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Female Entrepreneurs Reveal the Books That Changed Their Lives

Need a little inspiration? These books will help get you back on track.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Good ideas often come unexpectedly. Reading a novel, a self-help book, or an autobiography can help people change their perspective and lead to unexpected opportunities. Check out the books these entrepreneurs say genuinely made them change the way they think about life, work, and the world.

Jia Wertz, Founder, Studio 15

“When I left the fashion industry after 15 years, I knew I wanted to start a company that did things differently than the typical fashion brands. I wanted to create a brand that offered more value to our clients, not only in the quality of our apparel, but also through the support we offer women. That was a tall order to undertake as a solopreneur, but one that has also been very rewarding. I knew I would need to be extremely focused, have the ability to eliminate distractions and achieve more with less time. These books helped me hone in on what’s important, when to say no, and how to stay laser-focused on my goal, even when it seemed toughest.”

Jeannette Ceja, Founder, Jet Set with Jeannette

  • You. Are. The. One. by Kute Blackson
  • Frommer’s Travel Guides (A Series of Guidebooks by different writers including Pauline Frommer)
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

“I grew up watching exceptional role models like Pauline Frommer and Samantha Brown. They gave me hope, inspiration, and ignited a deep-rooted passion inside me for travel. I believe a challenge within the industry is to not only attract more women, but women of diverse backgrounds as well. As a Mexican-American travel host, I consistently work on my mindset and skill set to be the best role model to women and minorities in the travel industry.”

Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Founder, Ness Labs

  • Designing for Behavior Change by Stephen Wendel

  • Hooked by Nir Eyal

  • Contagious by Jonah Berger

“I enjoy long commutes because they give me the opportunity to read for a long time, uninterrupted. What I read often becomes fuel for inspiration during the day. My favorite books are the ones that stimulate my creativity and help me think of my users in novel ways. Inspiration can come from anywhere though, and this is why I don’t limit myself to business books.”

Gesche Haas, Founder, Dreamers // Doers

  • Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99U

“When I first started out on this journey, I had a lot of internal struggles. I was mostly working alone, and when I hit roadblocks, there was no one to compare notes to. It wasn’t until after this book that I stopped thinking there was something wrong with me. The book goes deep into the most common pitfalls that creative people face when putting out their best work and the in-depth processes they adopt to overcome them. Rarely do we get to see other people’s behind-the-scenes, what it takes for them to be productive. It’s one of the things people don’t talk about enough. When you do your project, it can be insanely hard. It’s another reason I believe so much in the power of community and sharing our journeys more openly.”

Marie, Founder, Women Make and Threader

  • The Man Who Sold The Moon by Robert Heinlein

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel

  • The Black Swan: The Impact Of The Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb

“I read “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel like pretty much everyone. But I don’t read that many books about entrepreneurship. One book I can think of is a novella: “The Man Who Sold The Moon” by Robert Heinlein. It was written in 1949, and it tells the story of the fictional first Moon landing at the end of the 1970s. It’s the story of a businessman who is obsessed with being the first to travel and own the Moon. But this project needs a lot of money, so he uses many political and commercial tactics. He sells the moon to make it happen.”

Jenn Louie, Founder, Kinvite

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek

  • Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

“I founded Kinvite.co with a mission to change the way the world spends its time to align with their values. I’m a believer in time well spent and empowering people to start, grow and sustain socially conscious movements. I actively promote and speak about how to create communities and gatherings that transform the way we show up in the world and these books have shaped how I show up.”

Kelley Louise, Founder, Impact Travel Alliance and The Culture Collective

  • Successful Women Think Differently by Valorie Burton

  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

  • The Freelancer’s Bible by by Sara Horowitz

“Some of the challenges I face are universal to any entrepreneur – whether that be refining my organization’s message and mission, learning to pitch to investors or honing my leadership skills. But some challenges are unique to being a woman. Some issues feel like they should be considered trivial, but are equally important, like being judged on what I wear when I’m at a speaking engagement. That said, I found these books helpful when I navigate the nitty-gritty business tactics.”

Nicolette Orlemans, Founder of CultureTrav 

“When you’re launching a new project, amid the excitement, you can get bogged down by overthinking and trapped by indecision. After reading Jeff Walker’s Launch book, I got a very clear sense of the steps needed to move forward, and create a product inspired by my community. Jeff’s book not only talks about detailed marketing strategy, but it also emphasizes the power of human connection, creating immense value for others in whatever it is that you do, about finding “your” people­­–whether that’s your community, potential clients, and working together like-minded entrepreneurs. It’s about following a solid plan, not trying to do it all in one day, embracing successes and failures, and having genuine relationships.”

Emily Sauer, Founder, Ohnut

  • Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, MD

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I grew up with attention deficit disorder (ADD) in a world that overmedicates and under-supports most of the kids who have it. My early education didn’t recognize alternate styles of learning and when my high school grades started to drop, the only advice I was given was to “try harder.” I tried harder and harder to create structure the same way that worked for everyone else – but nothing worked. The harder I tried and failed, the harder I judged myself – all the way until I was about 26 years old. Cue self-esteem, down the drain…until someone recommended a book called Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell, MD. While I had for years felt isolated by “not functioning properly” I found myself pouring tears into this book on the subway – realizing that my perceived weaknesses were not only shared, but in fact, not weaknesses at all.”

Debbie Wong, Certified Executive Coach

  • The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins

“Every time I start a new job or role, I read ‘The First 90 Days’ to get a fresh perspective on how I can approach situations. So many times, we believe that our current challenges are the same ones we’ll experience in the new job. In reality, however, we need to be equipped with an open mind and transition to a new company with a certain vulnerability and eagerness to learn and build relationships all over again. And it reminds you of how the culture, politics, and people are all different. Your success is dependent on your nimbleness and ability to be proactive about your on boarding path. This book provides strategies and tips on how to onboard oneself by creating alliances in the department, aligning expectations, and establishing quick wins. I’ve also enjoyed the checklists and the kinds of questions to ask oneself at the 30-day and 60-day mark. Probably the best part of the book is the emphasis on proving yourself through relationships and openness to learning, as opposed to coming across as a ‘know it all’ and trying to change things too much to fit your way of thinking.”


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