Founder Profile

Madonna Badger

Badger & Winters

For rooting out sexism in the ad industry.

When Madonna Badger started working in advertising, there weren’t many women executives to look up to. So she became one. She left Calvin Klein to start her own firm in New York City in 1994, which, “just like any other company, went through peaks and valleys and changes,” she says, but landed clients like Vera Wang, Shiseido, and Procter & Gamble. Then, on Christmas morning 2011, Badger’s parents and three young daughters died in a fire at her Connecticut home. “After that, I really wanted to live, and be, and use my talent with a purpose,” she says. In 2016, her agency launched #WomenNotObjects, a campaign to end the objectification of women in advertising, and successfully petitioned the Cannes Lions to reject ads that objectified women. Badger & Winters went on to create more campaigns with a social-impact focus, including one for Olay, featuring gymnast Aly Raisman, that aired during the Tokyo Olympics and a Dick’s Sporting Goods ad spotlighting the company’s female leaders. The business is growing at a rapid clip, Badger says, and keeps getting more diverse: Its staff is now 56 percent BIPOC, while senior leadership is half BIPOC and two-thirds female. Badger’s next goal is to create more campaigns for companies outside beauty and fashion, like automakers, cruise lines, and real estate. “The key to our future growth is going to be working with some of these other industries that are starting to turn the lights on as well,” she says. “They need to up their game in terms of diversity and inclusion, and they're going to need agencies like mine that know how to do that.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
New York, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Gina Bartasi

Kindbody

For making fertility services more accessible.

When you’re a serial entrepreneur, Gina Bartasi says, you learn to listen to your customers. “They have the answers about what business you should be starting, and what business is needed to serve their pain points.” Bartasi found those pain points in health care, and specifically in fertility, where costs keep rising while patient experiences and outcomes worsen. Her previous company, Progyny, which offers a fertility benefits management solution for employers, went public in 2019 at a $1.3 billion valuation. She launched her fifth startup, New York City-based Kindbody, in 2018, to take fertility benefits a step further--by letting employers purchase services directly from doctors. Kindbody operates its own clinics, including some on-site at workplaces, and plans to expand into 12 new markets in 2022. It also has 300 partner clinics around the country that meet its standards for patient-focused care, higher-than-average success rates, and competitive, transparent pricing. It reduces the cost of care by automating scheduling and other administrative work. The fertility industry has boomed during the pandemic, Bartasi says, with more single parents, same-sex couples, and newlyweds deciding to have children. Kindbody has raised $125 million in venture capital, most recently in a $62 million Series C round in June that included investments from Gabrielle Union, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Hannah Bronfman. All of Kindbody’s physicians are women, and half are BIPOC, Bartasi says, noting that studies suggest Black women are twice as likely as White women to experience infertility. “We want to make sure that women’s health is being run by women, for women.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
New York, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Addie Swartz

reacHIRE

For supporting women who want to re-enter the workforce.

Addie Swartz was on a break after starting her second company, a book series and brand for preteens called The Beacon Street Girls, when she was in a car crash that left her daughter with a serious concussion. “When I was taking care of her, which sidelined me, I saw all these women who were sidelined,” she says. So in 2013, she founded reacHIRE, which works with employers to create “returnship” programs for women who are re-entering the workforce after a break. With clients including T-Mobile, Wayfair, and Fidelity, the Concord, Massachusetts-based company brings women back to work in cohorts and trains them for jobs that might not even have existed in the first stage of their careers. In February 2020, it created Aurora, a platform to help companies build a bench of early-career female talent through leadership development. “The original vision was that the return-to-work business would replenish talent into the pipeline for companies, and that the Aurora platform would grow the early-career women into emerging leaders and managers,” says Swartz. But then the pandemic hit. Schools and daycare centers closed, and without the support they needed to stay at their jobs, women left the workforce in droves. Swartz moved quickly to bring them into the fold. “A crisis forces you to reorganize and reprioritize,” she says. “You could sit and be upset and frustrated, or you could say, wait a minute--what is happening, how are we addressing it, and how are we going to move to the needs that are here now?” ReacHIRE expanded the Aurora platform to include tracks for midcareer women, women of color, and women having children.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Concord, Massachusetts
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Lee Mayer

Havenly

For making it easier to redesign your home.

