The power of the digital divide - Women entrepreneurs who have made it big online

12 November 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The world as we know is changing – right before our eyes. The way we conduct our affairs, the news we read, the way we respond or interact with others has changed beyond belief. For almost all of us, many of these interactions take place daily on the digital platform. In fact, many of us check Facebook as often as we check our phones. We remain connected and online throughout the world. The digital world is growing by leaps and bounds – and is undoubtedly the greatest available platform today for aspiring businesses.

And so, there are many women who have turned into savvy entrepreneurs who have launched million dollar businesses – all of it online. They have been able to source a need – whether it is for quirky fashion sense that appeals to women but not to men or fashion advice that comes from the personal beauty stash of the experts – and tailor make their Internet-based businesses to suit the customer needs.

These businesses have taken off because their initial business model is simple enough to manage – although complexities can come later. An Internet-based business is always easy to manage than conventional ones – the base can be anywhere from a rented room to your kitchen. All of the activity takes place online so you save on costs.

Take the case of Emily Weiss, the Founder of Into the Gloss and Glossier, a beauty website that targets millennials obsessed with authenticity in beauty routines and products. The website asks fashion elite to open their personal make up and skin/hair care products and share their secrets. She started her business in 2013, raised US $ 2 million and by 2015, is ranked under the Forbes Under 30.

Leandra Medine was a fast talking journalism student back in 2010 when she launched a blog with a novel and quirky concept: The Man Repeller. “It’s about trends that women love and men hate,” she told media, recalling the light bulb moment that set her on her path to success. “Man repelling was something that we had already uncovered and been talking about.” So what sets her apart? Medine is able to marry impeccable high fashion aesthetics with a comedic approach that can literally make one laugh out loud – in the process; she has created a digital sensation.

Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin teamed together to create The Skimm, a simple scannable digital newsletter for those who want their news tailor-made for the day. The Skimm quickly grabbed the attention of the celebrity pack and the likes of Oprah. Today, with a 1.5 million and growing customer base, The Skimm is climbing the ladder of success for digital-savvy readers who want their news clean cut and easily accessible on the morning run.

Jessica Zollman, a professional photographer, used to work for Instagram back in the day when the platform launched. She was their fifth employee and curated the suggested user list, discovering and promoting many of the platform’s most-followed photographers at the time. This was before Instagram ads came along and even before paid posts came into being. 

Zollman saw a need that could yield more of Instagram; as an ecosystem and manage the content creation while striking a balance over branded profiles. In 2013, she left Instagram to engage in full-time photography for Tinker Street, an agency that connects Instagram photographers and brands. She has handled branded Instagram campaigns for Converse, Ford, General Electric, Nespresso, etc., and believes in the power of the medium to deliver results.

So what drove these young women to create formidable Internet-based solutions that have turned into inspirations of business – simply, the clout of being able to do business digitally. The digital world is incredibly powerful when it comes to opportunities. There are many as yet undiscovered gaps out there. 

If you look at most multimillion dollar digital businesses such as Facebook and Google today, almost all of them started out as a light-bulb moment for an entrepreneur.  These smart young women went one step further because they were able to identify the possibilities of meeting the requirements of digitally-savvy audiences.

And by far, they are not the only ones. There are many others who used the same route. The key is in being able to identify needs that can be successfully met online. These can easily be found in the way we live our lives today – less time to do everyday things but enough time to scan our phones and surf online in search of what we need. Marry the two needs and you have an opportunity, an idea whose time has come. 

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)

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