Business Women Tips

Women are natural-born leaders, so it’s no surprise that women have founded so many of today’s most interesting and powerful companies. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9.4 million companies are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015.

Here are 10 successful businesses that were started by inspiring female entrepreneurs:

1. Bark & Co.
Carly Strife co-founded Bark & Co. with Matt Meeker, Henrik Werdelin, who were brought together by their love of all things pups. The trio launched Bark & Co’s first product, BarkBox, with little thought as to how popular it was going to be, according to the website.

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Strife, who serves as the CEO, was also the NYC operations manager at Uber, in addition to working for management and consultation firm Deloitte before Bark & Co. According to Forbes, the company has an approximate valuation between $150 million and $200 million.

2. SlideShare
Rashmi Sinha is the female mastermind behind the popular presentation-sharing platform, SlideShare. Sinha co-founded the company with CTO Jonathan Boutelle in 2006, a year after launching another project called MindCanvas. Before launching SlideShare, Sinha was doing lab work after earning a Ph.D. in cognitive neurospychology, when she realized her passion for web technology and co-founded another company called Uzanto.

SlideShare was acquired by professional social networking giant LinkedIn in May 2013 for a reported $118.75 million and now has more than 16 million registered users.

3. Birchbox
Birchbox, one of the top monthly box-subscription services, was co-founded by two entrepreneurial women: Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna. The duo met at Harvard Business School and created their company in 2010 with the goal of improving the beauty industry and making it more customer-friendly. In 2012, Barna made Forbes’ “30 under 30” list of marketing and advertising influencers.

Initially, Birchbox was a subscription service for women looking to try new beauty product samples, but the company expanded in 2012 with the addition of Birchbox Man. As of 2014, Birchbox had more than 800,000 subscribers and was bringing in approximately $96 million a year in sales.

4. Cisco
Sandra Lerner founded what would become technology giant Cisco alongside then-husband Len Bosack, after the pair was unable to email each other from offices in different buildings while working together at Stanford University. Lerner’s desire to connect with her husband led to them designing the multi-protocol router — the platform that launched Cisco in 1984.

While she was eventually ousted from the company in 1990, Lerner reportedly walked away with $170 million from the sale of stock options. She went on to start Urban Decay, a cosmetics company, and today she’s running a certified organic and humane farm in Virginia.

5. Flickr
At age 35, Caterina Fake, who had worked as the art director for Salon.com, founded the popular photo-sharing website Flickr in 2002. The site was actually an offshoot of a game Fake was developing with Stewart Butterfield, her husband at the time. While the game quickly went bust, the photo-sharing technology they designed was a hit.

In 2005, Fake and Butterfield sold Flickr to Yahoo for a reported $35 million in cash and stock options. Fake has since co-founded the website Hunch, a site that makes recommendations based on detailed user preferences, and been named to the board of directors of the handmade online marketplace Etsy.

6. Liquid Paper
Liquid Paper was the brainchild of executive secretary Bette Nesmith Graham, who in the 1950s began using white, water-based tempera paint and a thin paintbrush to cover her typing errors. She sold her first bottle, originally called Mistake Out, in 1956. Graham later patented the must-have office product and renamed it Liquid Paper.

After starting with just 100 bottles a month in sales, Liquid Paper was selling 25 million bottles a year when Graham sold it for a reported $47.5 million in 1979. She passed away six months later at age 56. (And, yes, the rumors are true, she was the mother of Mike Nesmith of The Monkees).

7. The Body Shop
After trying her hand at running a hotel and a restaurant, Anita Roddick started The Body Shop in 1976 in England to create a livelihood for herself and her two daughters while her husband was traveling the globe. The bath-and-body-product concept caught on, and she opened a second shop within six months. She soon launched The Body Shop’s franchise program, which has opened stores all across the world.

The company went public in 1984 and in 2006, 30 years after its founding, Roddick sold The Body Shop to L’Oréal for a reported $1.4 billion. Today, there are more than 2,500 stores in 61 countries.

8. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Following a career that included teaching and horse training, Ruth Fertel mortgaged her house in 1965 to buy a little restaurant, Chris Steak House, on the corner of Broad and Ursuline in New Orleans. A fire ravaged the restaurant in 1976, forcing her to open in a new location under a new name, Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

That same year, Fertel agreed to let Tom Moran, a regular customer, open the first Ruth’s Chris franchise location. Today, there are more than 130 company and franchise-owned locations around the globe.

Fertel, who passed away in 2002 at age 75, sold her majority interest in the chain to private equity firm Madison Dearborn in 1999 for an undisclosed amount.

9. Build-A-Bear Workshop
Maxine Clark came up with the idea for Build-A-Bear Workshop after shopping with a 10-year-old who questioned why she couldn’t just make her own stuffed toy when she couldn’t find one she liked. Clark turned the idea into a business when she opened the first Build-A-Bear Workshop in St. Louis in 1997.

There are more than 400 stores worldwide have helped people create more than 100 million furry friends. Clark, who remains the company’s “Chief Executive Bear,” was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame in 2006 and named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Retailing by Chain Store Age in 2008.

10. Proactiv
Classmates studying dermatology together at Stanford University, Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields felt strongly about finding a better treatment for acne because both of them had lived with it at some time in their lives. After starting separate practices, the pair noticed the problems acne posed for people of all ages. The realization led them to start working on a new way to treat facial blemishes.

