15 Do-Good Orgs And The Amazing Women Who Started Them
A father and son get in a car crash and are rushed to the hospital. The father dies. The boy is taken to the operating room and the surgeon says, “I can’t operate on this boy, because he’s my son.”
How is this possible?
If you’re a working professional, you have recognise this question as a Gender Bias Confirmation test. 40-75% of people can’t solve this riddle because they’re unable to imagine the surgeon is a woman. The surgeon is the boy’s mother.
Why do we think like this?
As a society we praise high-earners, people in power, getting a “proper” education, climbing a ladder. But as people, we are also deeply connected to big ideas, altruism, entrepreneurship, creativity, connectivity. We are fascinated by people with big ideas who simply act and make it happen – neither of which is bound by sex or gender. Today we’re celebrating some under-celebrated individuals who have made incredible contributions to our city and to our world.
Here are 15 of our current favourite female founders, and the amazing work they do.
Caren Hartley is a trained jeweller and silversmith who moved on to metalwork and sculpture. Her enormous creativity and technical skill are now channelled through building the gorgeous bikes at Hartley Cycles in South London! These bikes are works of art in and of themselves.
Vestpod is all about empowerment and money management. Formerly in private equity and building a career in Lehman Brothers, founder Emilie Bellet also wrote a book called You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich, which was a #1 bestseller on Amazon! Through an open community, workshops, events, networking, and a weekly newsletter packed with nuggets of money-related wisdom, Bellet and her team tackle everything from savings, debt, setting goals, career, and personal finance. They’re flipping the money conversation, which is normally quite awkward, on its head, busting jargon and taboos and talking money in plain pennies and cents.
“I dream of a future where tech teams are asrepresentative of society as a London tube carriage.” – Abadesi Osunsade, founder of Hustle Crew
After seeing startups dominated by a mostly-male, mostly-white voice, Abadesi Osunsade founded Hustle Crew train and equip people from all over the UK to take a seat at the table. She’s even written a book (buy it here)! Hustle Crew members benefit from educational talks, workshops on inclusion and biases, imposter syndrome, personal brand, building confidence, growth mindset, negotiation… we could go on. The team of six has already reached over 20,000 students and professionals. The face of tech is changing, and we like what we see.
87% is an app developed by a team of psychologists to help you quantifiably measure your mental health. This caters both to individuals and businesses who want to make a more practical change to their well-being policies and care plans for employees. Through articles, videos, and podcasts 87 Percent helps you to understand and improve your mental health and overall well-being. You can also connect to immediate, human support. In creating this platform, Pljaskovova endeavoured to create a safe and confidential environment to help them feel as positive as possible, both in and outside of work.
When did sharing food become weirder than wasting it?
London’s favourite new food-sharing app was not only founded by women but – perhaps unsurprisingly – as the primary decisionmakers and cooks in most households, women make up 2/3 of their growing 2-million-person userbase. Olio reduces food waste by connecting individuals, neighbourhoods, and local shops. Globally, a third of all food produced is wasted, and in the UK, households account for half of all waste-binning over £15bn of edible food, costing families £730per year.
“Tessa and I have had a great response from the press, who embraced our story as ‘two mums on a mission to save the planet.”
– Saasha Celestial-One, OLIO Co-Founder
Live Better With offers products, stories, and community for people dealing with difficult diagnoses such as cancer or other long-term illnesses. Through patient and professional recommendations, they offer a range of products handpicked to make life a little bit more comfortable (for example, that can help with sleep deprivation, nausea, hair loss, etc). Formerly a healthcare worker, founder Tamara Rajah started the business after seeing people living with cancer and the numerous side effects for which they had no established system to cope with. Live Better With puts all those resources in one supportive and easy-to-navigate place.
Kids grow fast, and fashion is faster. Former investigative filmmaker Jane Fellner founded Loopster to crush throw-away culture without scrapping quality clothes for her kids. The site functions as an online retailer for parents to buy and sell second-hand clothes for children. Fellner was inspired to start the business after realizing the cost of fast fashion during an undercover film project in Bangladesh on child labour.
