This International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate by rounding up a few of our favorite stories (so far!) on or featuring local female founders.
We’ve organized the list alphabetically, including names, company, story and a shoutout from these women making waves in the Ocean State innovation ecosystem.
Leaders: Co-founders Brittanny Taylor, photographer and social media wizard; Patsy Culp, branding and event strategist and Olivia Rodrigues, confidence coach and stylist.
Company Profile: Together, the founders work to enhance their client’s brand, may it be building it from the ground up, restructuring it, or pointing it in a slightly new direction.
Sounding Off: “We are building a relationship here,” Taylor said. “We become friends with our clients. We really want to make sure we’re compatible [with clients] by texting or talking on the phone; we’re going back and forth. We treat our clients like our friends.”
Leader: Erin Tortora, Matt Tortora and Will Araújo.
Company Profile: Its program, WhatsGood Marketplace, is a “virtual farmers market” app that connects casual consumers and institutions alike with local “purveyors,” and allows those same sellers to distribute their goods online. CFS has raised $1.9 million from angel investors since its inception.
Sounding Off: “The goal is to help grow the local food economies and give customers more availability more accessibility to these products.”
Leaders: Lisa Carnevale, founder and executive director.
Company Profile: A nonprofit economic development organization, DesignxRI looks to both foster a design network that represents all disciplines and create opportunity for those within it.
Sounding Off: “One of our goals is not to just talk to ourselves,” Carnevale said. “We have a statistic: that 75 percent of designers export their [work] outside Rhode Island. Part of our mission is to tell people outside of here that talent’s here, and [that there’s] interest from outside that are attending these events.”
Leaders: CEO Kiara Butler.
Company Profile: “Diversity Talks is a training organization that focuses on providing K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, community based organizations and corporations with facilitated conversations led by youth.”
Sounding Off: “What we do by providing student-led professional development requires a shift in mindset for both adults and students,” said Butler. “Students have to believe that they have a voice in a room full of adults and adults have to have high expectations for youth, regardless of their background.”
Leaders: Co-founder Genny Plas.
Company Profile: A Charlestown-based coworking spot, only about a mile from the beach.
Sounding Off: “[We want to] bring disparate folks together, and together improve their experience,” Plas said. “I think it is our goal is to really be a connector, and it has worked out really well. And it’s fun!”
Leaders: Founder and creative director Yelitsa Jean-Charles.
Company Profile: Toys are incredibly formative. For Yelitsa Jean-Charles, founder and creative director of Healthy Roots Dolls, it was this knowledge — and her enduring childhood frustration that the dolls on the shelves didn’t capture the likeness of her or her friends — that inspired her to make a line of her own, which all come with a book of natural hair care tips.
Sounding Off: “My goal is to one day be out in public or on a bus, see a little girl with one of our dolls and think to myself, ‘I made that,’” Jean-Charles said. “I want to see our dolls helping girls see themselves in a positive way.”
Leaders: CEO and co-founder Annette Tonti.
Company Profile: The Innovation Scout is a program that utilizes machine learning to connect startups to the corporations who want to work with them.
Sounding Off: “All the disruption, and I mean that in a good way, mainly happens in the startup,” Tonti said. “They have the ability to go fast, ability to make mistakes; they don’t have Wall Street to contend with. If I would want to talk innovation, I need to look at the world of startups.”
Leaders: Co-founder and CEO Sierra Barter.
Company Profile: Lady Project serves as both a resource and network led by women, for women, whomever they may be. Its rosters include non-binary folks to stay-at-home moms, fired-up post-grad entrepreneurs to new-in-town gals to empty-nesters with time to kill.
Sounding Off: “Everyone has something to bring to the table,” Barter said.
Leaders: Founder and CEO Patrice Milos.
Company Profile: Medley Genomics wants to make cancer a chronic illness. That may seem like a tall order, but not from where the Medley Genomics team stands. In fact, it’s just their first priority. Ultimately, Medley wants to solve additional biological riddles through a greater understanding of “genomic heterogeneity” — a problem plaguing many complex diseases.
Sounding Off: “Last year in the U.S., one in four people died of cancer,” Milos said. “Somehow, we need to be continuously advancing our knowledge so that those deaths can be delayed further or be made treatable diseases,” she says. “It’s going to take time, but its companies like ours who will be able to work with other companies … to beat it.”
Leaders: Executive director Carol Malysz.
Company Profile: MedMates is Rhode Island’s first-ever medical technology network group.
Sounding Off: “MedMates is excited to be part of this new era and to foster the collaborative spirit and synergies that will lead to new advancements in science and technology and enhance the quality of life in our state.”
Leaders: Founder Emily Levy.
Company Profile: Mighty Well provides a catheter cover that’s a fashionable item, not just a cut-off sock, as well as a host of other accessories and clothes.
Sounding Off: “The specific problem that we’re solving is really giving dignity and confidence to patients,” Levy said. “We are selling physical products but, mostly, we are selling a mentality.”
Leaders: Co-founders Elizabeth Stone and Michael Stone.
Company Profile: Pepper’s Closet is sort of an eclectic amalgam of the Martha’s Vineyard “Black Dog” clothing line and Snapple, combining area-specific symbols (ocean creatures, very Ocean State) with “it-comes-with-the-product” cool factoids. But the startup is focused on more than just a sartorial statement or a fact-of-the-day rush; Stone and Stone are looking to use their experiences to make a difference and educate the wearers about the ocean.
Sounding Off: “The goal is to create a community around this,” Elizabeth said. “We can’t do this on our own. Together we can make the difference, using the clothing to do that.”
Leader: Founder Patricia Raskin.
Company Profile: Raskin’s mission is a straightforward one: “To create positive solutions through producing podcasts for my guest experts” via “compelling content for their listeners.”
Sounding Off: “I love the coaching. I love hosting my show or being behind the mic [just] as much, though, but the coaching, too,” Raskin said.
Leader: Co-founder and CEO, Kelly Ramirez.
Company Profile: A veritable titan of a, well, entity, as describing the SE Greenhouse as just an accelerator or an incubator or a coworking spot or what-have-you would be much too exclusive. It hosts demo days, networking events and workshops, and has a host of offerings on the calendar for 2018.
Sounding Off: “The reality is, those in the position to solve some of the greatest challenges are those who have had first-hand experience with those challenges,” Ramirez said.
Leader: President and founder Theresa Moore.
Company Profile: “As the country has become more diverse, organizations such as schools and companies have found themselves searching for ways to implement strategies and programs that not only focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, but also resonate with modern society. Moore’s production company, T-Time Productions, is now on a mission to fill this gap by producing stories through a different lens and a different medium. The company has begun to roll out a portfolio of stories focusing on the advancement of civil rights through stories in sports that often fly under the radar.”
Sounding Off: “We really want to see this idea come to full fruition, where our portfolio does a deep dive on content, but also changes the current status of textbooks and the curriculum to make them more inclusive and more diverse,” said Moore. “Or [see if] … someone like me [can] become the next Netflix to Blockbuster, where we change the way teachers source content relative to their students.”