Founder Profile

Ran Ma

Siren

She makes smart socks to help patients manage chronic illness.

Many people with diabetes have nerve damage in their feet, which prevents them from feeling injuries that can become infected and lead to amputations. Siren’s flagship product, launched last year, is socks with embedded sensors that detect temperature increases, a sign of inflammation. That data is transmitted via an app on the wearer’s phone to health care providers. The socks are machine-washable and look and feel like regular socks, co-founder Ran Ma says. Patients get five new pairs every six months; insurers cover the cost, because the socks prevent even costlier medical complications. In December, the San Francisco company published peer-reviewed research on the socks’ effectiveness. “I’ve had people tell me feet aren’t sexy,” Ma says. “Diabetes isn’t sexy. The elderly are not sexy.” But she’s pushing ahead, armed with more than $10 million in funding. She adds: “My definition of sexy is creating a profitable business and saving lives.” --Sophie Downes

Industry
Health Products
Year Founded
2015
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
Fitness Nation
Co-founders
Henk Jan Scholten, Jie Fu
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Many people with diabetes have nerve damage in their feet, which prevents them from feeling injuries that can become infected and lead to amputations. Siren’s flagship product, launched last year, is socks with embedded sensors that detect temperature increases, a sign of inflammation. That data is transmitted via an app on the wearer’s phone to health care providers. The socks are machine-washable and look and feel like regular socks, co-founder Ran Ma says. Patients get five new pairs every six months; insurers cover the cost, because the socks prevent even costlier medical complications. In December, the San Francisco company published peer-reviewed research on the socks’ effectiveness. “I’ve had people tell me feet aren’t sexy,” Ma says. “Diabetes isn’t sexy. The elderly are not sexy.” But she’s pushing ahead, armed with more than $10 million in funding. She adds: “My definition of sexy is creating a profitable business and saving lives.” --Sophie Downes

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Shan-Lyn Ma

Zola

She's built the second-biggest wedding planning site in the U.S.

Shan-Lyn Ma launched Zola in 2013 with one product: a wedding registry. Four years later, after multiple customers requested it, she released a suite of free tools to help plan weddings. Couples could now use Zola to create wedding websites that managed guest lists and other details. It was a runaway hit. “I think pretty much the day we launched in 2017, it just took off,” says Ma, who leveraged that traction to close a $100 million Series D round in May 2018. In the past 12 months, Zola released three more products and became the nation’s No. 2 wedding site behind the Knot. More than a million couples have plotted matrimony on Zola. “We started to expand our vision. We want to serve couples throughout the entire wedding planning journey,” says Ma. “Everything we do fits about five or six categories, and over time we want to be that one-stop shop.” --Guadalupe Gonzalez

Industry
Consumer Services
Year Founded
2013
Location
New York, New York
Industry
All Things Consumer
Co-founder
Nobu Nakaguchi
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Shan-Lyn Ma launched Zola in 2013 with one product: a wedding registry. Four years later, after multiple customers requested it, she released a suite of free tools to help plan weddings. Couples could now use Zola to create wedding websites that managed guest lists and other details. It was a runaway hit. “I think pretty much the day we launched in 2017, it just took off,” says Ma, who leveraged that traction to close a $100 million Series D round in May 2018. In the past 12 months, Zola released three more products and became the nation’s No. 2 wedding site behind the Knot. More than a million couples have plotted matrimony on Zola. “We started to expand our vision. We want to serve couples throughout the entire wedding planning journey,” says Ma. “Everything we do fits about five or six categories, and over time we want to be that one-stop shop.” --Guadalupe Gonzalez

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Catherine Mahugu

Soko

She put the work of African artisans on the covers of American magazines.

Catherine Mahugu. Courtesy subject

Look away from Michelle Obama’s dazzling smile on the cover of December’s Essence magazine and you might notice a graceful brass ring and necklace—both from Soko. That photo “was such a validation of what we do,” says Catherine Mahugu, who co-founded the business with Gwendolyn Floyd and Ella Peinovich. After Obama’s cover, Oprah Winfrey flashed a Soko bracelet and earrings on the cover of April’s O magazine— and fashion pace-setters like Reformation, Zolando, Amour Vert, and Nordstrom’s have taken up the brand. But what’s more important to Soko’s co-founders is the income provided for the 2,300 artisans in Mahugu’s native Kenya. To advantage African workers, Mahugu also just launched Chiswara, a company trying to digitize the agricultural supply chain, first by partnering with small farmers in Kenya to sell their coffee internationally. “In the U.S., we pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but the lives of the farmers don’t reflect that,” says Mahugu, whose parents grew up on coffee farms. “We are giving farmers a seat at the table.” --Leigh Buchanan

