International Women’s Day: 9 female leaders making moves in the West

In March we wear green, make brackets and count down the days until spring can officially begin. And most importantly, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the history and the feats of women who continue to radically challenge gender biases and disparities, unapologetically and with passion.

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One fascinating sector is female entrepreneurism, which continues to grow across all industries, ethnicities and age groups. It’s estimated 849 new businesses are started by women every single day in the United States. And over the past two decades, female-owned firms have grown by an impressive 114%. Even with this hopeful numbers, women only take home a small portion of the seed money available, regardless of the fact they’re more likely to turn a revenue than their male counterparts.

To celebrate International Women’s Day and the brave and smart ladies who went out on a whim to be their own #girlboss — we’re excited to announce and present the female entrepreneurs to watch in every state (and Washington D.C.) from New York to West Virginia to Ohio to Texas to California. These powerhouses are fashion designers, master chefs, marketing leaders, philanthropic badasses — and so much more.

We’ve divided our list of the 52 female leaders making moves in the United States into five geographical regions. This article will feature women from the West.

Get inspired — and make sure you follow-up with these women. They’re just getting started:

Alaska: Amber McDonald, founder of Indemnis

Founded in 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska

Why the company is cool: While drones are gaining popularity worldwide, there are plenty of risks they pose to the environment — and to passerby. After all, when a 20-pound object falls out of the sky, it can hurt — or kill — someone. This has prompted the Civil Aviation Authority to prohibited commercial flight operations over people in urban environments. To date, Indemnis is the only company to prove and validate the functionality of a parachute recovery system, making it compliant with the new international standards for drones.

Where the idea came from: Six founders came together from the film industry where they were operating drones, including McDonald. They knew technology fails and wanted to create a safer solution to protect people — and equipment.

How it’s growing: Considering they have met vital safety standards and changed the way the country experiences drone operations, it’s safe to say their operation in Alaska is well on its way to being an expected part of drone operation in the years to come.

How she became successful: She gives credit to her team: “It is hard to put on paper the passion and dedication of our team. We have developed a system that works, we have pushed the regulation, we are changing the landscape of drone operation but none of that would have been possible without the people behind the scenes.”

What’s next: They successful released the capital needed to continue development—and have hopes to expand vastly in 2019.

California: Crista Luedtke, founder of Boon hotel + spa, boon eat + drink, El Barrio Bar

Founded in 2008 in Guerneville, Sonoma County, California

Why the company is cool: Take a scroll through Instagram and you’ll be (happily) bombarded by wanderlust. Travel has never been as accessible as it is now, and more and more companies are taking note of the market opportunity. One smart entrepreneur who came in and made her place in the space is Luedtke who founded a hospitality company that creates affordable and unique experiences for global travels. She’s opened many properties in the past decade, including boon hotel + spa, boon eat + drink, Big Bottom Market and El Barrio Bar, all with a focus on elevated design details, approachable pricing, locally-sourced food, and a fun atmosphere.

Where the idea came from: Like many of us, Luedtke was doing that corporate grind in San Francisco, when she decided she needed a more diverse lifestyle, inspired by her pit-bull mix rescue dog, ‘Boon’ — who is now 15 years old. Even so, she says he inspires her every day to smile, especially since his name translates to ‘gift or blessing.’ This is the feeling she hopes to give customers with all of her ventures — not only for people who visit but also for the local community, too.

How it’s growing: Since they’ve been in business, they’ve employed more than 50 people locally, they’ve increased their revenue by five times, and they were crowned the triple-grand champion on Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network.

How she became successful: Connection, above all else. “I have to say that my success comes in many forms. Time to be creative, time to be closer to nature, time with my family and friends, meeting new people and living a full life. I could not have achieved this without the amazing staff I call my family. They are the backbones of each and every one of my spaces and they help create amazing experiences for our guests. Without them, I fail and we all suffer. I have been more and more focused as I grow to share in my successes both financial and otherwise, and to reward my crew keeping them part of the dream,” she explained.

What’s next: She just signed a new lease on a space in town to make a German beer hall and eatery. “It will focus on humble and delicious German-inspired dishes, taking inspiration also from the mount of Sonoma County. My parents’ first restaurant was a German gastropub, so this is a return to my roots.”

Hawaii: Talia Tinao from Hawaii Destination Premier

Founded in 2018 Makawao, Hawaii


Why this company is cool: Planning events, trips and tours is no easy task, especially on an island. For Tinao, going above and beyond in her gorgeous, remarkable town was a feat she was ready to tackle. Unlike other destination companies, Tinao’s company caters to every whim and need, using technology and fine details to create unforgettable moments.

Where the idea came from: Along with her husband, they decided to take the DMC industry to another level, illustrating their passion for Hawaii and using their vast creativity for customized experiences. With her 15 years of work before becoming an entrepreneur, Hawaii Destination Premier has already set the competition in this area high.

