While celebrating female leaders is welcomed year-round, during the month of March, the nation celebrates the hard work and dedication of women in the workforce, both past and present. Considering there are more than nine million women-owned businesses in the United States today, this sector of entrepreneurialism is not only growing — it’s trail-blazing toward that glass ceiling. In fact, the most recent data estimates the number of lady-run businesses is growing 2.5 times faster than the national average.
With no end in sight, you might consider testing out your own entrepreneurial legs by diving into that idea you and your best friend have been talking about for ages. Before you secure the dot.com, print business cards and pour your energy into a budding business, take a page from these female best friends who have already navigated the hurdles. Not only have they managed to build successful companies, but they’ve deepened their friendships and discovered how to support one another through all of life’s ebbs and flows, professionally and personally.
Let their stories of sisterhood and triumph inspire you — and your bestie! — today:
“Focus on each other’s strengths.”
Founders: Kelsey Gilbert-Kreling, 30 and Mallory Ulaszek, 33
Company: Presence Agency, a firm helping their clients connect online and in person, through production, programming and web design. They have a special focus on non-profits, hospitality companies, small businesses and creative independents. This year, they worked with a longtime client, Pilot Light Chefs, to increase their fundraising at their annual gala by 51%.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “While it requires being emotionally honest in a way that many other jobs wouldn’t require, four years in our ‘psychic hotline’ is up and working beautifully,” Gilbert-Kreling says. “We have both found the things we like, the things we’re successful at and the ways we can help each other. It might not work for every set of friends, but sharing successes feels more fun and dividing stresses makes entrepreneurship more manageable.”
“Always have one another’s backs.”
Founders: Britni deLeon, 32 and Kasia Bednarz, 31
Company: FARE, a quick-service restaurant that offers a menu with simple, flavorful, filling dishes featuring thoughtful and transparent ingredients. They recently signed their lease and opened doors this year.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “You always have each other’s back, first and foremost. It will be harder than you ever imagined. Make sure to rely on each other’s strengths, over-communicate and remember how lucky you are to be in this with your best friend. You got this,” deLeon shares.
“Respect both your company and your friendship.”
Founders: Meghan Patke, 34 and Lisa Strangis, 31
Company: Modern Currency PR, a communications house that curates bespoke public relationships and marketing hospitality campaigns for culinary, luxury travel and lifestyle brands. Since their inception, they’ve attracted award-winning Michelin-starred chefs and unique luxury travel resorts, like Kokomo Private Island Fiji, among others. Recently, they managed the launch of dineL.A. for the Los Angeles tourism board and exceed their client expectations by providing more than 85 million media impressions and a total ad value around $965K.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “You need to balance your friendship with a new working relationship, and respect both sides of the coin so that neither relationship suffers in the long-run. It’s an exhilarating and proud feeling to own a business with your best friend, and there’s a great sense of unity and sisterhood in conquering any obstacles together,” Patke shares. “Think long and hard about the long game, and make sure you’re both equally committed to one another’s growth, success, fulfillment, and happiness, alongside that of your business. It’s like any other relationship, it needs transparency, honesty, strong communication, and a shared vision.”
“Respect one another — but have fun, too!”
Founders: Joy Fennell, 42 and Valerie Wray, 43
Company: The 125 Collection, a New York City-based candle brand that sells fun and fashion-forward soy-based products. Thanks for a bustling wholesale business, their trendy candles — featuring inspiring quotes — continue to reach more corners of the country.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “Seeing how each other’s professional strengths are contributing to the business is amazing. Not only do we get to work together, but then we can go and hang out afterward. We do disagree on some things, but it’s important to respect each other, learn from each other, work your asses off and have fun while doing it.”
“Maintain your friendship.”
Founders: Lara Crystal, 36 and Lindsay Andrews, 37
Company: Minibar Delivery, a leading U.S. marketplace that provides on-demand delivery in more than 40 U.S. cities. In addition to shipping wine from vineyards across the nation, they’re also proud that more than 50% of their staff are females.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “It’s amazing to come into work every day with someone you can trust completely. That being said, if you’re friends, and you want to stay friends, so make sure to spend time together as friends outside of the office.”
“You have to be able to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Founders: Janie Schwartz, 36 and Dina Litt, 41
Company: Local Mercato, a company that provides curated marketplaces showcasing talented artisans in fashion, accessories, food and home accents. They donate a portion of sales from each event to support an important local cause and have grown their database from zero to more than 4,000 targeted women.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “It’s a ton of fun, collaborative and exciting. You get to experience a lot of firsts together and truly share in the vision and mission of the business,” deLeon shares. “But, you have to be able to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. As partners, you will celebrate successes but even more importantly you will have to navigate failure. You will have to learn from your mistakes as partners. It’s important to be able to talk about all aspects of your business, as well as your friendship, because that’s what came first.
“Co-founding a company is like a marriage.”
