Trailblazing Womxn to Watch in 2021 and How They’re Planning for the Year Ahead

They've optimistically put into practice what 2020 has taught them in order to prepare for all 2021 has to offer.

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While 2020 has been a year we won’t soon forget—filled with tumultuous challenges and powerful lessons learned—I couldn’t be more thrilled to be looking forward to what 2021 has in store. Specifically, I’m honored to be highlighting 33 trailblazing womxn to watch in 2021 from Dreamers & Doers, a collective of entrepreneurial womxn.

Of course, their soon-to-be launched products and services are notable in and of themselves. But what I find most inspiring and impressive are the ways these womxn have optimistically put into practice what 2020 has taught them in order to prepare for all 2021 has to offer. 

“We believe we’ve never had such a clean slate to rebuild from…”

“…we remain wildly optimistic and excited about the future.”

“We have shifted our focus to allowing people to empower themselves right from their living rooms on their own time.”

As you begin to make your 2021 plans, I hope you will be inspired by the ways these womxn are approaching the new year with intentionality, resourcefulness, and a deep reflection inward. Yes, planning for the future will likely look much different from now on, but perhaps it’s the shift we’ve all truly needed.

Vanessa Liu

Vice President of SAP.iO Foundries North America, SAP’s global network of equity-free startup accelerators, who will be focusing on family, career, giving back, and health in 2021.

In years past, planning for the upcoming year has been a more organic, intuitive process focused on overall impact, but flexible enough so I can meet people serendipitously. Given that this year challenged me to be much more deliberate and purposeful with my time, I applied that lens here. This next year is all about the people I want to spend time with.”

Carrie Sporer

Co-founder of SWAIR, a dry shampoo alternative for active women that will be introducing at least two additional products in 2021.

“As a new brand that launched mid-pandemic, we had the opportunity to adjust our plans and operations before coming to market. In general, our plan has stayed the course to grow brand awareness and educate potential customers about the benefits of showerless shampoo. How we plan to execute that vision, though, is different. We rolled back our plan for traditional retailers and have increased our direct to consumer shopping initiatives, virtual marketplaces, and standout online retailers.”

Nathalie Molina Niño

CEO of , a private family office who has a portfolio company that will be announcing an important new development in women’s reproductive health in 2021.

“The small group of misfits behind this project have been scheming for years. But especially this year, together with top global health experts and leading pharmaceutical professionals, we’ve been able to keep pushing forward despite COVID-19, since thankfully the healthcare industry has largely remained open for business because it’s considered an essential service.”

Jessica M. Kelly

Founder and CEO of THR3EFOLD—a SaaS platform providing apparel brands with access to an ethical supply chain and training—that is seeking seed funding in 2021.

“In past years, I’ve been more focused on testing the product-market fit of THR3EFOLD and seeking a deeper understanding of the supply chain and how we can improve it. But 2020 has pushed the fashion industry into a Great Reset, forcing brands to go digital in areas they never have before. We are seeking new sustainability solutions as consumers are demanding brands meet their values more than ever. As we plan for 2021, we are strategizing around how we can expand at an accelerated rate in order to help the industry meet its goals to reduce our negative impact on people and the planet. We believe we’ve never had such a clean slate to rebuild from in fashion as we do now.”

Mita Carriman

Founder and CEO of Adventurely, a web app for solo travelers, digital nomads, and local adventure seekers to plan meetups together. The company will be releasing more features on their web app in 2021.

Our team is head down, working on new app features to add more adventure and fun to the digital nomad lifestyle. The planning includes a strong threshold of patience as the world continues to manage COVID-19, but we remain wildly optimistic and excited about the future.”

Sage Lefkowitz

Chief technology officer of Joan of Sparc, an inner work community for creatives, entrepreneurs and rebels with a cause that is launching a membership in 2021.

“We are migrating all planned in-person events, live courses, and retreats to be fully digital and pre-recorded so our global community can access them on their own time, any time. We have noticed that you can still build connection and community through technology and production while creating scalability. We have shifted our focus to allowing people to empower themselves right from their living rooms.”

Erin Halper

Founder and CEO of The Upside, an accelerator and curated networking community for consultants planning for explosive growth in 2021.

We’re moving faster than ever before. Going forward into 2021, we’re tightening up our operations and implementing complex automations to create a seamless UX for our members and clients. I joke with my industry peers that the smoother and cleaner the UX, the more complex and expensive the backend tech and automations! We’re doubling down on making interactions and experiences with The Upside as high quality as the professionals we serve.”

Julia Sokol

Founder and CEO of SassClass, a womxn’s empowerment studio that fosters confidence and community through dance and performance, planning to expand their offerings in 2021.

