More than 2 million. That’s the number of women who left the workforce in 2020 — largely the result of the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on working women who were forced to choose between caring for their families and continuing their careers. The difficulties of the year only highlighted the gender inequalities in the business world.
When we first launched Daring to Disrupt in collaboration with Katie Couric Media, we began with a mission to share the stories of incredible women, celebrate their successes and empower all women to move the needle for gender equity in the corporate world through an eight-part content series, shining a spotlight on female entrepreneurs challenging the status quo and transforming their industries for the better.
This first class of disruptors included fashion designer Brandice Daniel, The Mom Project’s founder Allison Robinson, mental health innovator and founder of Real Ariela Safira and pharmaceutical entrepreneur Cindy Eckert.
Inspired by these trailblazers, we were compelled to do even more to empower women in their lives and finances. So, in May 2021 we kicked off the Daring to Disrupt contest, asking entrepreneurs to send us their pitches and describe how they are empowering and supporting women for a chance to win up to $30,000. With this, we hope to jumpstart the journeys of entrepreneurs who are ready to make their mark and deliver the kind of innovative solutions and big, disruptive ideas our economy and society need.
“We created this contest to jumpstart the journeys of business-minded people who are ready to make their mark and deliver the kind of innovative solutions our economy and society need,” said Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer, Ally Financial.
We were blown away by the drive of the entrants we heard from — some who were just getting started and others who have been pushing their ideas forward and making things happen.
From there our judges, including Ally’s Brimmer, Daring to Disrupt alumnae Daniel and Eckert and award-winning journalist Katie Couric, reviewed more than 100 entries from across the country and selected the following grand prize winner, first prize winners and second prize winners:
GRAND PRIZE WINNER Paulana L., Black People Will Swim
The group’s goal is simple: Smash the stereotype that Black people don’t swim. Even though the pandemic slowed their progress, it’s still moving forward helping people F.A.C.E. their fears of swimming with an approach that incorporates Fun, Awareness, Community and Education.
FIRST PRIZE WINNER Jasmine H., Compass Coordinators
Navigating divorce and death is difficult enough — with both, you have legal paperwork on top of the emotional impact. Which is why Jasmine launched Compass Coordinators, a resource helping those experiencing divorce (or grieving the loss of a loved one) and the bureaucracy and processes that come with it.
FIRST PRIZE WINNER Ashley S., Hustle & Hope
This not-so-ordinary greeting card company doesn’t just send well wishes. Each card includes a QR code allowing the recipient to access a digital resource for the modern entrepreneur. Guides include everything from public speaking to resume updates to self-care — everything a trailblazer (like its founder, Ashley) needs to conquer the world.
SECOND PRIZE WINNERS:
Kelly S., The Car Mom
Kelly founded The Car Mom blog in 2020 to empower mothers and families to feel more confident about car shopping. Coming from a family that owns car dealerships in the St. Louis area, she wants to create a positive car buying experience for female consumers by dismantling outdated dealership stereotypes and changing the narrative of a traditionally male dominated industry.
Jasmine B., First Name Basis
Last summer, in the wake of racial reckoning, families were desperate for resources on how to have this difficult conversation with their children. The First Name Basis podcast quickly rose to the top of that list (and literally to the top of Apple downloads), standing out as a resource to “take the scary out of race conversations.”
Winona Q., Green Matters Natural Dye Company
Did you know textile production creates roughly 20% of global industrial water pollution? That’s the catastrophic environmental impact Green Matters aims to change by advocating for the use of natural dyes like iron, marigolds and logwood.
Marisa H., Infinite Flow Dance
In 2015, when Maria founded the Infinite Flow Dance company — composed of dancers with and without disabilities — her mission was clear: dismantle biases, promote inclusion, celebrate intersectionality and encourage people to learn something new about themselves and the world around them. A stroke survivor herself, Maria has experienced the challenges the disabled community faces and wants to shine a different light on this vibrant, largely untapped talent.
Emily E. and Abbie P., Present Not Perfect
As an art therapist and a special education teacher, these two friends and moms have a passion for normalizing family mental health through intentional art and play. Their fun videos and real talk aim to make this serious topic more accessible and part of the new normal.
Tara F., ReisUP LLC
ReisUP is on a mission to give students the financial know-how its founder, Tara, wishes she’d had when she was an undergraduate when she was just trying to figure it out as she went. That’s why LIT, ReisUP’s core service, is designed to be the most comprehensive, relatable and actionable collegiate finance platform on the market.
Lauren C., The Stronger Sex
Why do drug companies typically only offer one version of prescription medications for diseases that affect women and men differently? This pharmaceutical startup is working to introduce a new drug development platform that aims to leverage the unique capabilities of the female immune system to design more effective therapeutics for women.
Learn about the financial challenges women face and how they’re overcoming them.