Founders: Evelyn, 33 and Angela, 34
Company: Yumi, a plant-based company that sells fresh, nutrient-dense foods for newborns and babies. This quarter, they’re on track to double their subscribers since last quarter.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “Being a founder can be a lonely experience, with an inordinate amount of pressure, so I feel so lucky to have a real partner in the trenches. She jokes that she married me first and she’s so right. I talk to her more than anyone else I know — even more than Daniel,” Evelyn shares. “Co-founding a company with someone is a huge decision. There has to be tremendous trust and mutual respect. And before you make the leap, you have to make sure you’re aligned on the important stuff — like ethics and values.”
“You will get mad at one another, but that’s okay.”
Founders: Emily Taffel, 37 and Sarah Caro, 33
Company: Mugsy PR, an agency helping clients to build their brands, get noticed and showcased their personality through unique event marketing, digital campaigns, and strong media outreach. Since they were founded in 2013, they’ve been able to retain the customers they’ve had since year one – proving their strategies work.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “We balance one another’s weaknesses and we boost each other’s strengths. Since we are also friends we are able to know how to cheer one another up, how to handle each other in stressful situations, we know when a bad day calls for coffee and when it calls for tequila,” Taffel says. “You will get mad at one another. You will have days where you just don’t want to hang out, and days when she is the only person in the world you don’t want to scream at. You need to maintain a social life with other people so that you have your own separate lives, and you need to maintain a level of respect in the office, and outside the office in your friendship, to really make it work.”
“Be one another’s confidant.”
Founders: Chelsea Starr Alexander, 30 and Fallyn Smith, 34
Company: SMITH & STARR, a direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand focused on creating products that are fashionable, functional and sustainable. Two years in, they’re proud to have a strong return customer rate and high email engagement. It helps they have rave customer reviews on Amazon, too.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “Entrepreneurship can certainly be a rollercoaster ride, so it’s incredibly powerful to have someone you trust, believe in and can rally with by your side. We’ve developed an even deeper friendship through the business because we’ve learned how to tackle new challenges together,” Alexander shares. “Don’t let the day-to-day to-do’s of the business cramp your communication and passion for the project. Try and schedule check-ins that are focused on the softer stuff and ask the tough questions. Your co-founder is your confidant and partner in crime, so maintaining open and honest communication is crucial. Also, don’t forget to celebrate wins and reflect back on your accomplishments!”
“Trust is the most important.”
Founders: Stephanie Cartin, 33 and Courtney Spritzer, 30
Company: Socialfly, a full-service social media agency specializing in influencer marketing, paid media and creative services. They’ve achieved double-digit grow since they were founded in 2012, helping their time to quadruple in size.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “It takes a unique type of friendship and blend of personalities and business skill sets to make it work. We mesh in a way that allowed us to set healthy boundaries and expectations, and our ability to communicate and disagree in a healthy way has been key to our growth,” Cartin says. “Our ability to trust one another has been one of the keys to not just the success of our agency, but to our business and personal relationships as well.You must be certain you can rely on them, always. You will go through ups and downs, but confidence in the person you are weathering these storms with is everything.”
“Make sure you really, really know one another.”
Founders: Joanie Demer, 35 and Heather Wheeler, 35
Company: Krazy Coupon Lady, a U.S. media company whose aim is to make it easier to shop smarter, saving customers time and money. They aggregate coupons and pair them with great sales. Along with a team of 40, they brought in nine million in revenue last year.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “It’s literally the best. There’s a benefit to sharing a work style, a mentality and a goal set with your partner. For us, that has come naturally because we’ve known each other since college, and in many ways we grew up together,” Demer says. “If you haven’t been close for a long time, if you haven’t lived together nor have traveled together, you haven’t likely seen how you work together under stress. In our partnership, we each have different strengths. The degree to which we each contribute to the company’s success ebbs and flows. When one partner is killing it, the other may be struggling and vice versa. The secret is trust. The other secret is finding the best best-friend, but she’s taken.”
“You must set your ego aside.”
Founders: Chelle Neff, 40, Kim Pearson, 34, Hallie Spurlin, 37 and Nina Fitzgerald, 33
Company: Urban Betty, one of the largest independent hair salons in Austin, Texas, staff more than 40 women and have been featured seven times as one of the top 200 salons in the country. When they started, they grossed $170K in their first year, now they’re bringing in more than $2 million.
What it’s like working with your BFF: “It’s nice to have that support system in place. I have been all by myself and it’s a lot of pressure. Having a friend and a business partner helps to alleviate the burden of doing everything on your own,” Neff says. “You have to know how to compromise and make decisions together. You also have to be able to set your ego aside and do what’s best for the business, even if it isn’t your idea.”
More from Ladders
- This is the most insane way to be smarter, confident, and resilient
- A psychotherapist explains the 5 stages of changing your behavior
- 4 reasons fulfillment will make you a strong person
- This morning routine will make you a millionaire
- Study: Women balance supporting their partners with demanding work better than men