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Women's History Month: 170+ women-owned brands to support

We spoke to female business owners about the last year — and highlighted notable products and brands we think you should know about.
Get to know women-owned brands to check out across shopping categories, from fashion and beauty to food and fitness.
Get to know women-owned brands to check out across shopping categories, from fashion and beauty to food and fitness.Megababe ; Cocokind

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In the early days of the pandemic, shoppers faced nationwide shortages for essentials, from face masks to cleaning supplies. Cherie Hoeger noticed a less talked about and more unique shortage: period care products.

Hoeger, co-founder and CEO of period care purveyor Saalt, told us she saw a sudden drop in availability around pads and tampons. And she knew Saalt’s reusable menstrual cups and period underwear might help, especially for healthcare workers and essential workers. When hospital personnel, from nurses to janitorial staff, worked long shifts with limited time for bathroom breaks in those early days and through that summer, Hoeger had Saalt donate nearly 400 period cups to healthcare workers nationwide.

SKIP AHEAD Notable products from women-owned brands | Barriers for women-owned businesses | Support systems for women-owned businesses | Women-owned brands

Dana Donofree felt her inclusive lingerie company, AnaOno, could help solve another pandemic-related problem that specifically impacted women diagnosed with breast cancer: access to information about mastectomy bras and recovery. Several boutiques and stores dedicated to fitting and processing these bras shuttered due to Covid — there, sellers also offered easy guidance around insurance coverage of various products. Donofree, a breast cancer survivor herself, hosted information sessions for patients to learn about their recovery options, how they can prepare for surgery and ways insurance can cover the brand’s mastectomy bras. AnaOno also ramped up its Bra Assistance Program and released its Natrelle Inspires Bra program — for every bra purchased, one bra is donated to a breast cancer patient diagnosed within the last 12 months.

“If the world’s biggest problems are really going to get solved, it’ll be by businesses that create innovation. If not us, then who?”

Cherie Hoeger, co-founder, Saalt

Saalt and AnaOno are just two businesses that pivoted to address women-centered issues during the pandemic, but similarly substantial pivots occurred across industries. As Ellen Bennet, founder and CEO of Hedley & Bennett, previously told us, her company shifted from making aprons to become a “mask-making machine” within 24 hours of the March 2020 lockdown in Los Angeles County — you can learn more about Bennet and her company in our guide to Latino-owned businesses.

“Women were so resilient in their ability to adapt and rise to the challenge to anticipate the needs of community members," said Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of WEConnect International, a networking organization for women business owners around the world, about women who pivoted their businesses during the pandemic.

“For me, being a female founder is a way to prove to myself that we, like our male counterparts, can achieve success on our own terms.”

Erica Liu Williams, founder, gr8nola

But these successes don’t come easy. Women-owned businesses continue to face specific obstacles, many of which were present before the pandemic and have only been exacerbated throughout the past two years. Business owners told us some of the biggest challenges they’re currently grappling with center on gender stereotypes, difficulty securing funding and a lack of access to child care. Instead of waiting for these and tangential circumstances to change, however, women business owners are at the forefront of creating change themselves.

“We have such power as female founders and leaders to break barriers and empower the women we lead,” Hoeger said. “If the world’s biggest problems are really going to get solved, it’ll be by businesses that create innovation. If not us, then who?”

To understand the realities women face in running their businesses, we spoke to more than a dozen business owners about the challenges and successes they’ve experienced, and we connected with more than 200 women-owned businesses to recommend ones we think are worth considering across categories like apparel, skin care, home goods and more.

What is a women-owned business?

The terms “women-owned” and “female-founded” aren’t interchangeable, explained Pam Prince-Eason, CEO of nonprofit Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, which certifies women-owned businesses in the U.S. after they meet a set of eligibility standards.

Female-founded means the business was created by a woman or a majority of women founders. Women-owned means the business is majority-owned, controlled and operated by women (where majority simply means 51 percent or more) — the same applies to businesses that are Black-owned, AAPI-owned and Latino-owned. For example, Proactiv was founded by two female dermatologists, but is now owned by Nestlé.

