Founder Profile

Jean Brownhill

Sweeten

She’s simplifying the process of finding a contractor, and closing the gender gap in construction.

Jean Brownhill. Courtesy subject

Finding a contractor is a nightmare, but Cooper Union-trained architect Jean Brownhill knows that the business isn’t broken only for its customers. “General contractors are almost as in the dark as homeowners when it comes to pricing," says Brownhill. "It is an opaque market for everyone.” That’s why, in 2011, she founded Sweeten, a tightly curated platform that helps renovators find contractors, compare prices, and track their project from start to finish. Sweeten is now in four cities and has raised $20 million. Brownhill's target for Sweeten: to serve the top 35 U.S. cities by the end of 2020. And in June she launched the Sweeten Accelerator for Women, which will, among other things, provide a peer network for female general contractors and help them find more jobs. “Three percent of the construction industry is women,” says Brownhill. "It's not that women general contractors can't get hired in this is crazy industry. It’s that male subcontractors don't want to work for them.” --Brit Morse

Industry
Construction
Year Founded
2011
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The Platform Economy
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Finding a contractor is a nightmare, but Cooper Union-trained architect Jean Brownhill knows that the business isn’t broken only for its customers. “General contractors are almost as in the dark as homeowners when it comes to pricing," says Brownhill. "It is an opaque market for everyone.” That’s why, in 2011, she founded Sweeten, a tightly curated platform that helps renovators find contractors, compare prices, and track their project from start to finish. Sweeten is now in four cities and has raised $20 million. Brownhill's target for Sweeten: to serve the top 35 U.S. cities by the end of 2020. And in June she launched the Sweeten Accelerator for Women, which will, among other things, provide a peer network for female general contractors and help them find more jobs. “Three percent of the construction industry is women,” says Brownhill. "It's not that women general contractors can't get hired in this is crazy industry. It’s that male subcontractors don't want to work for them.” --Brit Morse

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Courtney Caldwell

ShearShare

Beauty professionals use her app to find empty space in salons across the country.

Courtney Caldwell. Courtesy subject

After an independent stylist asked to rent out a chair in Courtney and Tye Caldwell’s Plano, Texas, salon, the husband-and-wife team knew they had a bead on something valuable. Soon, the Caldwells found themselves helping stylists find empty spaces in salons across the country. For three years, they handled the matchmaking themselves while also meeting the demands of their day jobs--Tye managed the salon and Courtney ran digital marketing strategy for Oracle. In 2015, they automated their side hustle with the ShearShare app. In the four years since, the Caldwells have done a stint at Y-Combinator, raised $1.1 million in funding (with another $2 million anticipated this fall), hired 11 new employees, and expanded bookings to nearly 500 cities across 11 countries. In July, ShearShare debuted a tax assistance feature for self-employed stylists. “We get the ebbs and flows of owning a small business in this industry,” Courtney says. “Our customers stand by us because of that. It’s rare.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch

Industry
Software
Year Founded
2015
Location
Dallas, Texas
Industry
The Platform Economy
Co-founder
Tye Caldwell
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After an independent stylist asked to rent out a chair in Courtney and Tye Caldwell’s Plano, Texas, salon, the husband-and-wife team knew they had a bead on something valuable. Soon, the Caldwells found themselves helping stylists find empty spaces in salons across the country. For three years, they handled the matchmaking themselves while also meeting the demands of their day jobs--Tye managed the salon and Courtney ran digital marketing strategy for Oracle. In 2015, they automated their side hustle with the ShearShare app. In the four years since, the Caldwells have done a stint at Y-Combinator, raised $1.1 million in funding (with another $2 million anticipated this fall), hired 11 new employees, and expanded bookings to nearly 500 cities across 11 countries. In July, ShearShare debuted a tax assistance feature for self-employed stylists. “We get the ebbs and flows of owning a small business in this industry,” Courtney says. “Our customers stand by us because of that. It’s rare.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch

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Nicole Carter

Diversity Photos

Her company ensures that stock-photo sites represent all the people in the world.

In 2016, Nicole Carter was spending hours on stock-photo sites, struggling to find images that would resonate with the people her marketing firm was targeting. “I decided, why not contribute to the solution?” she says. She started developing Diversity Photos with her husband, Gerald Carter, and their co-founder, Althea Lawton-Thompson, and launched the following year. The Atlanta-based company works with photographers to provide stock images that represent people of various races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, sizes, and disabilities. Carter and her co-founders are helping Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and Offset (the premium arm of Shutterstock) make their offerings more diverse. Carter declined to share a revenue figure, but she said that sales have more than doubled in the past year, and Diversity Photos is now profitable. This fall, the company plans to add more photographers to its stable, and is eyeing expansion into video content. --Sophie Downes