Over a five-year period, Rodan and Fields developed a comprehensive acne skin care system, Proactiv Solution, which combines acne medicine with soothing botanicals to create an acne-fighting system designed to leave skin smooth, clean and clear. The product, which has found success via 30-minute television infomercials, has become one of the top-selling acne medications in the U.S.

Tips for Creating a Secure Home Office

The ability to work from home is a prized employee perk that offers workers the chance to free themselves from the daily commute and complete their tasks from anywhere with an internet connection.

But along with that freedom and flexibility comes the risk of security issues that occur outside the protected corporate network. Even if your company provides VPN (virtual private network) access, your computer — and everything on it — could still be compromised if someone hacks into your home Wi-Fi network or the public hotspot you’re connected to.

“Making sure that sensitive documents and files remain confidential is definitely an issue remote employees need to tackle right from the outset,” said Brian Stark, general manager of North America at smanos, a smart home and DIY security systems company. “Of course, ensuring that there is a secure connection to the server is extremely important, but this is ultimately placed in the hands of the homeowner.”

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Andrew Hay, chief information security officer at DataGravity, noted that other connected devices in your home may have far fewer security controls than your work laptop, which may give cybercriminals easy access to your device.

“Home-based workers must be diligent about what types of systems are on their home network that might also provide additional attack vectors,” Hay said. “I once spoke with an NCIS agent who conducted an investigation where a naval officer’s laptop was compromised by way of infiltrating his daughter’s laptop.”

Employees, then, become at least partly responsible for the safety and integrity of their company’s information. [See Related Story: Technology and Inclusion Will Shape the Future of Remote Work]

Best practices for remote workers
How can you protect sensitive corporate data when you’re working from home? Here’s what our expert sources recommend:

Invest in antivirus software
This is the most basic, but by no means the only step you should take to secure your company’s files. Your employer may provide a recommended software for a company-issued device, but if you use your personal laptop for work, it’s important to keep your system protected.

“Since many internet providers [offer] free antivirus software, we recommend that our employees use them on their personal laptops,” said Venu Gooty, founder of MyBusinessGenie, a provider of small business software solutions.

Don’t allow family members to use your work devices
Gavin Silver, director of operations at Blue Fountain Media, reminded remote workers that the computer they do their work on is for employee use only — it’s not the family computer.

“Treat your work-issued laptop, mobile device and sensitive data as if you were sitting in a physical office location,” Hay added. “This will help you continuously associate your actions with a security-first and data-aware mentality in mind. For example, in a physical office location … your child [couldn’t] use your work-issued mobile device for games or movies. If you think of your laptop and mobile devices as work-only assets, it makes it far easier to control access to sensitive data and remain data-aware.”

Keep your physical workspace secure
While virtual security is important, it’s equally important to make sure that your home office is physically secure, said Stark.

“Home offices often contain expensive equipment or even physical files or documents that contain sensitive information, so it’s imperative to explore security options,” he told Business News Daily. “While it’s not possible for all home offices to have a scan-to-enter system or a security guard, it’s important to add whatever elements of traditional physical security you can.”

Depending on your needs, you can look into a DIY home security system like the one offered by smanos, or check out our recommendations for business-grade video surveillance systems.

Follow company policies to the letter
Your company likely has clear policies for accessing the company network outside the office. Those guidelines and rules should always be followed, but it’s especially important when you’re working remotely, said Silver.

“Report any suspicious behavior to IT immediately and follow basic ‘computer hygiene’ standards such as up-to-date operating systems, antivirus/malware and regular scanning,” he added.

Use a centralized, company-approved storage solution
Adhering to company policies also includes using only the designated programs that your employer wants you to use, even if you prefer a different program.

“This is so the IT administrator doesn’t have various security configurations that may or may not comply with the company’s security requirements,” Stark said. “[It] establishes a set standard, which is much easier for the IT officer to support remotely in the field.”

This becomes especially important when you’re dealing with file storage and backup. You should be storing all your work data in a secure location that’s both approved by and accessible to your company.

“Ensuring that sensitive data is stored and protected centrally is always a good course of action,” Hay said. “This allows central management and control of all aspects of the data, such as ownership, access, availability, security, etc., with a reduced chance of duplicate copies residing in places beyond the reach of the organization, such as on a personal laptop, mobile device or cloud environment.”

Gooty noted that his company was able to accomplish this after switching to an Office 365 subscription.

“Not only does OneDrive for Business allow us to collaborate better with one another, but it also securely saves the files in the cloud. All employees can access files on different types of devices,” he said.

Best practices for employers
If your company employs part- or full-time remote employees, Silver advised taking the following precautions to limit security risks while employees are working from home.

Require that employees use a non-stored password to connect during each session, especially for VPN access.
Enforce reasonable session time-outs for sensitive programs or applications. A user should not have to reconnect after walking to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee, but at the same time you cannot trust everyone to always log out for the day.
Limit program/file access to only the areas absolutely needed by that employee.
Reserve the right to terminate employee access at any moment.
Provide services for remote file storage and other tasks; don’t rely on individuals to use their personal programs and accounts.
“Users will always take the easiest method when it comes to technology, and you can’t always enforce what software people use when they are remote, so it is better to give them the best software in the first place,” Silver added.

Above all, Hay reminded employers to outline policies, procedures and guidelines for workers who use company resources outside the office.

“This includes, but is not limited to access to corporate data, acceptable use of websites, approved applications, etc.,” he said. “The best thing an employee can do is ensure that they adhere to the guidance.”