A Glimpse at 7 Female Founders Who are Just Getting Started.
Each is eager to take their direct selling startup to new heights by adhering to a personal vision that includes empowering others. These women and their companies are the ones to watch this year and beyond.
Ashlee Headlee & Danelle Meoli
“I truly believe we come into this world with an invincible mentality,” Ashlee Headlee said. Her four-year-old is proof positive of that, she joked. But sadly, life chips away at it.
After having worked on the corporate side for 11 years, Ashlee locked arms with a twelve year top earner, Danelle Meoli and corporate business partners to form Awakend, a female-owned, purpose-driven company aimed at helping women rediscover their innate power.
“We start to believe that we are just watching life happen to us. Our goal was to create a movement of awakening that would disrupt this false belief system,” Ashlee states. “We knew that if we could create a community that resonated with people, the power of this direct selling channel would do the rest, and that is exactly what happened.”
“Starting Awakend has been a massive undertaking and has required a new level of ‘me.’ I love taking on new challenges in life and this one has been no small feat. I have such a newfound respect for company owners and executives. I’m loving ownership, and I’m keenly aware that everything I’ve learned in business and life up until this point has been a real asset as Awakend has been birthed,” Danelle said.
A firm believer in the law of growth, Danelle said, “I dream BIG. I believe we become limitless when we stop allowing false mindsets and fear to rule. I’ve trained myself to focus on success and envision our company waking people up all over the world to help them realize that they have an immense power within.”
Aspen Emry felt called to start Bravenly Global and not in an ego-driven way. “At the end of the day, I have a huge vision for what this industry can be and should be,” she said.
“It’s part of my story and purpose. When you are in alignment and right where you are supposed to be, there is so much peace and confidence in that,” Aspen said.
Years ago, a purposeful, passionate and hopeful Aspen sat drawn to Cecelia Stoll’s grace and authenticity as a key Arbonne leader, strong wife, mother, woman of faith and powerful businesswoman. Cecelia, who didn’t sugarcoat the work of this industry, said, “I don’t mind working 40 hours a week. I just love that I get to choose which 40.”
“Once women know that they can wear more than one hat and succeed in multiple roles without being perfect at everything, it’s game on,” Aspen said.
Bravenly’s unmatched corporate team, advisors, reputable consulting firms and field leaders all bring a wealth of experience and vision and feed Aspen’s collaborative spirit. She begins each day quietly in her faith and has a passion for self-development books and podcasts. Why?
“Because I love learning and growing, and our field here at Bravenly deserves to have a CEO who never thinks she ‘has arrived’ and who strives for growth each and every day,” Aspen shared.
When Nicola Stephenson was just 26, she founded her first company. Responsible for everything, she said, “You learn very quickly as there is no other choice. But in order to be successful, you have to work incredibly hard and have an almost relentless commitment to what you are doing. You realize quickly that you have to surround yourself with brilliant people and make decisions fast when things are not working out.”
“I have loved working with women my entire career and many of the best business lessons I have received have been from women,” Nicola said of learning to navigate the male-dominated LVMH luxury brand world of her past.
Launching oHHo was her first foray into the direct selling channel. “I have noticed how critical mentorship is to the success of the organization. The leaders we work with in partnership are all fabulous mentors in their own right and even though their styles are often different, they fundamentally look to lift others up and support them in their own personal goals. Our community has given me great confidence in demonstrating how successful this channel can be when done authentically and intentionally,” Nicola said.
“Because we are a startup and resources are often stretched, there is an enormous amount of opportunity to learn and grow. Startups can be a great environment to flourish and get incredible experience without fear or barriers.”
Courtney Adeleye watched her single mother, who struggled to keep a roof over the family’s head, create a brand from scratch and launch it into retail stores nationwide. “Watching my mother at a young age do the impossible instilled resilience in me and gave me all the mentorship I needed. I knew then that I was able to do anything I put my mind to,” she said.
Courtney knows what it’s like to have an idea and wonder if it will be successful. “Empowering and developing women is part of my DNA. Mentoring women comes as natural to me as breathing.” Equipping women with the necessary tools to start and grow their own businesses is a huge part of her life now.
Staff turnover at Olbali is very low, due in part to financial investments in her corporate staff, as well as personal investments in their professional growth and development. “Over 80 percent of my previous employees currently own their own businesses. That is something I am extremely proud of because it shows the value of working under my leadership. When I work to strengthen my corporate organization, it’s not only done to benefit my company but also done to strengthen and benefit those individuals for a lifetime,” Courtney said.
Jaci leitgeb’s passion resonates with the direct selling business model. She led a successful business in this industry for over two decades. Jaci’s journey enabled her to envision leading her own company. She strives to create a company rooted in integrity and core values with Proceller8.
With a startup comes challenges: expected ones and those that blindside you. For some people, the challenges loom larger than their commitment. “I always knew the most important commitment was mine, and that I would not waver,” said Jaci.
Jaci thinks back to her grandmother’s calm, thoughtful, smart approach to life; her mother’s character and hard-working attributes, and the numerous strong women she has worked with in the past. “When you are in an environment that empowers women leaders, it becomes a part of who you are. I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the people who have shown up in my life to walk this path with me,” she states.
Proceller8 is a reflection of people dedicated to quality products, service, respect for the individual, as well as creating an environment that welcomes diversity. At the end of the day, Jaci said, “It is about the people and the legacy we’re creating together.”
According to Hanieh Sigari, impostor syndrome never completely goes away. “Self-doubt is something I’m continuously working on,” reflected Hanieh. On good days, she sees the full vision of all she wants to accomplish. Other days, she admits she can get stuck in her own head.
“I think it’s something that plagues women specifically, especially when we’re trying to balance motherhood and familial obligations with running a successful company and inspiring others to do the same,” Hanieh shared.
But the positivity, sisterhood and personal development associated with the direct selling industry gives women the room to be vulnerable—both in the consultant field and corporate. “We hire women from all over the world—women from marginalized communities or who are suffering extreme hardships like war. Our mission is to raise the glass ceiling and build women up. That means giving the same opportunities to all women—whatever their circumstances. We don’t leave a sister behind!”
Hanieh exited her last business, a multimillion-dollar logistics operation because she felt stifled in the impact she could bring to others through her work. She funded Qyral on her own because she wanted to retain control for driving impact. “I’d rather go slow but make a difference, than run fast with meaningless products that aren’t innovative,” she explained. “Our goal of helping people live longer, healthier, more meaningful lives is a journey, not a destination. But we’re building traction and momentum that tells me we’re on the right path.”
From the March 2023 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.