Industry
DEI Advocacy
Year Founded
2017
Location
Atlanta, Georgia
Industry
The Platform Economy
Co-founders
Gerald Carter, Althea Lawton-Thompson
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In 2016, Nicole Carter was spending hours on stock-photo sites, struggling to find images that would resonate with the people her marketing firm was targeting. “I decided, why not contribute to the solution?” she says. She started developing Diversity Photos with her husband, Gerald Carter, and their co-founder, Althea Lawton-Thompson, and launched the following year. The Atlanta-based company works with photographers to provide stock images that represent people of various races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, sizes, and disabilities. Carter and her co-founders are helping Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and Offset (the premium arm of Shutterstock) make their offerings more diverse. Carter declined to share a revenue figure, but she said that sales have more than doubled in the past year, and Diversity Photos is now profitable. This fall, the company plans to add more photographers to its stable, and is eyeing expansion into video content. --Sophie Downes

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Angela Ceresnie

Climb Credit

Her company's loans for professional and vocational training don’t leave students drowning in debt.

Angela Ceresnie. Courtesy subject

Americans are drowning in student debt--$1.5 trillion of it, or an average of around $34,000 per borrower. But student lender Climb Credit, which specializes in financing vocational and professional education programs, tries to keep its borrowers’ costs down and their payoff high. The typical Climb loan is just $10,000, and is paid back over an average of three years after graduation—and the startup claims that its borrowers, who might use the money for a computer coding or trucker training program, see a 67 percent increase in their salaries. “I’d never before worked at a company that was impact-oriented, where the problem we were solving was one that was really causing people to suffer ... and [where the product can] quickly take somebody from one earning bracket to another,” says CEO Angela Ceresnie, who earned her credit chops at American Express and Citigroup before co-founding fintech startup Orchard Platform. She joined Climb in 2016, two years after its launch, and became CEO in 2018. This year, she has raised $9.8 million in Series A venture capital, signed up more school partners, and started work on some new products. The most intriguing? An income-share agreement that would forgive the debt of any student who doesn’t get a job after graduation. Ceresnie says: “Every dollar that we lend out is a dollar going to someone who’s looking to better their life.” --Maria Aspan

Industry
Financial Services
Year Founded
2014
Location
New York, New York
Industry
Money Movers
Cofounders
Alexander Rafael, Raza Munir, Vishal Garg, Amit Sinha
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Americans are drowning in student debt--$1.5 trillion of it, or an average of around $34,000 per borrower. But student lender Climb Credit, which specializes in financing vocational and professional education programs, tries to keep its borrowers’ costs down and their payoff high. The typical Climb loan is just $10,000, and is paid back over an average of three years after graduation—and the startup claims that its borrowers, who might use the money for a computer coding or trucker training program, see a 67 percent increase in their salaries. “I’d never before worked at a company that was impact-oriented, where the problem we were solving was one that was really causing people to suffer ... and [where the product can] quickly take somebody from one earning bracket to another,” says CEO Angela Ceresnie, who earned her credit chops at American Express and Citigroup before co-founding fintech startup Orchard Platform. She joined Climb in 2016, two years after its launch, and became CEO in 2018. This year, she has raised $9.8 million in Series A venture capital, signed up more school partners, and started work on some new products. The most intriguing? An income-share agreement that would forgive the debt of any student who doesn’t get a job after graduation. Ceresnie says: “Every dollar that we lend out is a dollar going to someone who’s looking to better their life.” --Maria Aspan

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Carolyn Childers

Chief

Her global community for C-suite women means it’s no longer lonely at the top.

Carolyn Childers. Courtesy subject

As Carolyn Childers was climbing the ranks of her career, she realized how few mentorship and growth opportunities there were for those at the top. "I felt like women in the C-suite were spending all of our time mentoring other people and didn't really have a community for ourselves," she says. A former SVP at housecleaning-app maker Handy, she and co-founder Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief, a private network for women executives, in January. It costs up to $7,800 per year, and there are now more than 1,100 members representing more than 700 companies, including Apple, Nike, WeWork, Lyft, Amazon, Instagram, and Walmart. (There are another 7,000 would-be members on a waitlist.) Membership includes mentorship-pairing across industries, as well as access to a clubhouse, a networking app, and monthly events and workshops. --Brit Morse

Industry
Business Products & Services
Year Founded
2018
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Co-founder
Lindsay Kaplan
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

As Carolyn Childers was climbing the ranks of her career, she realized how few mentorship and growth opportunities there were for those at the top. "I felt like women in the C-suite were spending all of our time mentoring other people and didn't really have a community for ourselves," she says. A former SVP at housecleaning-app maker Handy, she and co-founder Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief, a private network for women executives, in January. It costs up to $7,800 per year, and there are now more than 1,100 members representing more than 700 companies, including Apple, Nike, WeWork, Lyft, Amazon, Instagram, and Walmart. (There are another 7,000 would-be members on a waitlist.) Membership includes mentorship-pairing across industries, as well as access to a clubhouse, a networking app, and monthly events and workshops. --Brit Morse

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