Being witness to the amazing ways that women give back to the world is a constant source of inspiration for me. Starting a business of any kind is difficult and takes a great idea, passion, persistence and support, which surprisingly aren’t very easy to come by. To then succeed is entirely different, but it is done everyday by women who are not afraid to push the boundaries of their respective fields and really challenge us all to do better.
Cartier is known the world over as a luxury jewelry brand, but also started an amazing international business plan competition five years ago named the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, along with McKinsey & Co. the Women’s Forum and INSEAD Business School. It recognizes and gives visibility to amazing projects started by women entrepreneurs and then helps to foster them. All of the finalists that are chosen are given business coaching, but only one business from each of the six regions represented (Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Asia-Pacific) will win the grand prize, which is a support package of $20,000 and one year of coaching.
The three North American finalists chosen this year are a fantastic group of women, representing a very diverse mix of industries.
Read some more on each business below:
1. Summer Rayne Oakes and Benita Singh – Source4Style
Source4Style is an online community and platform that allows designers to get fabrics from ethical and sustainable sources. This has become a huge effort in the fashion industry within the past few years and so many brands have taken part in the initiative from Stella McCartney to H&M. Summer and Benita launched the site in October of last year and have since brought 800 designers on board. There are no middle men, making direct-to-source prices possible. “Source4Style showcases the fabrics with high-resolution photos that you can zoom in on to examine the weave, and suppliers can show their first batch for free.” – Summer Rayne Oakes
2. Meg Wirth – Maternova
Maternova’s mission is to lower the death rate of women from complications in childbirth. 358,000 women die this way every year, which amounts to one woman every 90 seconds, mostly those who live in developing countries. The rate is alarming, especially in a day and age when we have so much technology and medicine available to us. Meg not only provides information, but the site puts together obstetrics packs and sells them to clinicians who are working in the developing world. She hopes to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75% by 2015, which will be a big feat, but so many maternal deaths can be avoided and that is what keeps her going. “The Maternova Pak is not the typical birth kit focusing on hygiene, it also targets the leading cause of maternal mortality in childbirth – hemorrhage. We bundle products that no one has brought together before and those we can’t find, we develop ourselves.” – Meg Wirth
3. Jeanette Hill – Spot On Sciences
Jeanette Hill is leading advancements in the medical field by cutting down the time spent as well as the cost for traditional venipuncture needle testing. Her method of dried blood spot testing (also known as DBS) involves the patients just placing their finger on her HemaSpot device and pushing a button, which pricks two drops of blood from their fingertips. The whole process takes just five minutes and then the blood is easily sealed up and sent to the lab. The Small Business Innovation Research Program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (part of the US Department of Defense) has already given Spot On Sciences $100,000 for Phase 1 Funding. “Traditional testing draws 5 ml of blood. HemaSpot takes a tiny sample, only 100 micro-liters, and spreads it onto a filter paper which we have pre-cut into petals that can be easily ‘plucked’ for analysis.'” – Jeanette Hill
The winners of the 2011 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on October 14, 2011 athe Women’s Forum in Deauville, France. Visit www.cartierwomensinitiative.com for more information.
*Feature image courtesy of Summer Rayne Oakes’ website.