“It’s all impact”: The unstoppable global force of female entrepreneurs

Insights from Rebecca Sholiton, Wise Apple

At least 224 million women around the world are starting and running businesses. Six years ago, Rebecca Sholiton flew to Peru to work with some of them.

“I was supposed to be there for six months, I ended up being there for three years. Everything I was doing was with the goal of helping women gain economic independence and economic freedom, and using entrepreneurship as a means of economic development.”

On top of these female entrepreneurs being more innovative than men, they reinvest 90% of their income into their family and community’s health, education, and nutrition (versus men’s 30%). Rebecca saw these statistics come to life daily:

“The women I worked with were the most inspirational people. They had tremendous struggle, they were doing everything for their families. Oftentimes their husbands were telling them that they shouldn’t be starting a business, and then two years later those husbands were working for the business. They poured their heart and souls into it and wouldn’t stop.”

By the time Rebecca returned to Chicago, she was inspired by the women she’d become close with, and motivated to be an entrepreneur herself.

“If you want examples of perseverance and ingenuity and hustle, it was in front of my face for three years.”

In conversations with her sisters and friends, stories of trying to manage the craziness of family and work planted the seed that would eventually become Wise Apple.

“It really started when a friend of mine was telling me all about her struggles as a new mom and keeping her career. This whole idea of ‘mom guilt’ is a very real thing. She basically said to me, ‘I’m not living up to my own standards of how I’m creating healthy food habits for my kid.’ … So she said, ‘I think I need to quit my job.’ I was like, oh my god, you’re not quitting your job.”

If her friend wanted to pursue her career, Rebecca was not about to let subpar lunches be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I was like, we can solve this. There has to be something we can do. It really started with trying to work on how to bring real food back into crazy hectic lives. For the first time in our country’s history, 69% of moms are working parents … There’s clearly people trying to solve the dinner problem, but what about all these other mealtimes?”

Armed with experience from Peruvian women’s food-related businesses, Rebecca jumped into building a company.

“I started to investigate local food sourcing, which came directly from my time in Peru. I was deep in the agricultural supply chain, so it was important to me to be working with co-ops, local farmers, and sourcing locally wherever we could.”

Wise Apple immediately took off, and is now giving peace of mind to moms across the midwest.

“We’re trying to avoid that hangry temper tantrum chaos when they get home from school. That’s our job in their life, is to make that part of the day easier. If a child comes home with an empty lunchbox… success.”

Rebecca went from working with large corporations as a consultant to working with one-woman shows in Peru. She’s now addicted to the direct impact that she sees coming from startups and small businesses, and is channeling her own influence into helping moms.

“We say we’re going to do something and we do it a day later … you’re setting strategy and you’re executing, and it’s all impact.”

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Isabel BenatarComment