to turn a profit in two to three years, since specialized caregiving is a growth industry, she says. Many women can’t maintain busy work schedules without a caregiver, while many others seek caregiving jobs.
The Honest Company, co-founder
Class of 2012
Since 2012, Alba’s eco-friendly baby-and home-products company has raised $122 million. Its latest round of $70 million valued the company at nearly $1 billion. By Alba’s measure, though, the accomplishment that means the most is the positive effects of Honest products. She cites as examples the detergent that relieved a 5-year-old’s eczema and the diapers that cured twins’ rashes. Soon Honest Company’s product line will expand. The company is moving into beauty, she says, because customers are asking for it. Honest’s “direct-to-customer model,” says Alba, gives it “an authentic relationship with consumers.”
DwellStudio, founder and Creative Director;
Wayfair.com, Executive Creative Director
Class of 2012
After 13 years in business with DwellStudio, Lemieux knew her biggest weaknesses were logistics and infrastructure—precisely what her design retail company needed to grow beyond $22 million in revenue. In late 2012 she hired an investment bank to approach 10 possible acquirers. In August 2013, DwellStudio was bought for an undisclosed sum by furniture e-retailer Wayfair.com, which filed for an IPO this past summer. Its CEO, Niraj Shah, is analytical and data-driven, says Lemieux: “If I’m going to have a boss, it might as well be someone who makes up for my shortcomings.”
Lauren Bush Lauren
FEED Projects, CEO,
Creative Director, and co-Founder
Class of 2009
When she first appeared on Fortune’s MPW Entrepreneurs list, Bush Lauren’s long-term goal was to establish sustainable-product partnerships for FEED Projects, which donates money from sales of its burlap tote bags to the World Food Programme. Since then, FEED has partnered with companies like Gap, Disney, and Target, and has provided nearly 84 million meals to date. Bush Lauren (who is the niece of former President George W. Bush and the wife of David Lauren, Ralph’s son) is collaborating with home goods retailer West Elm this coming holiday season.
LMT, founder, president, and CEO
Class of 2009
What’s harder than running a company that predicts the location of IEDs? Placing employees in war zones to do that job even better. In 2011 government contractor LMT started embedding its data analysts in war zones alongside U.S. troops. That meant Hay had to learn to navigate business overseas, medically screen employees before they deployed, and plan for how to evacuate them whenever necessary. For Hay, facing her “most difficult” challenge was worth it. She anticipates $50 million in revenue this year, up from $40 million in 2013.
This story is from the October 6, 2014 issue of Fortune.