For staying nimble--and keeping things spicy.
During Thanksgiving weekend 2009, Jennifer Cramer and her husband needed to orchestrate a plan to make use of a recent, bulk purchase of artisan salt. At the time, if you wanted a spice or salt that was fancier than generic grocery store offerings, your only option was to go online and buy it by the pound. Or pounds. So, they decided to fill vials of salt to sell to friends and family; they also thought listing them on Amazon would be a convenient way to make them available. Providing pinches instead of pounds would become her high-growth startup--a marketplace called the Spice Lab. The orders kept coming, and Cramer adopted new products and production processes. Today, the Spice Lab’s products are processed and packed in a 125,000-square-foot facility in Pompano Beach, Florida, that includes a design department, R&D kitchen, offices, and a showroom. With six production lines, the company says it can produce more than 100,000 units per day. In 2020, when the pandemic created all kinds of supply chain issues, Cramer jumped in to fill in the gaps. “We did it all to fulfill orders that other, larger companies that can’t pivot as quickly were unable to do,” Cramer says. “We were able to get extra supplies here and there and piece things together, and we ended up garnering a lot of new business. Last year, we grossed just over $17 million. We plan on doubling it this year.”--Anna Meyer
For using the beauty business to fight for social justice.
Sarah Chung discovered that beauty can be a vehicle for social justice. As founder and CEO of Landing International, Chung runs an agency that helps indie beauty brands get discovered by larger retailers by working with them to present their products, and manage and fill orders. When multiple social justice concerns took precedence in 2020, Chung and her Los Angeles-based team wasted no time in finding ways to help underserved communities. “With the Black Lives Matter movement, we thought about how our little corner of the world could make a difference for the positive. We reached out to Black-owned brands and offered our services for free, and with the rise in Asian hate crimes, we highlighted more Asian brands. Consumers want to buy from brands that understand their needs. We’re bringing them more choices,” Chung says.--Anna Meyer
Xtreme Solutions, ShoulderUp, and Athena Technology Acquisition Corp
For opening more doors for more women.
After 22 years in the U.S. Army--much of it in cybersecurity and counter-terrorism, which was called “information security” then--Phyllis Newhouse set out to apply her Pentagon chops to the private sector. In 2002 she founded Xtreme Solutions, an IT and cybersecurity company that started in telecom before branching into industries as diverse as banking and retail--and working with military and government clients as well. While growing Xtreme to thousands of employees across 46 states, she’s also founded a womens’ empowerment organization, ShoulderUp, mentored dozens of women, and helped dozens more get involved in startup investing. For her next act, she’s aiming to get more women of color into boardrooms and onto Wall Street.--Christine Lagorio
Baked by Melissa
For coming into her own in the middle of a crisis.
In December of 2019, Melissa Ben-Ishay’s board made a decision: She would become CEO of the company that she’d founded a decade earlier. “My name was on the door and I still didn’t feel worthy!” she said. Three months later, the pandemic forced her to close the doors of all Baked By Melissa stores, which sell mini cupcakes with names such as “electric tie-dye” and “midnight munchies.” “There is no playbook for getting your company through a global pandemic,” she said. Yet she says she never lacked confidence in doing exactly that. Baked By Melissa pivoted immediately to e-commerce, treating its homepage as its flagship store and remaking the organization into a direct-to-consumer gifting company. (The closed stores were revamped to make them look more like showrooms than serving counters.) Even as retail bounces back a bit in 2021, 70 percent of Baked By Melissa’s sales are online. And while the company is confident in the gift-able nature of its online product, the pandemic has given Ben-Ishay confidence. “Now we are completely prepared to pivot, anytime, again,” she says. “We know that Baked By Melissa makes people happy during good times and bad, and it’s our greatest honor to do that through these challenging times.”--Christine Lagorio
For keeping women connected--and her company in business.
“In March of 2020 we were just 14 months old. Panic around the world set in,” said Cate Luzio, founder and chief executive of Luminary, a networking and professional-advancement hub for women and their business allies. A significant aspect of Luminary was its sweeping Manhattan work-and-meeting space. “I didn’t have the word digital in my business plan,” she said. She didn’t close the business--despite the fact that things looked bleak. Instead, the banking-industry veteran went into survival mode, as much for members as for herself. Within a week, she and her team created a digital platform for events for members. Doing so allowed Luminary to scale its events, coaching, membership, and instruction operations—the company has held 1,500 events virtually, and can now count members from 30 countries. Luzio says she’s been tested thoroughly as a leader and owner over the course of the pandemic--but she’s also seen the time alone and space to think as a gift that’s allowed her to forecast the future more clearly. “My brain is able to focus on what I have to get done today and tomorrow, but also to plan for 2022 and 2023,” she says. “Its helped me shift our plan for growth and for the future.”--Christine Lagorio
New York City-based Luminary founder and CEO Cate Luzio left her two-decade finance career at the end of 2018 to start Luminary, which differentiates itself from other female-first co-working spaces by emphasizing that membership is open to everyone (no applications; you can be an intern or a CEO), and that men are warmly welcomed in the space. “I had many male mentors,” Luzio says, “and if we're ever going to change all of the statistics we hear about [workplace inequality], we need men as part of the journey.” Since opening in a 15,000-square-foot space this January, Luminary has hosted 150 events and has grown to over 500 members, with 37 percent of members being women of color. --Anna Meyer