Industry
Retail
Year Founded
2012
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
Fashion Forward
Co-founders
Gwendolyn Floyd, Ella Peinovich
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Look away from Michelle Obama’s dazzling smile on the cover of December’s Essence magazine and you might notice a graceful brass ring and necklace—both from Soko. That photo “was such a validation of what we do,” says Catherine Mahugu, who co-founded the business with Gwendolyn Floyd and Ella Peinovich. After Obama’s cover, Oprah Winfrey flashed a Soko bracelet and earrings on the cover of April’s O magazine— and fashion pace-setters like Reformation, Zolando, Amour Vert, and Nordstrom’s have taken up the brand. But what’s more important to Soko’s co-founders is the income provided for the 2,300 artisans in Mahugu’s native Kenya. To advantage African workers, Mahugu also just launched Chiswara, a company trying to digitize the agricultural supply chain, first by partnering with small farmers in Kenya to sell their coffee internationally. “In the U.S., we pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but the lives of the farmers don’t reflect that,” says Mahugu, whose parents grew up on coffee farms. “We are giving farmers a seat at the table.” --Leigh Buchanan

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Tiffany Masterson

Drunk Elephant

She just wanted her product to be effective. Now she has Sephora's fastest-growing skin care brand.

Tiffany Masterson never set out to create a cult skin care brand. She just wanted to make “something as effective as what you can find in the dermatologist’s office,” she says. After spending two years researching the ingredients commonly found in skin care products, the Houstonian singled out six that could potentially trigger issues in people’s skin. In 2012, she enlisted a chemist who used her research to whip up Drunk Elephant, a line of clinically effective products that became popular in a hurry. By 2016, Drunk Elephant was on the favorites wall of Sephora; between 2016 and 2018, Drunk Elephant quadrupled revenue to “well over” $100 million. As Masterson mulls selling the company for $1 billion, she is expanding to Hong Kong, and she also has her eyes set on the U.K. and Australia as well as the launch of “lifestyle” products. “The reason we do well is because we are who we are,” says the founder. “It’s not this bravado type of attitude with us.” --Jill Krasny

Industry
Consumer Products
Year Founded
2013
Location
Houston, Texas
Industry
All Things Consumer
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Tiffany Masterson never set out to create a cult skin care brand. She just wanted to make “something as effective as what you can find in the dermatologist’s office,” she says. After spending two years researching the ingredients commonly found in skin care products, the Houstonian singled out six that could potentially trigger issues in people’s skin. In 2012, she enlisted a chemist who used her research to whip up Drunk Elephant, a line of clinically effective products that became popular in a hurry. By 2016, Drunk Elephant was on the favorites wall of Sephora; between 2016 and 2018, Drunk Elephant quadrupled revenue to “well over” $100 million. As Masterson mulls selling the company for $1 billion, she is expanding to Hong Kong, and she also has her eyes set on the U.K. and Australia as well as the launch of “lifestyle” products. “The reason we do well is because we are who we are,” says the founder. “It’s not this bravado type of attitude with us.” --Jill Krasny

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Tamara Mellon

Tamara Mellon

This Jimmy Choo co-founder is taking luxury shoe sales direct to consumer.

Tamara Mellon is the past of footwear retail and its future. After co-founding Jimmy Choo, Mellon launched a namesake shoe line that went bankrupt. She parlayed the lessons of that bankruptcy into a leaner, direct-to-consumer brand that she’s determined will be the luxury shoe of choice. By doing its prototyping stateside while keeping production in Italy, Mellon’s namesake company has cut the typical development time on a new style from three months to one. That’s increasingly necessary as Mellon ditches the industry’s standard seasonal collections in favor of frequent, small releases. Drawing from a $91 million VC war chest, which includes backing from private equity firm NEA, Tamara Mellon opened its first store in November. It’s currently doing an impressive $3,000 per square foot--and doubling year-over-year sales. --Kimberly Weisul

Industry
Retail
Year Founded
2010
Location
West Hollywood, California
Industry
Fashion Forward
Co-founder
Jill Layfield
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Tamara Mellon is the past of footwear retail and its future. After co-founding Jimmy Choo, Mellon launched a namesake shoe line that went bankrupt. She parlayed the lessons of that bankruptcy into a leaner, direct-to-consumer brand that she’s determined will be the luxury shoe of choice. By doing its prototyping stateside while keeping production in Italy, Mellon’s namesake company has cut the typical development time on a new style from three months to one. That’s increasingly necessary as Mellon ditches the industry’s standard seasonal collections in favor of frequent, small releases. Drawing from a $91 million VC war chest, which includes backing from private equity firm NEA, Tamara Mellon opened its first store in November. It’s currently doing an impressive $3,000 per square foot--and doubling year-over-year sales. --Kimberly Weisul

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