The Small Business Administration (as well as the Census Bureau) uses the 51 percent requirement when brands apply to its Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, which offers government contracts for small businesses known as "set-asides" — the SBA implemented these to help guarantee at least 5 percent of federal contracting budgets go to women-owned businesses.

13 notable products from women-owned businesses in 2022

After asking more than 200 businesses about their ownership stakes, we narrowed down some notable products from 13 different women-owned brands across major categories we think Select readers should know about, including homewares, apparel and skin care. Following this list, we share more than 100 other women-owned businesses that confirmed to us their status aligns with the definition of a women-owned business.

AnaOno Rora Pocketed Front Closure Bra

Dana Donofree, AnaOno’s founder and CEO, was diagnosed with breast cancer in her mid-20s and felt like she lost her identity after treatment. This experience led her to create a line of what she called “boob-inclusive lingerie” designed for women who’d undergone breast surgery. “One breast, two breasts, no breasts or new breasts, everyone deserves to be supported,” Donofree said. AnaOno also partnered with Pink Warrior Advocates for its Bra Assistance Program, which provides up to ​​25 post-surgery and mastectomy bras per month to people in financial need who apply to the program.

AnaOno’s Rora Pocketed Closure Bra offers a front-closure design that the brand says makes it convenient to wear with post-surgery dressing, and it has pockets that can accommodate modesty pads, prosthesis or lightweight breast forms. The bra also features convertible, adjustable straps. It’s available in multiple colors and sizes ranging from XS to 3XL.

Caribbrew Medium Roast Haitian Coffee

When she moved to the U.S. in 2009, Beverly Malbranche, founder and CEO of Caribbrew, said she realized there was an unfulfilled market for Haitian coffee, which she “fell in love with” while growing up in the country. Establishing a Black-owned coffee company not only allowed her to expose customers to new roasts, but also gave her the opportunity to economically support farms in Haiti by purchasing their beans. Malbranche is specifically passionate about buying from women-owned farms and helping them make sure they get paid equally compared to their male counterparts.

Caribbrew’s Medium Roast Haitian Coffee features notes of chocolate and has a nutty, full-bodied flavor, the brand says. It’s made from Arabica beans and has a low acidity level, according to Caribbrew. You can purchase a 12-ounce bag of coffee as beans or ground. Caribbrew also offers K-Cups if you own a single-serve coffee machine.

Cocokind AHA Jelly Cleanser

Priscilla Tsai, co-founder and CEO of Cocokind, said she never left the house without a full face of makeup in her early 20s due to severe acne and skin sensitivities. Tsai started Cocokind to provide shoppers with skin care made with gentle yet effective ingredients, unlike what she had access to when she was younger. To promote transparency about how the brand formulates each product, Cocokind products feature a Formula Facts panel on their packaging detailing exactly what’s inside each bottle. The brand also added a Sustainability Facts panel to its packaging that shares details on its materials, carbon emissions, production information and more.

According to Cocokind, the AHA Jelly Cleanser features a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids from the hibiscus flower and fermented grape extract. It’s designed to unclog and minimize the appearance of pores, remove dead skin and wash away makeup and dirt. The cleanser is also formulated with betaine, hyaluronic acid and glycerin, ingredients the brand says hydrate, plump and smooth skin. The cleanser can be used in the morning or evening, and Cocokind suggests massaging it onto damp skin.

Eberjey Ruthie TENCEL Modal Short PJ Set

Ali Mejia and Mariela Rovito, co-founders of Eberjey, said they began the company in 1996 and aimed to design pajamas and lingerie that were both “sensual and comfortable” in our guide to Latino-owned businesses. Today, the founders told us Eberjey’s team is 95 percent women, many of whom are mothers, including themselves. Because of this, they were conscious about providing employees the flexibility and resources they needed to balance work and motherhood during the pandemic as many adjusted to kids taking classes online and a lack of child care. Eberjey also offers optional remote work that’s now permanently available at the company.

Eberjey’s Ruthie TENCEL Modal Short PJ Set is made from TENCEL modal fabric, which the brand says is soft and breathable. The set comes with a short sleeve button front top and a low-rise cheeky short, both of which boast ruffled details. The pajama set is available in multiple colors and sizes ranging from XS to XL.

