Top Female CEOs of the 2012 Inc. 500
Rose Cook & Lynn Faughey, Co-FoundersLaura Yecies, CEOVivien Bohme, Co-Founder and CEO Fernanda Bohme, Co-Founder and Creative DirectorDenise Wilson, Founder and CEOKaren Moree, Co-Founder and CEOJessica Herrin, Founder and CEOKathy Mills, Founder and CEOVicky Thompson, Founder and CEOSophia Amoruso, Founder and CEOJulie Ison Haley, Co-Founder and CEO
Of the 500 companies on this list, women lead just 10% of them. But the most successful among that impressive group are in industries as diverse as consulting, private jets, and mobile cloud services. And the woman in charge of No. 3, an IT firm, has steered three-year growth of more than 21,000%. View the Gallery to find out who she is and the company she leads. --Caitlin Berens
The FlexPro Group
Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
2011 Revenue: $3.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,958%
Utilizing their past consulting and corporate experiences and capitalizing on business relationships made over the years, sisters Rose Cook and Lynn Faughey launched The FlexPro Group in 2008. The business conducts supply chain consulting for the pharmaceutical industry, helping companies manage products every step of the way from planning and design to production and delivery. Since then the identical twin sisters have brought 30 consultants on board and both siblings have learned to better delegate tasks. "I think where you really need to grow internally is being able to let go," Cook says of how their roles have evolved. "Learning to let go is a big part of allowing your company to grow."
San Mateo, Calif.
2011 Revenue: $11.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,031%
SugarSync provides mobile cloud services that give users access to data anytime on Macs, PCs, and mobile devices. Laura Yecies was brought in as CEO in 2008 to restart the company, founded in 2005. Her software and computer services career path helped her scale the team and support the increase in customers. Last year the company grew six-fold. “We enable people to be completely productive anywhere,” Yecies says, “that’s an important mission that has inspired me from the very beginning.”
2011 Revenue: $8.6 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,340%
Vivien and Fernanda Bohme started their apparel retail store for Midwestern women in 2007. With Fernanda's fashion degree and Vivien’s business skills, they went in as equal partners. Now, with 12 boutique locations in Western malls, they focus on "the most underserved markets in fashion right now," Vivien says. The sisters started the company with just a credit card and debt. "Yet we still made it," Vivien says, "and that’s what keeps us going every single day."
2011 Revenue: $5 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,751%
Denise Wilson’s company, which ranked No. 296 on 2011’s Inc. 5000 list, offers private jet travel services. Initially an airline pilot, Wilson got into corporate and business aviation post-9/11. After seeing what other businesses were doing wrong, Wilson started Desert Jet in 2007 with two other pilots. In the beginning it wasn't unusual if she flew 20 flights a week. She's since been able to cut that down to two, because she's recruited eight other pilots. "We enable our clients to do great things," Wilson says.
2011 Revenue: $4.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 4,112%
AustinCSI specializes in business optimization and program and portfolio management. Karen Moree and her co-founder utilized their industry business relationships to found AustinCSI in 2007, believing they could approach the management consulting space better. "We’ve been able to continue to work with the people we’ve been working with for years," Moree says. "They’re very successful relationships and its helped us establish a really strong business to grow from."
Stella & Dot
San Bruno, Calif.
2011 Revenue: $175.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 4,315%
Jessica Herrin’s company, which ranked No. 67 on 2010's Inc. 5000 list, sells jewelry through its commission-earning stylists. Herrin founded Stella & Dot in 2004, wanting to reinvent flexible entrepreneurship for the modern woman. The female entrepreneurs she recruits motivate her. "They are tenacious and bold and joyful and they are driven to create the lives they want for themselves," Herrin says, "and they use [Stella & Dot] as the means to get it."
2011 Revenue: $45.4 million
Three-Year Growth: 5,186%
Kathy Mills’ company, which ranked No. 608 on 2011’s Inc. 5000 list, provides voice, video, and data solutions to federal, state, and local municipalities. Mills and her seven siblings have always had strong entrepreneurial spirits. As children they all sold candy to earn money. Now, all seven own their own businesses. Mills started Strategic Communications in 1994 and focuses on hiring and empowering passionate employees. "If you’re really passionate about what you do, you’re going to be successful," Mills says.
Valuation Management Group
2011 Revenue: $34.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 6,267%
Vicky Thompson’s company, which ranked No. 22 last year, is a national commercial and residential appraisal management company. After 18 years in the finance and mortgage business, Thompson wanted a lifestyle change. So she went to school to become an appraiser, and launched Valuation Management Group in 2006 and emphasized client partnerships. "It’s really important to me to build a solid company with great employees that meet our clients’ expectations," Thompson says. "I try to hire quality people who enjoy their jobs."
2011 Revenue: $22.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 10,160%
In 2006, at 22 years old, Sophia Amoruso wasn’t happy working for a salary and wanted to do something creative, so she founded Nasty Gal, which specializes in selling new and vintage clothing, shoes, and accessories online. "I trusted my gut along the way, and I think that’s the biggest asset that anyone can bring," Amoruso says. She’s inspired by her loyal customers who helped her grow Nasty Gal from an eBay store to top-selling e-tailer.
2011 Revenue: $21.8 million
Three-Year Growth: 21,036%
Julie Ison Haley’s company specializes in IT infrastructure sales and services. With two other founders—including her husband—Haley utilized her sales and litigation background and IT relationships to create a company focused on giving businesses the biggest return on their IT spending. She founded Edge Solutions in 2008 and gives all employees time off to volunteer. “We’ve tried to build a culture of helping others here at Edge,” she says. “It leaks into everything we do.”