Spark Inside is an inspiring company that works with prisoners and young offenders to help them find their passion. They change prison culture by focusing on relationships and the environment and trying to establish a more rehabilitative prison environment. Founder Baillie Aaron was teaching entrepreneurship in prisons in the US over 10 years ago when she realized just how many barriers people face after leaving prison and trying to lead a normal life. She established Spark Inside to help them find their passion, and therefore reduce recidivism. The programme has since grown in prisons across London and South East England.
Spark Inside was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to reduce violence in London prisons in 2015 – one of their groups reduced reoffending by 30%. To date, they’ve worked with over 1,000 prisoners and prison officers.
Trust us, you want to see the world through Yana’s eyes. She speaks six different languges and has lived all over the world – diversity, empathy, and looking beneath the surface permeate all of her worth, whether poetry, dance, or photography. Her documentary photography projects like My Eyes See Diversity and No Bleach For Me celebrate undertold stories and people.
“Hopefully I can help people to become more open and less judgmental to those who stand out, whether it is because of their skin colour, the complexion, hair structure or style.” –Yana Binaev
When former NHS surgeon Stephanie Eltz wanted a pre-cancerous mole removed, she struggled to find a specialist who could see her quickly and at a convenient time. This is what inspired her to start Doctify, a website and app that allows patients to find, compare, and book private healthcare professionals. Imagine Airbnb, but doctors. Thanks to its founder understanding both sides of a doctor-patient relationship, Doctify makes healthcare simpler, more approachable, and easy to manage!
In 2013, 40% of all fruit and vegetable waste was due to being “ugly” or “wonky”. We throw food away purely because of cosmetics! Ilana Taub wanted to end this, so she started Snact, a business that turns these fruits and veg into healthy snacks – not only reducing waste but creating a positive social outcome as well.
Rosie Warin’s WeAreEurope campaign was established to encourage innovative cultural practices through technology, entrepreneurship, and sociopolitical developments. In an era defined by division, this is a welcome change from the status quo. WeAreEurope was actually behind the pro-EU movement that helped increase the young voter turnout to 68%.
YSYS (Your Startup, Your Story) was born out of the chronically un-diverse UK startup world. Founder Deborah Okenla, a brilliant advocate for black women in entrepreneurship, started a community of tech people, developers, creatives, founders, and investors to grow authentic diversity in startups. They partner with and boost incredible community projects like the Afrotech Fest Panel, Diversity VC, and more. According to their 2017-2018 Annual Impact Report, the YSYS community itself is an emblem of diversity: whilst 91% of them live in London, 21% were first in their families to attend university, 9% are the primary carer in their household, and 87.5% are non-white. YSYS aim to connect 100,000+ with tech opportunities by 2023.
“As a community, we have advocated for change, volunteered for diversity, mentored with integrity, supported one another selflessly and continued to build together. What started as a WhatsApp group has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined.” – Deborah Okenla, Founder and CEO of YSYS
Are ethical media platforms possible? According to PlayMob founder Jude Ower, absolutely. After a decade in the games industry, this Founder-Owner realized how games can educate, train, and create a positive influence on people. PlayMob not only allows people to fundraise and campaign for social good but teaches players about global issues and inspires them to act (check out our favourites, Self-Esteem Squad and Dumb Ways to Kill Oceans).
Your milk is off… or is it? 60% of food is thrown out in the UK, and Solveiga Pakštaitė is on a mission to change that. She designed a temperature-sensitive indicator (in cap and label forms) that check food freshness in a biologically accurate way. This not only helps us to toss less food that’s perfectly edible but makes checking freshness easier for people with sight or smell impairments.
We are so inspired by these women bringing their big ideas to life! Check out more of our Spirit of London articles to see more amazing individuals who are breathing life into our city.