In partnership with American Express, Fortune searched the U.S. for outstanding female business builders. Fortune honored these game-changers at its recent Most Powerful Women Summit. From Lauren Bush to environmental innovators, here are the winners.
I love these entrepreneur lists. Fortune has compiled one for powerful women entrepreneurs and some of the stories of their successes are pretty impressive. In a recent book I read by Peter Drucker called Innovation and Entrepreneurship one of the things that really resonated with me was a statement regarding the greatest praise an entrepreneur can receive. The book said something along the lines of the greatest praise an innovator can receive is “This is obvious. Why didn’t I think of that?” It resonated with me because that is how I know a good idea when I hear about it. That feeling is so consistent when i come across great ideas, so it was great to have Drucker package it into such a digestible concept for innovation judgement. The two ideas from the list that struck that chord within me were the Sheex idea and the solar panel idea. I have included an excerpt of each below. Check out all the stories, they are definitely worth the time.
When they were coaching women's basketball at the University of South Carolina, Walvius and Marciniak came up with the idea to apply performance-fabric technology -- the technology that wicks moisture in Nike athletic apparel -- to bedsheets.
Crazy? Not so. Walvius and Marciniak got R&D help from the university's business school and raised $1 million for their "performance bedding" start-up. In May of last year, they quit their coaching jobs. They lined up manufacturing in California soon after, and launched Sheex.com this past April. This month, they cut a deal to sell in the NBA's flagship store in Manhattan.
Their marketing strategy is grassroots and viral, with Twitter and Facebook promos by pro athletes like the New York Giants' Steve Smith and the LPGA's Christina Kim.
Being hard-charging athletes themselves, Walvius and Marciniak are naturally inclined to race for a win. But the best advice they got? "Crawl, walk and then run," says Walvius. In business, as in coaching, she adds, "You're either getting better or you're getting worse with each day. There's no such thing as staying the same." --P.S.
Many environmentally-minded folks like the idea of installing solar panels on their home, but find it's just too expensive.
Enter SunRun, a start-up that pays for the panels and installation; homeowners then buy solar power from SunRun at an average savings of 10% to 15% versus their current energy bill.
Jurich and her business partner started SunRun in 1997 while attending Stanford Business School. But Jurich didn't get a lot of encouragement from her classmates. "That's one of the problems of business school, is that people love to shoot down ideas, they love to say 'that's not going to work,' " she explains. But even with a job in venture capital finance waiting for her at graduation, Jurich took the entrepreneurial route.
SunRun has since raised $30 million from Accel Partners and Foundation Capital, and this week secured $90 million in tax-equity financing from U.S. Bancorp, following an earlier commitment of $105 million in project financing.
Jurich's idea also earned her a ticket to the White House: In early December, she attended a roundtable with President Obama to discuss renewable energy and ways to expand solar adoption in 2010. Her hope is that the U.S. replaces half of the $150 billion annual residential electricity market with solar power over the next two years. --J.S.