How it’s growing: Though it’s still on the new-ish side, a measure of success fo Tinao is the support from clients, industry peers, and customers. With so many relationships in place, there are many aspects in motion — all of which bode well for their success. “Their customers were on board to continue working with them even though their company is brand new,” their nominee Marrisa Moyer shared.

How she became successful: Work ethic and creativity. As Moyer put it: “They take the time to truly understand their clients’ vision and then build upon that to create extraordinary lifetime memories.”

What’s next: Tapping into all of Hawaii’s corporate industries — and working on their Yelp reviews to lure travelers.

Idaho: Cassie Abel from Wild Rye

Founded in 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho

Why the company is cool: As generations start to value experiences over items, investing in quality garments that serve multi-function becomes a priority. And for those who seek out active experiences, gear that allows you to live — ahem — wildly, without worry. Abel’s appropriately-named company crafts beautiful and technical apparel for outdoor women, using natural fibers and colors. The goal is to provide staples busy, adventurous ladies will want to sport every single day.

Where the idea came from: Abel’s had a lifelong passion for skiing and mountain biking, but always struggled to find gear that actually fit her. Together with her former partner (who she recently bought out), they used their frustration to develop Wild Rye. By recognizing fit inconsistencies and unappealing styles in existing offerings, she wanted to develop a modern — yet practical — line.

How it’s growing: Wild Rye is 100% self-funded, yet has doubled in size year-over-year since they were founded. This spring, they’ll be sold in REI and, expanding their national — and international — market.

How she became successful: To put it simply: a hell of a lot of hard work. Or more to the point, years invested in the outdoor/action sports industries, building relationships and listening to women: what they want, how they receive information and where Wild Rye can fill a void. “I played lacrosse in college and that experience helped me to understand the power of teamwork: the importance surrounding yourself with the best people and being a respectful, compassionate leader,” she shared.

What’s next: More of what they’ve been doing — with success — but on a larger scale. This includes supporting women’s events and organizations in the outdoor space, working with wholesale partners and introducing a broader size range to be more inclusive.

Montana: Sarah Dusek from Under Canvas

Founded in 2009 in Bozeman, Montana

Why the company is cool: Waking up underneath a tapestry of stars, hearing nothing but the earth waking up — camping has long been a beloved experience for Mother Nature lovers. But, no everyone is A-OK with the grime that it sometimes brings, prompting a new trend in the Millennial generation: glamping. One of those who pulls off this elevated, glam experience best is Under Canvas, offering an immersive escape connecting travel and nature. Each luxury campsite includes safari-inspired canvas lodging tents, Casper mattresses, high-thread linens, and a wood burning stove. Basically the opposite of roughing it, you can opt-in to many experiences, including white water rafting in Yellowstone, Llama trekking through Glacier, fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains — and much more.

Where the idea came from: Duske has always loved the great outdoors — and she wanted to make sure everyone has the same accessibility to our planet. In addition to a twist on hospitality, she also wanted to increase environmental awareness and conservation, and with glamping on the upswing, she decided to elevate the industry.

How it’s growing: Though a number not disclosed, they recently announced an affiliation with KSL Capital Partners, LLC (KSL), noting they had made a substantial investment in the company.

How she became successful: Attention to detail. Alongside her husband, Dusek guides every aspect and development of future camps in some of America’s most beautiful places. This major job description requires her to be on her toes and limber, something that camping teaches us all. Her success hasn’t gone unnoticed, considering Under Canvas was part of INCs 5000, and Dusek was named to the Entrepreneurial Winning Women list from Ernst & Young. In 2018, she also founded the American Glamping Association, hoping to bring together the industry and to set a baseline standard.

What’s next: This year — and the ones that follow — they’re hoping to expand across the country. And by 2020, they want to become a zero-waste company.

Nevada: Heather Marianna from Beauty Kitchen

Founded in 2012 in Boulder City, Nevada

Why the company is cool: The clean beauty market is one that continues to expand, as more and more consumers become aware of the damaging, harsh effects of chemicals. One line that’s becoming a household name with a cult following is Beauty Kitchen, who makes vegan, paraben-free pampering products. From collagen eye gel pads and red wine lip masks to sheet masks, bath bombs and scrubs, what many customers love is the vibrant smells, trusted ingredients — and fun social presence.

Where the idea came from: When Marianna realized she could cause common beauty or skin issues with things she already had at home, she did what most Millennials do: she posted about it online. Her videos struck a chord with many people worldwide, especially since in just a few months, each clip average more than three million views. Seeing the need for this formula, she launched her line — and created an empire.

How it’s growing: Who loves the brand? Lots of people — and a few uber-famous ones you’ll probably recognize, including Christina Milian, Dascha Polanco. Lisa Vanderpump and Viola Davis. Because of this, her products have been gifted at many award shows, including the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Oscars and the Grammys. She opened a new retail location at the end of last year and was joined by Gina Kirschenheiter and Emily Simpson. Sales — as you might expect in a million-dollar business venture — remain steady.