“With the uncertainty of today’s times and the situation with COVID-19 being ever-evolving, I have had to be very flexible and fluid in our planning process. My team and I plan for multiple scenarios—the possibility of reopening our physical studio space, the possibility of staying entirely virtual, etc. We’ve had to have a Plan A, B, and C and we’ve been staying open and adaptable.”

Rhea Wong

Founder of Rhea Wong Consulting, a consultancy to help nonprofits learn how to raise funds, that will be launching a group coaching and training program in early 2021.

In preparation for this pivot, I launched an initial beta project in September. Given the uncertainty of the economic climate and the pressing needs of people served by nonprofits, there is no greater moment to help get resources to nonprofits that do good work. The upheaval of the last nine months has really prompted a shift in thinking about how to do business differently and how to serve more people at scale.”

Alexa Gantous

Co-founder of LitterRally, a trash pickup dance party going global in 2021.

“We started out 2020 with plans to launch LitterRally in San Francisco and Los Angeles, only to have eight months of intricate planning completely halted by COVID-19. Although in many ways it was difficult to detach from the ideas we had about how things needed to be, having the time to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective actually created space for us to be much more creative. By giving ourselves permission to deconstruct and play with the possibilities, we were able to get out of the way and allow LitterRally to evolve into a version that is way more resilient and exciting. The No. 1 shift in our planning was around moving from focusing on the “how” to focusing on the “why.” We really believe that this experimentation mindset is essential.”

Lee Anne Crockett

Leadership development and career strategist at Lee Crockett Consulting, where she will be focused on sharing her mission and expertise with a larger audience through speaking engagements.

“Since this was my first year in business, I didn’t have to pivot the way most other entrepreneurs have. I started a virtual business, and don’t foresee that changing much as we move forward into 2021 and beyond. I think everyone is having to be creative in the way we attract clients. My business is no exception. I have to continue to think out of the box by hosting events and offering services that are worth another Zoom call. I’m not just competing with other coaches, I’m competing with time, attention, and Zoom fatigue.”

Belma McCaffrey

Founder and CEO of Work Bigger, a career-coaching platform aiming to help 40 new individuals identify their purpose in 2021.

“Before sitting down and planning out our 2021 strategy, I first identified how I want to feel in the new year and beyond. With COVID-19, so much of our freedom has been taken away. But what I’ve found surprising is how much more present I’ve become and how much more I enjoy the little things. I want to bring this feeling of presence and joy with me next year. With clarity on how I want to be and how I want to feel, I can plan my revenue and impact goals, and then work backward. I’ve also only planned through Q1 and Q2. This year, we saw that we can’t plan for everything. You must respond to your customers’ needs and meet them where they are, taking everything that’s happening in the world into consideration. We don’t know what a post-COVID-19 world will look like. My goal is to continue being there for our members and clients and supporting the ups and downs of their career journeys with them.”

Randi Bushell

Founder and CEO of Merri, an all-in-one platform for the events industry, launching nationwide by the end of 2021.

We completely rewrote our short-term strategy when COVID-19 hit. At that time, we were only operational in a very limited capacity in the New York market. We refocused our short-term priorities on building a product that could scale agnostic of geography to unblock the demand side of our marketplace, while still firmly holding true to our long-term strategy of building deep regional presence to maximize network effects. My planning has been focused on finding the right partners in the right places to help us grow market by market as quickly as possible.”

Lauren Doyle

Founder and president of The Booster Club, a global community of marketers and creators launching a membership for creatives, consultants, and side hustlers in 2021.

“The main shift is focusing on the many talented and smart creatives who don’t have work or don’t have enough work. I talk to so many people who say, ‘Let me know if you have anything that I can do.’ I want people to do what they can do, but also what they want to do and love to do. My goal right now is to replace fear with confidence and doubt with opportunity.”

Natalia Lumen

Founder and CEO of ThyForLife Health Inc., a mobile platform, designed to help the more than 400 million thyroid patients worldwide efficiently manage and optimize their health, launching their mobile app in Q1 2021.

While we have developed a robust go-to-market strategy and product roadmap, one of my primary goals for 2021 is to focus on making strategic hires earlier. 2020 taught me that it’s far more effective to hire smart before it becomes urgent. Taking the time to find the right people for the right roles can be a competitive advantage to forming a strong, cohesive team.”

Cynthia Hellen

Founder of Winning Women Series, a community of womxn creating change in society at all levels. The company will be launching an ethical, sustainable, premium collection of basic t-shirts in 2021.

My life pre-pandemic was spent traveling or in new cities with clients. But being in the U.S. for almost a whole year, I have been able to use all the extra time and take all those “one day” projects and make them happen today. All in all this year has had me the busiest and I am grateful and a tad exhausted too.”

Kristen Carbone

Founder of Brilliantly, a community helping women make the transition from confronting cancer to embracing life, that is launching their flagship product in January 2021.