Ettitude Signature Sateen Sheet Set

After seeing the fashion industry use more environmentally friendly textiles in clothing, Phoebe Yu, Ettitude’s founder and CEO, wanted to do the same for the bedding industry. Using her experience working in textile supply chain management and merchandising, Yu said she spent years creating the brand’s proprietary CleanBamboo fabric before launching Ettitude, which she runs alongside co-founder and president Kat Dey.

Ettitude’s Signature Sateen Sheet Set comes with a fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcases, all of which are made from the brand’s CleanBamboo fabric — the brand describes the material as a silky soft and says it's made from bamboo lyocell. Ettitude says the sheet set offers a cooling effect and is hypoallergenic as well as ideal for sensitive skin. The sheet set comes in multiple colors and is available in sizes ranging from Twin to California King.

Gr8nola The Original

Erica Liu Williams first started making granola at home while doing a cleanse with her husband and began selling her granola at farmers’ markets. Ultimately, she expanded the businesses by stocking office pantries at tech companies, but the pandemic severely disrupted operations. “Prior to Covid, nearly 80 percent of my revenue was supplying my granola to tech offices like Google, Facebook and more,” Williams said. “Since the pandemic, all these companies moved to remote work, and therefore no longer needed snacks in the office." Gr8nola is currently focused on building its direct-to-consumer sales, a pivot that’s taught Williams how to adapt in unexpected scenarios and still be successful.

All of Gr8nola’s flavors are made without soy, dairy and refined sugars. The Original flavor is sweetened with honey and includes cinnamon, coconut oil, almonds and flaxseeds. It’s available in standard, bulk and mini size options.

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original

When she co-founded Hero Cosmetics, Ju Rhyu said, “I wanted to build a brand that was empowering and empathetic, and helped people reclaim skin confidence.” She specifically focused on acne care products like post-blemish cream, acne patches and brightening serum. Hero Cosmetics also offers body care products such as body wash and moisturizer, as well as face cleanser, sunscreen and serums.

Hero Cosmetics sells a variety of pimple patches, including the Mighty Patch, which we feature in our guide to pimple patches. The hydrocolloid patch visibly flattens and extracts impurities overnight, according to the brand. Hero Cosmetics says the Might Patch prevents scabs and scarring often caused by popping pimples and helps remind you not to pick them. They’re available in packs of 36 and 72.

Lil Bucks Coconut Maple Clusterbucks

Lil Bucks founder Emily Griffith first stumbled upon sprouted buckwheat seeds as a grain-free granola replacement in Australia. She wanted to bring buckwheat, a fruit seed that comes from the buckwheat flower, to the U.S. and did so by establishing her company in 2018. Lil Bucks debuted its first product line at a fitness festival in Chicago, and the brand now offers three product lines — Lil Bucks, Clusterbucks and SZN-ing.

All of Lil Buck’s products are centered around buckwheat and many items are free from the top 8 food allergens, including peanuts, wheat, soybeans and milk. Recently, Lil Bucks launched new flavors of its Clusterbucks, which the brand describes as crunchy grain-free granola: Coconut Maple and Snickerdoodle. Both flavors are gluten-free and are free from processed sugars.

Megababe Thigh Rescue

When Katie Sturino first launched Megababe, she said many people in the beauty industry didn't understand the issues she was trying to solve: Products for thigh chafe, for example, were made for men or athletes — and Sturino said they felt sub-par. “Women deserved a clean, effective product that we wouldn't be embarrassed to pull out of a handbag,” she said. Now, Megababe offers a variety of items the founder said solves body issues from sweat to foot odor.

“I could barely get retailers to say the words ‘thigh chafe’ in a meeting,” Sturino said. Five years later, Megababe’s Thigh Rescue is one of its bestselling products and is sold at retailers like Target and Ulta. Featured in our guide to anti-chafing products, Thigh Rescue is an anti-friction stick made with ingredients like aloe, which offers anti-inflammatory and cooling properties to soothe skin, according to Megababe. It also contains pomegranate seed and ginger root extract, in addition to grapeseed and orange oil. You can purchase a full-size or mini version.

