In recognition of Women’s History Month, Rev: Ithaca Startup Works is shining a light on the female founders throughout our ecosystem. Supporting women in entrepreneurship is imperative to ensuring the best startups scale and innovations are brought to market. Startups founded solely by women in the United States raised approximately $6.4 billion in venture capital in 2021, according to Pitchbook data. However, that marks just 2% of the $330 billion in VC dollars that were invested in U.S. startups overall.
We caught up with some of Rev’s incredible female founders and startup execs over the past month and shared their stories, along with their advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs. Read on for a roundup to learn more about the founders and what they have to say:
Andrea Ippolito, founder & CEO of baby-feeding support startup SimpliFed. Inspired by her own experiences as a new mom, Andrea is making waves in the industry and supporting thousands of parents across the country. She also serves as director of W.E. Cornell, an entrepreneurship program empowering female-identifying STEM innovators to explore the commercialization potential of their work.
“Supporting female entrepreneurs isn’t philanthropy, it is just darn good business,” Andrea says. “Many studies have shown that female founders both exit faster and return more financially. We need to do oh-so-much more to support female founders in order to support America’s economic engine. We also know that female founders tackle innovations related to women. In a time where women’s health as an example is under attack, we need more female founders redesigning care experiences to tackle modern challenges facing women.”
Linda Alvarez & Stephanie Schrauth
Their sports nutrition products are specifically made to meet the unique needs of female athletes. They’re currently manufacturing at the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech Food Venture Center Pilot Plant, and pre-orders are open on their website now.
Their advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
“Identify your values right away, both as an individual and as a company. They influence everything, from branding and marketing to customer service to operations and product development. Knowing what kind of company you want to be streamlines decision making, making some choices obvious and eliminating others,” says Schrauth. “As a female founder, you have the opportunity to create a company that doesn’t follow traditional business norms and expectations, though doing so will be an exercise in persistence and willpower.”
Chelsey Kingsley of Kingsley Quality Woodworking Inc. is making space for female woodworkers in a predominantly male industry. She said that launching the company, which she runs alongside her husband and children, allowed her to weave together work and family life so “each empowered the other.”
“My advice is to celebrate both the victories and the skills you’re building along the way,” she said. “Include the people who matter to you as you go. Take note of what you learn from those around you and how family and friends contribute to your journey and success. Become aware of what energizes you, what seduces you, what types of pressure works on you – these navigational tools will augment clarity.”
A member of the 2022-2023 Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator, Hanna Gru, founder and COO of Bifarm Tech, Bifarm Tech is creating profitable and sustainable autonomous indoor growing systems. The startup specializes in precision aeroponics with digital environment control.
“As a female founder, and particularly as a young Latina immigrant, I believe in the power of diversity to fuel innovation,” said Gru. “I am motivated and feel a sense of responsibility to help pave the way for other women and minorities in the tech industry. I work tirelessly to demonstrate through my success that an equal playing field is possible. To other women entrepreneurs: believe in yourselves! and make sure you build relationships to create a strong support system.”
Leslie Woodward of Edenesque is bringing a splash of luxury to the plant-based milk scene with her delicious, organic, and sustainable plant milks. Edenesque is one of Rev’s newest members, and was recognized as a finalist in the 2022 Grow-NY Food & Ag Competition.
“As a Black woman chef and business owner, my lived experience is deeply affected by the intersecting challenges of climate change, health, food insecurity and justice. I integrate my values into every aspect of the business, and I am using Edenesque as a tool to make an impact in our community and our environment,” she said.
“My advice for female founders: Keep moving forward. Pivot quickly. Difficult times show up to provide an opportunity for you to expand and grow, not to quit.”
Meet Rachelle McCray, CEO and co-founder of Wisely, Inc. Based out of North Carolina, Rachelle has quickly become a fixture at Rev through Wisely’s participation in both the Prototyping Hardware Accelerator and Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator.
In 2021, Rachelle decided to take the leap from her career in television to form Wisely.
“When I left the industry, I felt like I was starting over,” she said. “It has been one of the most challenging decisions of my life. But the pivot to becoming a female founder has also been one of the most empowering decisions of my life. This new journey has afforded me the ability to forge my own path, break barriers, make a meaningful impact, and enjoy the freedom to create success on my own terms.”
Her advice for aspiring female founders? “Take the leap and bet on yourself. The world needs you. Start a new journey, rewrite your story, and pursue your passion. And, do it all without feeling the need to provide an explanation or apology to anyone.”
Rachelle will be joining the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration on April 13 as a panelist to talk more about her experience as a hardware founder. Don’t miss out!
Kristina Hugar is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rev Alumni Stardom company Ecolectro. Kristina worked to invent the company’s innovative membrane technology, which furthers Ecolectro’s mission of decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors of the economy.
Kristina shared her advice for women in entrepreneurship:
“Lean into the hard parts. When you feel like no one else thinks or sees or feels what you think and see and feel, trust your instincts and dig in. This is where your impact is needed the most. And along the way, resist the urge to compete with other women. Instead, raise them up because their success is your success – we all win.”
Chief of Staff of Carbon Upcycling Technologies, Rev member company and one of Canada’s rising climate tech startups, Madison Savilow is no stranger to a challenge. Carbon Upcycling Technologies is creating carbon-sequestering cement replacements that reduce the carbon footprint of concrete.
Savilow spoke to the large number of women across the globe working tirelessly to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
“There are incredibly intelligent and brave women working in the climate sector, including as founders of climate tech companies. These women bring compassion to work every day and they continually encourage other women working on climate. A just and equitable net zero future isn’t possible without women supporting women,” she said.