Planning for this coming year completely changed with COVID-19. The pandemic altered my fundraising strategy and product development timeline. Thankfully, we figured out some funding and strategic partnerships that facilitated a huge amount of progress in a short time. Looking ahead, I’m simply delighted to plan our launch and subsequent MVP feedback campaign with Brilliantly Warm users.”

Ko Im

Wellpreneur at konakafe, a wellness lifestyle brand and hosting consultancy that will focus on pop-up meditation, moderating sessions, and virtual workshops in 2021.

Prioritization became crystallized this year. Many of my long-term plans are centered around  stability and personal relationships so my side hustle can thrive, too. This means I ask myself questions like: is this something I need to do or have to do? How will this affect my short and long-term future? Before the pandemic, I was less strategic about pace. But I think the last few months have forced me to be smarter and think more deeply about what I do before I do it. After all, it’s a self-empowering mindset.”

Cecilia Chapiro

Founder of Yunus & Youth, which accelerates social entrepreneurship around the world, and is launching in Latin America in 2021.

2020 was a very different year. With so many physical limitations, I decided to focus on my work, making sure I used my resources and positioning to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19. In my case, this served one specific goal: launching an economy-boosting program in Latin America, ensuring that I could contribute my experience and resources to benefit my home country and region. Driven by the need for such a program and the extra time I had without social activities, it was possible to make this a priority and seek the key partnerships required for the impact I am envisioning. It is encouraging to get so much interest and support from corporate partners and even the UN—all motivated to use the virtual world to re-activate the physical one. I look forward to more forces coming together in 2021 to address the global challenges we now face.”

Nina Kong-Surtees

Founder and chief art advisor of smART Advisory, empowering visual artists who want to level up their career and reach their full potential through entrepreneurship, that will be continuing their artist interview series, [email protected], every month in 2021.

One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is the ability to adapt to changes. Being a new mom also taught me to be more flexible with my son’s changing schedule month after month. I’ve been rigid with my planning in the previous years, so I plan to carry these lessons into 2021. One thing that hasn’t changed is creating a theme each year instead of making New Year’s resolutions. For 2020, my theme was “action.” I planned to apply all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years into actions. My theme for 2021 is “expand.” I plan to grow my interview series and online workshops to help artists become more business savvy and create more opportunities through strategic partnerships.”

Callan Blount Fleming

Founder and CEO of Spark Collective, a leadership development firm that makes work actually work for parents and is launching new senior leader-specific and manager-specific coaching programs in 2021.

“Business leaders have seen how important it is to be dynamic and flexible, especially right now. And the best ones have figured out how to get the important work done without burning out their employees. With a similar eye to flexibility and people-centered leadership, all of our work will be dynamic and demand-based, while anchored in proven best practice. For example, we’ll offer 10-week coaching programs that can shrink to two weeks as needed, or coaching that is topic-specific and can also be tailored to each employee. It’s all about meeting people where they are without starting from scratch each time. That’s what allows the transformative work to happen.”

Xi Chen

Founder and creative director of Sonderlier, a sustainable womenswear brand with its first collection launching in Spring 2021 on Kickstarter.

I’m more convinced than ever about the value of taking the time to build solid ground, whether it’s product development, community building, or brand messaging. Another lesson from 2020 is the importance of building resilience into the business and an authentic connection with customers. I think being a small business allows for more of that agility and authenticity. So rather than growth for growth’s sake, I’m going to really focus my energy on ensuring the integrity of what I offer to my customers, and in each step I take.”

Liz Arnold

Founder and CEO of Digital Orchards, a coaching platform helping business professionals navigate successful careers in tech, that will be honing their coaching offerings and driving growth next year.

First, I spent time writing down my key offerings in a one-page framework that helped me see how each offering served a different audience. Next, I worked with my assistant to roughly scope out how much time it would take to execute each of several potential projects. Then I spent the weekend cleaning my house, while I allowed my unconscious brain to process the information. I woke up Monday morning, clear on what projects to prioritize and how to move forward!”

Sarina Virk Torrendell

Founder and career coach at withSarina, a career coaching company launching three big courses that are designed to provide Gen Z and millennials with the tools, tactics, and strategies they need to do everything from land a job to launch their first side hustle.

When it comes to planning, I am a big believer in setting one big yearly goal and then working backward. For 2021, once I decided on my one big goal, I broke my year into quarters and defined a quarterly goal. From there, I built out milestones and tasks just for Q1, not the entire year. As a small business owner, it’s pretty common to have to make pivots throughout the year. While long-term planning is great, it’s far more effective for me to plan long term at a high-level, get more granular for the short-medium term, and constantly revisit and adjust my plan throughout the year.”

Holly Jacobus

Investment partner at Joyance Partners, an early-stage VC fund that invests in companies at the intersection of health and happiness and is looking forward to the continued expansion of their fund.