Over the last year, while the world was in lockdown, one thing became apparent: Many of us realized our homes were not designed to spend so much time inside of them. “During the pandemic, all of those projects that we've been putting off have become important now that our homes have become more front and center in our lives," says Lee Mayer, CEO, and founder of Havenly, an online interior design service, which saw an incredible surge in business in the past year. "There was an opportunity to provide a service for individuals--as they think about buying or redecorating their home--to help them design the home that they love, that matches their needs within their budget.” Mayer started Havenly in 2014 after she attempted to redecorate her home and felt incredibly overwhelmed by an overabundance of information--and couldn’t afford an interior designer. Havenly designs thousands of rooms per year, and its affordable e-commerce platform is connected to hundreds of retailers so clients can make direct purchases.--Teneshia Carr

Company Information
Location
Denver, Colorado
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene

PopCom

For giving retailers a smarter, touchless way to sell

"Covid was both a blessing and a curse for Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, founder and CEO of PopCom. She founded the company back in 2017CK on the notion that vending machines and kiosks ought to be able to give retailers a clearer picture of their customers' buying habits. So her company's automated pop-up shops give companies the ability to monitor inventory, track customer conversion rates, and even analyze a person's emotions as they browse through products--all without involving a sales person. When Covid hit and retailers needed to find a way to keep selling without putting employees or customers at risk, PopCom's kiosks gained new appeal. "Vending machines were deemed 'essential businesses' around the world as retailers scrambled for touchless retail and contactless delivery solutions," Dickson-Akpoghene says. "We signed up a lot of new customers in 2020 and beginning of 2021."

The problem? PopCom's machines were manufactured in China prior to the pandemic and so the company's supply chain shut down. "I lived in Hong Kong and spent years developing a relationship with a great manufacturing partner. Literally in a month everything we worked on was uncertain. I had to act immediately to save my company," she says.

PopCom moved manufacturing to Connecticut, a costly but essential move. While the making of the machines came to a standstill, the company focused on building up its list of venue partnerships. Pre-Covid, PopCom projected revenue for 2021 at $5.5 million; the reality will be more like $1 millionCK because of the delays. "But on the flip side, we now have a whole pipeline of customers ready to work with us and now the market is ready," Dickson-Akpoghene says.

This year, PopCom, which has raised $4.5 million in funding to date mostly through equity crowdfunding, is pressing into highly regulated markets like alcohol and cannabis. The company signed a major global wine seller as a customer and will plant its kiosks soon in entertainment venues. As Dickson-Akpoghene reflects on what the company has gone through, the takeaway for her is clear: "You have to be OK completely changing everything you know as long as your goal is met."

Company Information
Year Founded
2017
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Industry
Business products and services
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

"Covid was both a blessing and a curse for Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, founder and CEO of PopCom. She founded the company back in 2017CK on the notion that vending machines and kiosks ought to be able to give retailers a clearer picture of their customers' buying habits. So her company's automated pop-up shops give companies the ability to monitor inventory, track customer conversion rates, and even analyze a person's emotions as they browse through products--all without involving a sales person. When Covid hit and retailers needed to find a way to keep selling without putting employees or customers at risk, PopCom's kiosks gained new appeal. "Vending machines were deemed 'essential businesses' around the world as retailers scrambled for touchless retail and contactless delivery solutions," Dickson-Akpoghene says. "We signed up a lot of new customers in 2020 and beginning of 2021."

The problem? PopCom's machines were manufactured in China prior to the pandemic and so the company's supply chain shut down. "I lived in Hong Kong and spent years developing a relationship with a great manufacturing partner. Literally in a month everything we worked on was uncertain. I had to act immediately to save my company," she says.

PopCom moved manufacturing to Connecticut, a costly but essential move. While the making of the machines came to a standstill, the company focused on building up its list of venue partnerships. Pre-Covid, PopCom projected revenue for 2021 at $5.5 million; the reality will be more like $1 millionCK because of the delays. "But on the flip side, we now have a whole pipeline of customers ready to work with us and now the market is ready," Dickson-Akpoghene says.

This year, PopCom, which has raised $4.5 million in funding to date mostly throug

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