Founder Profile

Steph Speirs

Solstice

Through shared “solar gardens,” she’s bringing solar power to those who can’t afford or aren’t set up for their own panels.

Most Americans can’t access solar energy: They live in apartment buildings, their roof faces the wrong way, or they just can’t afford to install the equipment. With Solstice, Steph Speirs’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup, people sign up for a piece of a “community solar garden” in their area, and receive a credit on their energy bill for the power its panels generate. For the average customer, this results in a 10 percent discount, or $150 to $200 in savings per year, according to the company. Solar garden developers pay Solstice to sign up customers for them and handle billing. Solstice's revenue grew fivefold in the past year, Speirs says, and the company is planning expansion into more states. “The way we’ve gotten our electricity hasn’t changed in over a hundred years, but it will change in the next ten,” she says. “Ultimately, our obsession is: ‘how do we make this so easy and so affordable that everyone can do it?’” --Sophie Downes 

Industry
Energy
Year Founded
2016
Location
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Industry
Science Pioneers
Co-founder
Sandhya Murali
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Most Americans can’t access solar energy: They live in apartment buildings, their roof faces the wrong way, or they just can’t afford to install the equipment. With Solstice, Steph Speirs’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup, people sign up for a piece of a “community solar garden” in their area, and receive a credit on their energy bill for the power its panels generate. For the average customer, this results in a 10 percent discount, or $150 to $200 in savings per year, according to the company. Solar garden developers pay Solstice to sign up customers for them and handle billing. Solstice's revenue grew fivefold in the past year, Speirs says, and the company is planning expansion into more states. “The way we’ve gotten our electricity hasn’t changed in over a hundred years, but it will change in the next ten,” she says. “Ultimately, our obsession is: ‘how do we make this so easy and so affordable that everyone can do it?’” --Sophie Downes 

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Alex West Steinman

The Coven

Because co-working members in the middle of the country need diversity and inclusion just as much as those on the coasts.

Alex West Steinman. Courtesy subject

In 2017, Alex West Steinman teamed up with three other Minneapolis-area PR and advertising professionals to create a femme-forward co-working space with the mission to “economically empower women by providing safe, accessible space for personal and professional transformation.” After crowdfunding its first location, the Coven grew to 500 members within a year. A second location opens in December. For every five memberships purchased, the Coven gives one to a member of the community who couldn’t afford it, “prioritizing people of color, folks from the LGBTQ community, those who are differently abled, immigrants, and veterans,” it says. The broad goal for West Steinman and her team is to corner the middle of the country (“underdog cities,” as the Coven calls them). It wants to open more than 20 locations in the next five years. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Industry
DEI Advocacy
Year Founded
2017
Location
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Cofounders
Bethany Iverson, Erinn Farrell, Liz Giel
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In 2017, Alex West Steinman teamed up with three other Minneapolis-area PR and advertising professionals to create a femme-forward co-working space with the mission to “economically empower women by providing safe, accessible space for personal and professional transformation.” After crowdfunding its first location, the Coven grew to 500 members within a year. A second location opens in December. For every five memberships purchased, the Coven gives one to a member of the community who couldn’t afford it, “prioritizing people of color, folks from the LGBTQ community, those who are differently abled, immigrants, and veterans,” it says. The broad goal for West Steinman and her team is to corner the middle of the country (“underdog cities,” as the Coven calls them). It wants to open more than 20 locations in the next five years. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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Christina Stembel

Farmgirl Flowers

With a lot of pluck, she has boot-strapped her way into the male-dominated flower-delivery industry.

Christina Stembel. Courtesy subject

Christina Stembel didn’t start Farmgirl Flowers because she loved flowers. She was out to challenge an outdated, male-dominated industry. With just $49,000 of her own money, she knew she had only one shot at success. "I wanted to go big, I wanted it to get to hundreds of millions, a billion dollars,” she says. “So it needed to be a big industry. It also needed to be untapped." Flower arrangements and delivery checked those boxes. Since its founding in 2010, her online floral delivery service has grown roughly 50 percent annually, bringing in $23 million in revenue last year. Sales should reach $33 million in 2019. Now, her San Francisco-based company, which has 145 employees, is focused on national expansion. “If we wanted to be a very small regional company, we could still get it to probably $100 million,” she says. “But we're playing the long game.” --Brit Morse

Industry
Consumer Products
Year Founded
2010
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
All Things Consumer
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Christina Stembel didn’t start Farmgirl Flowers because she loved flowers. She was out to challenge an outdated, male-dominated industry. With just $49,000 of her own money, she knew she had only one shot at success. "I wanted to go big, I wanted it to get to hundreds of millions, a billion dollars,” she says. “So it needed to be a big industry. It also needed to be untapped." Flower arrangements and delivery checked those boxes. Since its founding in 2010, her online floral delivery service has grown roughly 50 percent annually, bringing in $23 million in revenue last year. Sales should reach $33 million in 2019. Now, her San Francisco-based company, which has 145 employees, is focused on national expansion. “If we wanted to be a very small regional company, we could still get it to probably $100 million,” she says. “But we're playing the long game.” --Brit Morse

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Melanie Stricklan

Slingshot Aerospace

The 20-year Air Force vet’s startup analyzes satellite images in real time for smarter disaster response.

Melanie Stricklan. Courtesy subject

When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan

Industry
IT Services
Year Founded
2016
Location
Austin, Texas
Industry
Science Pioneers
Co-founders
Thomas Ashman, David Godwin
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan

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Holly Thaggard

Supergoop!

She's leading the mission to end skin cancer with her line of sunscreens.

Holly Thaggard. Courtesy subject

After a close friend was diagnosed with melanoma, Holly Thaggard--teacher, harpist, mom--found her true calling as a sunscreen evangelist and entrepreneur. In 2009, she founded Supergoop!, which makes mineral sunscreens (in all skin tones) and other products free of harmful chemicals. But Supergoop!’s true value lies in its ultimate goal: “I've been so laser-focused on making sure everything we do ladders up to our mission, which is to stop the epidemic of skin cancer,” says Thaggard. “I don’t think I’ve taken the time to think about much else.” And yet, she’s built the brand into a shining success, with $40 million in revenue last year, retail partnerships with FAO Schwarz, Nordstrom, and Sephora, and a recently-opened New York office in addition to its San Antonio headquarters. To further that mission, Supergoop! donated 1,000 pumps of Supergoop! to schools across America last year and works on skin cancer issues with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. --Tim Crino

Industry
Consumer Products
Year Founded
2009
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Industry
All Things Consumer
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After a close friend was diagnosed with melanoma, Holly Thaggard--teacher, harpist, mom--found her true calling as a sunscreen evangelist and entrepreneur. In 2009, she founded Supergoop!, which makes mineral sunscreens (in all skin tones) and other products free of harmful chemicals. But Supergoop!’s true value lies in its ultimate goal: “I've been so laser-focused on making sure everything we do ladders up to our mission, which is to stop the epidemic of skin cancer,” says Thaggard. “I don’t think I’ve taken the time to think about much else.” And yet, she’s built the brand into a shining success, with $40 million in revenue last year, retail partnerships with FAO Schwarz, Nordstrom, and Sephora, and a recently-opened New York office in addition to its San Antonio headquarters. To further that mission, Supergoop! donated 1,000 pumps of Supergoop! to schools across America last year and works on skin cancer issues with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. --Tim Crino

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