How she became successful: Work. And by that, we mean 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week — all while being there for her staff, celebrities, influencers, journalists and beyond. Those who know her best say she’s always forward thinking and strategizing how to take her brand to the next level. Considering she owns two factories, a showroom, an online shopping portal, and a retail store — it’s safe to say she’s doing it all. And then some.

What’s next: She’s opening up another retail store this year. And she’s working with a few celebrities to develop their all-natural clean skincare lines, too.

Oregon: Victoria Venturi from Paper Epiphanies

Founded in 2014 in Portland, Oregon

Why the company is cool: There are some moments when you need a card to send the right message — but for no special occasion. Maybe your best friend is going on maternity leave and she’s worried about her career. Or your sister is struggling to build confidence after a breakup. Here’s when an empowering few lines can make a difference — and when you should browse around Paper Epiphanies website. This greeting card and lifestyle goods company empowers women with cards for new mothers, casual romances and beyond, creating authentic products that reflect the lives we actually live. They also donate a portion of their process to Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation.

Where the idea came from: Venturi is a stand-up comedian turned corporate publicist, and she kept many notebooks full of ideas. These one-liners and phrases made it easy to turn her authentic card company into a reality, but the inspiration to begin was somber. After her father passed away from Leukemia in just 60 days, she realized life was too short to not act on her dream — and founded her company.

How it’s growing: It started in a one-bedroom studio and has now scaled to become a well-known brand that’s sold in more than 900 stores across the globe. For the last three years, it’s experienced 100% year-over-year growth—and is on track to hit 200% in 2019.

How she became successful: She prioritizes purpose. “We let that ‘why’ carry us every day. It informs the choices we make and the products we create. Our mission to tell more real-life stories and shine a light on funny, scary and hard situations in life has resonated with buyers. We have a distinct voice in a saturated industry and that voice continues to rise to the top. In keeping with our ‘why’, we have often relied on networking and the support of other women to get us where we are today. Some of our biggest wins have been the result of other women, often times entrepreneurs, raising their hand on our behalf,” she shared.

What’s next: New nationwide retail partners, new collaborations with female artists — and launching a brick and mortar flagship store.

Washington: Amy Nelson from The Riveter

Founded in 2017 in Seattle, Washington

Why the company is cool: If you haven’t heard of this company — get ready. With a badass name and even stronger mission, The Riveter is a national network of community and coworking spaces, built by women for everyone. As Nelson puts it, they see a world in which equity of opportunity in work and business is not a promise but is a reality. Because of this concept, they build their spaces, programming, and events to provide females access to everything they need to accelerate their business and professional lives.

Where the idea came from: After graduating from Emory University and the NYU School of Law, Nelson practiced corporate litigation for more than a decade in New York City and Seattle, and even served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee. It was while she built her career that she noticed how different professional growth looked for men and women — especially mothers. This led her to launch The Riveter when she was pregnant with her third daughter, hoping to promote the belief that everyone deserves the same opportunity to thrive.

How it’s growing: They’ve raised more than $20 million in venture capital funds and have five locations open: three in Seattle and two in Los Angeles. They also have 2,000 members.

How she became successful: Team-focused mindset. “Success happens when The Riveter members are successful. The Riveter community is built by each connection, workshop, event, and meeting with our members. Watching them succeed — whether it’s getting their first VC check or hiring new people — is a key benchmark of success for us,” she shares.

What’s next: They’re going nationwide in 2019. New communities are set to launch in Austin, Dallas, Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Atlanta — with a few more cities yet to be named.

Wyoming: Maya Crothers from CIRCCELL Skincare

Founded in 2013 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Why the company is cool: With many women choosing an active lifestyle that doesn’t just include work and family, but friend-time, workout classes, travel, and experiences — skincare doesn’t need to be a concern. That’s why Crothers developed her own line to make her hectic life more seamless, all with the hope of helping women go from the streets of New York City to the mountains of Jackson Hole — or whatever route they take — with ease.

Where the idea came from: Crothers calls herself a skincare junkie, and though she had plenty of so-called luxury items, nothing worked in the harsh weather conditions of Jackson Hole. And even more importantly: no product could offer her clean options she not only preferred but was passionate about. She put all of that frustration and her engineer mind to work to produce CIRCCELL, dedicated to performance and dermatologist-grade ingredients. Combining clays, essential oils, herbal extracts, and marine-based elements, the result is natural but effective.

How it’s growing: In six years, they’ve increased their distribution and entered into the luxury space of mega-retailer Neiman Marcus. A-listers also fawn over the products including recording artist Jhene Aiko.

How she became successful: Listening and hustling.”Hard work and recognizing my real passion which was helping women find skincare that actually worked alongside their busy lifestyle. Taking the insight from my earlier career life in corporate America combined with learning along the way. There is a lot of falling down and getting back up when you launch a business, but that is how you learn and grow,” she shared.

What’s next: New packaging and a new product launch by the end of 2019.

— — —

Click below to read more from our series celebrating female leaders in the United States:

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the female leaders making moves in the Northeast

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the female leaders making moves in the Southeast

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the female leaders making moves in the Midwest

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the female leaders making moves in the Southwest

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