If you want to get inspired, there's nothing like immersing yourself in a good old-fashioned female think tank. At least, this is how I felt when I attended the "Pitch Perfect" Competition at The Wing in West Hollywood. When you're in rarified spaces like this, you remember that when smart, passionate, and socially conscious women put their heads together, no problem is unsolvable.
To give you a little more background, here's how the competition works. The Wing put out a call to their members to submit business presentations. Out of hundreds of entries, five enterprising finalists were chosen to present their business ideas to a panel of expert judges, on a stage, in front of an audience. Each finalist was awarded with $20K in seed money, provided by haircare brand Pantene. The winner was awarded with a chance to take things further, with a consultation with female-led venture capitalist firm BBG Ventures.
From a night of collaboration, celebration, and badassery at the Pitch Perfect competition, here are the five amazing new female-owned businesses that should be on your radar now.
1. Baalm - A Digital Skincare Company That Will Change Your Life
In the internet age, skincare is a bigger cult than ever before. However, not all products are created equal, and you stand to waste a lot of money if you don't get the right ones for your skin. That's where Baalm comes in. A digital skincare consultation company founded by Mandi Nyambi and Lanya Olmsted, Baalm is a go-to service you can turn to to answer all your probing skincare questions. From "What can I do to deal with this massive zit on my chin?" to "What's a good BB cream for my skin type?", their skincare experts will give you actionable advice and product suggestions to treat your unique face right.
And how exactly do they suggest the right regimen for you, if you're not there in person? As presenter Nyambi said on stage, they do it with the power of data. "We collect over 100 data points per user, which is more than a dermatologist, esthetician, or plastic surgeon would have before even touching your skin." In other words, they can basically get into your pores and suggest what will suit your face best, just through the power of digital information.
Face forward, ladies. We're in.
2. Glow Up Games - A Feminist Game Developing Studio Disrupting The Industry
It' doesn't take an insider to know that the video game industry is overwhelmingly male-led. Glow Up Games here to challenge that. They are an independent, socially-minded gaming studio founded by three women (Dr. Mitu Khandaker, Latoya Peterson & Tara Mustapha), dedicated to telling diverse stories, and proving that the "underrepresented majority" of game-players (women, nonbinary individuals, and people of color) are a serious untapped power in the gaming world.
They're doing this through three pillars of action. The first of which being platform and publishing. "We turn to a team of developers in-house to quickly and reliably build these high quality games," said Dr. Khandaker. Second is R&D and discoverability. "We're creating a new data pipeline to inform our own technology and our own releases, but also to start changing the industry," said Peterson. Lastly, they're focusing on games and content that not only tell diverse stories, but they're free to play.
Now, let's play!
3. Varnish Lane - A Waterless Nail Salon Eliminating Waste And Upping The Standards For Nail Care
A big theme of the night was green consciousness. One of the companies boasting serious environmental benefits was Varnish Lane. Founded by DC-based entrepreneur mother/daughter team Lauren and Carrie Dunne, this company is the world's first waterless nail salon. As presenter Lauren Dunne said, the company is devoted to "elevating the standard for nail care in their beautifully designed salons, with less toxic products."
Starting with three DC-area salons, and looking to build out to a fourth location, Varnish Lane's technique has four main benefits: it's safer and safeguards more against infection, it allows your cuticles to soak up more moisture, your polish lasts longer, and it's better for the environment. In other words, if you're traveling to D.C. any time soon, or have friends who are, make sure to take a trip.
4. Spacey - A Company Making Art Accessible For Everyone
The art market is notoriously elitist and impenetrable, but decorating your space is something that everyone should have access to. Enter Spacey Studios, a digital art market designed for the needs of the modern consumer. "Art is the most powerful product to work with," says company founder Kate E. Hoffman. "It's an experience, it's a story, and it's addictive once you start collecting it."
So how does Spacey do things differently than many of the other printmakers out there? According to Hoffman, "Spacey collaborates with this day's most influential artists to create fine art that you can actually afford to collect." They source artist talent to curate exclusive collections in a completely transparent fashion. They even frame the art for you!
As a co-worker recently described to me, maternity leave is "no joke." Even harder is returning to the workforce at the end of the three-month stretch of bonding with and caring for your child. As Huggable founder Madhu Punjabi described in her pitch, "The number one reason women stop breast feeding is because they're going back to work, and the number one feeling they experience is guilt." Providing families with organic, high-quality formula, Huggable is a formula sourcing company that doesn't just provide babies with high quality nutrition: they make it possible for women to return to the workforce, postpartum.
More than just giving you high quality formula, the company is all about, as she puts it, "solving a problem related to improving mental health." By proxy, the problem is all about taking away barriers preventing women from excelling in their careers.
And who was the winner at the end of the night? ::Drumroll please:: Glow-Up Games took their title, owing to their scalability and the necessity of disrupting this particular industry. Congrats to them, all the winners, and (tbh) all of us. BRB... gonna go start my own business now.
This article was sponsored by Pantene.