Parachute Organic Cotton Duvet Cover

Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute, previously ran an interior design blog and often helped her friends and family design their homes. Finding dependable bedding was challenging. “I couldn’t find a single brand that was high quality, affordable or easy to buy,” she said. After launching in 2014, Parachute offers items like sheets, pillows, sleepwear and more.

During the pandemic, Kaye said the brand saw “rapid growth” as more people spent time at home — it also recently expanded into new product categories like furniture. We recently covered the launch of Parachute’s Organic Collection, which offers 22 products made from ethically harvested cotton, according to the brand. Its Organic Cotton Duvet Cover features twill ties in all four corners and is available in three sizes: Twin/Twin XL, Full/Queen and King/California King. You can choose from Bisque, Willow and White colors, and the duvet cover is machine-washable.

Partake Foods Soft Baked Lemon Cookies

In our guide to Black-owned businesses, Denise Woodard told us about founding Partake after struggling to find allergy-friendly snacks for her daughter. The company has rapidly expanded since its 2016 launch: In addition to selling its products online, Woodard said Partake grew from being carried in 350 stores across the country in Dec. 2019 to 5,000 in Dec. 2020. And today, Partake can be found in 8,000 stores nationwide, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Kroger. Partake launched its Soft Baked Lemon Cookies in February, which we previously covered. Each box contains 15 cookies that, like all of Partake's products, are free from the top 9 allergens, gluten-free and vegan, according to the brand. Partake also released pancake and waffle breakfast mixes in Classic and Confetti flavors this year.

Posh Peanut Luna Footie Ruffled Zippered One Piece

Fiona Sahakian founded Posh Peanut in 2011 after years of working as a hairdresser. She said the 2008 recession jeopardized her ability to provide for her family, so she took a leap and embarked on a new business venture. “I used that moment as an opportunity to create something that was mine, and that I was passionate about,” Sahakian said. Posh Peanut sells clothing and accessories for children, as well as apparel for adults and items for nurseries like changing pad covers, crib sheets and more.

Available in sizes ranging from newborn to 18-24 months, this machine-washable onesie is made from viscose from bamboo, a material Posh Peanut says is lightweight, breathable and soft. The one-piece features non-slip grips on the feet and the brand says the reversible two-way zipper allows you to change a child’s diaper without having to completely undress them. It also has ruffle details on the bodice and back, and newborn and 0-3 months sizes come with built-in fold-over mittens.

Saalt Disc

After hearing that her family in Venezuela did not have access to period care products for months while the country grappled with political instability, Hoeger started looking into reusable options, leading her to create a collection of menstrual cups and period underwear. Part of Saalt’s mission is to provide reusable period care products to those experiencing period poverty — a lack of access to menstrual products — across the world. Hoeger said Saalt is a certified B Corp and commits 2 percent of revenue to donate its products to communities in need. We feature Saalt products in our guide to period underwear and the brand offers a variety of menstrual cups, which we’ve previously covered. The brand recently launched the Saalt Disc, a menstrual disc the brand said can be used for up to 12 hours during the day or at night. It’s reusable for up to 10 years, according to Saalt, and comes in regular and small sizes.

Barriers for women-owned businesses in 2022

Women have always faced numerous hurdles in business, like gender bias from investors and difficulties accessing capital, as well as struggles with managing child care and pregnancy discrimination — the pandemic exacerbated many of these issues. Despite that, there are roughly 12 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. employing over 10 million people, according to the SBA’s Annual Business Survey from 2021. In fact, total employment by women-owned businesses rose over 6 percent in the past five years — that’s more than all other businesses.

And yet, research shows women business owners are still underrepresented in all demographic groups compared to their male counterparts. Being taken seriously in primarily male-dominated industries is one of the biggest challenges — women are “seen as ‘soft’ or ‘emotional’” compared to men, said gr8nola’s Erica Liu Williams. It was only about 30 years ago that women were no longer required to have a male relative cosign a business loan — former President Ronald Regan signed the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 into federal law, eliminating that requirement.

“For me, being a female founder is a way to prove to myself that we, like our male counterparts, can achieve success on our own terms,” Williams told us.

