Katie Beal Brown
Lone River Beverage Co.
For building a brand to sell.
When the New York City ad agency where Katie Beal Brown worked hosted an incubator program, Brown submitted an idea for a spiked seltzer with the branding of her ranch life back home in Texas. The idea took off, and Brown quit her job in January 2020 to pursue her new company Lone River Beverage Co., which sells her Ranch Water seltzers in flavors including jalapeño and grapefruit juice.
When Midland, Texas-based Lone River hit shelves near the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, every part of the new company's supply chain was disrupted. A spike in demand for alcohol led to a whole different set of supply challenges as well--specifically, a global aluminum shortage. "We basically were talking to every aluminum can supplier in the country, just to get whatever we could take because we knew how critical the growth was for us in the first year," Brown says. The team’s efforts paid off when international alcohol giant Diageo acquired the brand within one year of its launch.--Anna Meyer
For helping women return to the workforce.
Since co-founding the New York City-based social media marketing agency Socialfly in 2011, Courtney Spritzer and Stephanie Cartin have taken on an additional cause: helping women entrepreneurs. Among their efforts is the Entreprenista podcast, where they interview other women founders about how to succeed.
After the pandemic hit, the pair launched a membership program for women business owners. "When we were seeing the stats around the end of last year that most of the people leaving the workforce were women, it really opened our eyes and we wanted to do as much as possible to help these women," Spritzer says. Through the membership program, they provide resources to help women run their businesses while also managing the day-to-day of their home life—helping to remedy a key issue that has caused women to leave the workforce.--Anna Meyer
For spotting--and filling--a lucrative gap in the pet market.
When Parisa Fowles-Pazdro adopted a French bulldog, she found she had to choose between spending a few dollars on cheap pet accessories or thousands on designer ones. But what about something in between? With that question in mind, she founded Maxbone in 2017 to sell affordable luxury items including dog clothing, toys, freeze-dried food, carriers, and more. Boosted by an increase in dog adoptions during the pandemic, in the past year, the Los Angeles-based company grew sales 300 percent year-over-year and attracted more than 8,000 new customers.
Collaborating with well-known brands, including Disney and Away, Fowles-Pazdro looks back at the year with pride knowing she's serving shoppers who have been ignored in the past. "There are a lot of people who are grateful that we are making good quality food for their dogs,” she says. “And we’re educating customers about why they should have a certain approach to their dogs—and why they're like family members.”--Anna Meyer
Lora Haddock DiCarlo
For fighting gender bias in tech--and building a fast-growing business in the process.
After a decadelong career in health care, Lora DiCarlo went deep into researching sexual anatomy and in 2017 developed a sex toy in partnership with Oregon State University's Robotics & Engineering Lab. She and her team won an innovation award in robotics at the Consumer Electronics Show, but it was taken away a month later—prompting DiCarlo to launch a worldwide awareness campaign about gender bias in tech. The attention brought in a celebrity co-owner, actress and model Cara Delevingne, who had been a longtime fan of the sex-positive mission.
DiCarlo’s eponymous company launched its first product in January 2020, and within its first year went on to create 11 more products sold in 37 countries, generating $7.5 million in revenue. "As a founder, you have to look like you know what you're doing," DiCarlo says of the whirlwind year and the awareness campaign. "At the time, I would ask myself on a daily basis, 'This is scary. Do I really want to do this? Well, if you didn't do it, would that be respectful, and conducive to empowerment or integrity?' And the answer is, no. Better keep going."--Anna Meyer
For building a brand that hit its stride when things got tough.
Missing the excitement of running a fashion business after selling the Kate Spade brand, in 2016 Elyce Arons, Kate Spade, and Spade’s husband, Andy, launched Frances Valentine, another clothing and accessory company focused on bright colors and fun patterns. After Kate Spade’s tragic death in 2018, Arons was determined to carry the brand to greater heights in her honor.
During the pandemic, Frances Valentine’s sales have doubled, which Arons attributes to new marketing techniques. "It was challenging at first--scheduling our photo shoots to keep everybody safe, getting tested the day before to make sure the models are OK, finding interesting places so you don’t have to shoot in a studio all the time,” she says. “But the biggest challenge was really the first month of Covid, worrying about being able to keep everyone working and not having to furlough people. And I’m so happy that we didn’t have to do that.” In addition to business successes during the pandemic, Frances Valentine has donated more than 6,000 tote bags to the nurses and doctors on the frontlines.--Anna Meyer