Disproportionate challenges for women of color

In 2020, 47 percent of businesses started by women were minority-owned, yet many started out of necessity: Women of color were more than twice as likely to start a new business out of financial need, according to the National Association of Women Businesses Owners. And while 5.4 million firms are majority-owned by women of color in the U.S., they face even greater hardships as business owners.

  • Twice as many Latina-led companies experienced pandemic-related closures compared to male-Latino-led businesses, a gap that remains consistent among women business owners of color.
  • Black women were disproportionately laid off or left their jobs during the pandemic.
  • And nearly half of unemployed Asian American women were out of work for at least six months in 2021.

Whitney White, co-founder of Melanin Haircare, shared with us the pressures faced by business owners of color: "We are always held to the highest standards of perfection because of the stigma of our race.” You can learn more about White and Melanin in our guide to Black-owned businesses.

Child care and building an inclusive work environment

Tené Dolphin, executive director of the NWBC, told us issues surrounding child care remain one of the biggest challenges for women business owners. And during the pandemic, day-care centers and summer camps struggled to operate at full capacity due to widespread worker shortages. This hit women of color particularly hard considering they own more than half of child care enterprises.

“While a number of the workforce has left their jobs so that they could care for their children and thus started a business, there are too many entrepreneurs who are unable to go to their retail stores or even log on at home because of child care issues,” said Dolphin.

WEConnect International’s Vazquez noted women are usually responsible for caring for family and community members, making it challenging for them to re-enter the workforce or run a business. And research shows that mothers typically face the so-called “Maternal Wall” that views them as less competent and less committed to their jobs, in addition to other sexist stereotypes.

“Being a mother and having a career does not have to be mutually exclusive.”

Cherie Hoeger, co-founder, Saalt

Saalt’s Hoeger, a mother of five daughters, said an inflexible 40-hour work week has never been viable for women who want a career and have a family. Because of that — and because 80 percent of Saalt’s workforce is made up of women, many of whom are mothers — Hoeger dedicates 10 percent of Saalt’s office space to a free, in-office preschool for employees’ children and offers paid personal and sick leave when it's needed to attend to family needs.

Hoeger told us this culture attracts female talent that may not otherwise be in the workplace. And since women understand these obstacles firsthand, she sees them as uniquely positioned to change the narrative.

“Being a mother and having a career does not have to be mutually exclusive,” Hoeger said. But to make it work, she added, women founders need to “ditch antiquated work models and support working mothers.”

Support systems for women-owned businesses

Women entrepreneurs are leaning on and learning from each other as they grow their businesses. In September 2021, just as We Are Women Owned — an organization that uses in-person pop-up shop events, workshops and a business directory to provide community and exposure to business owners — was launching its 2021 Holiday Gift Guide, founder Lisa Nicole Rosado’s mother suddenly passed away. She told us the term “Sisterhood” — which is how Rosado refers to WAWO’s membership community — “took on a completely different meaning” when they came together to make the project a reality as she took time to grieve.

“These women really showed up for me,” Rosado told us. Cocokind’s Tsai also echoed that support systems are “paving the way for the next generation of modern women.”

Each business owner we spoke to said support networks are crucial aspects of their careers. Organizations like WAWO, WBENC and others allow business owners to share success stories and challenges, as well as navigate how to have a family while working, scale their companies and connect to their communities. These networks are especially important for women of color, noted Vazquez. “If you've never seen anyone who looks like you own and grow a business, it's hard to imagine yourself doing that,” she said.

And despite a generally “optimistic” attitude, most female business owners are still “in a fighting stance,” according to Dolphin.

“They recognize the opportunity that's in front of them, and they also know that the only way that they're going to be successful not just on a financial front but on all fronts, is to go out and fight for it,” she said.

Women-owned brands: Beauty, wellness, apparel and more

We reached out to over 200 businesses nationwide to compile some standout women-owned companies in beauty, apparel, food, wellness and more that we think are worth checking out.

Women-owned clothing and apparel brands

Women-owned accessories and jewelry brands

Women-owned beauty and skin care brands

Women-owned bookstores

Women-owned food and beverage brands

Women-owned hair care brands

Women-owned home and kitchen brands

Women-owned wellness and fitness brands

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