I work with a wonderful executive coach, Carolyn Davidson, to help keep me focused, which has been of incalculable value in 2020 as COVID-19 disrupted the world. One of my 2019-2020 goals was to always allow my inner compass and signature strengths to guide my life direction and work. This mission led me to join Joyance Partners and allowed me to travel all over the world investing in wonderful CEOs at the intersection of health and happiness. With COVID-19 taking away a lot of the activities that played to my strengths, my goals have shifted dramatically. Frankly, I’ve also acquired new skill sets. Now going into 2021, knowing we’re in a new world with new rules, finding balance, and doing everything from a place of playful curiosity and love is center to my planning.”

Juliana O’Brien

Founder of hula, a curated e-boutique for gift recommendations, launching a complimentary service so that users will never forget a birthday or anniversary.

2020 has put our future plans for hula into overdrive. You can definitely call myself a COVID-preneur as I have thrived in taking risks during this uncertain time. Working in advertising full time while also working on hula could have dragged new iterations out for months. This extra time saved from commuting to in-person meetings has allowed me to implement changes in just a matter of weeks.”

Jessica Lynn Tatum

Founder of WURA Brands, an Ayurvedic beauty wellness brand creating effective, clean, and sustainable skincare products. The company is launching their first brand and products in 2021.

One word: Tirelessly. We have approached our planning by doing research on the best ingredients, suppliers, iterating our formulations, customer discovery, and a true dedication to ensure that we have a brand that appeals to our intended customer. The way I look at my medium- and long-term plans has taken a huge shift as I dive into the adventure of entrepreneurship and leave corporate America this year. I’ve really learned the importance of having a strong network and meeting more like minded people on this journey. I look forward to what 2021 will bring.”

Lisa Weiss

Founder and CEO of Storybeat Studio, a media platform for personal and business growth, rolling out a new grassroots media platform in the first quarter of 2021.

Planning for the upcoming year is focused on identifying and investing in key growth areas for Storybeat Studio. 2020 provided an opportunity for honest reflection on what was and wasn’t working. As a result we are entering 2021 with a clear vision for the short-, medium-, and long-term. Sometimes, that means investing in a key growth area such as sales and marketing, and other times that means pulling back on past goals that are no longer relevant. For example, last year, we were focused on having an in-person studio space to record video content for the platform. We were very close to signing a new lease in February when the pandemic hit. Now, having an in-person space has become a goal for fourth quarter 2021. We’ve doubled down on our commitment to working with mission-driven companies and organizations with social impact initiatives.”

Anna Szpunar

Founder and coach at The Entrepreneurial Soul LLC, a coaching practice providing one-on-one and group coaching programs to high achievers, executives, and entrepreneurs. The practice is accepting the next cohort for their six-week coaching program in January 2021.

I have always been someone who loves to travel and work with people directly and in person. Like almost everyone else, 2020 led me straight out of my in-person comfort zone and straight into the Zoom Room. This has enabled me to take action on my goals much faster and work easily with people across the U.S. and in the U.K. which has always been part of my long-term plan. I’m excited to be ready to reach more people with my bespoke coaching programs and courses over the next year.”

Victoria Repa

Co-founder and CEO, BetterMe, an ecosystem of health and fitness apps looking into expanding their B2B department.

The approach hasn’t changed much: we set goals for the year, as well as priorities for every three months, and discuss the positive result metrics. In 2020, our goals have changed little. Thanks to the team’s flexibility, we actually accomplished more than we had planned. In 2021, we are ready to scale up all of the previous year’s successful solutions.”

Minna Taylor

Founder and lead facilitator of Energize Your Voice, a communication consultancy refining their revised approach in 2021.

In previous years, we have taken a very safe approach to our corporate consulting model. It followed a traditional path of marketing, outreach, enrollment, facilitation, repeat. Looking into 2021, we are taking a much more narrow approach in terms of business development. The mindset is quality over quantity. With fewer clients, enrolled in longer-term development initiatives, we can increase the integrity and impact of our work. This will have a tremendous impact on our participants in terms of engagement, confidence, and team performance.”

Emily Hochman

Founder and CEO of Wellory, the first anti-diet app, that will continue to expand their team in 2021.

“We just completed a round of fundraising and to date, have raised a total of $4.2M, backed by some of the world’s best investors! Now more than ever, the health of our community has never been more important, which is why we are continuing to build and improve Wellory. As we look to next year and beyond, our goal is to continue to provide people with a resource that helps them create a healthy relationship with food.”

Sophie Alcorn

Founding Partner of Alcorn Immigration Law, the top immigration law firm for tech startups in California, who is looking forward to many opportunities in 2021.

2020 has taught me adaptability and letting go, but I’m taking time now to carve out recurring decompression and meditation time for myself in Q1. If I put it on the calendar, it gets done. It’s the whole oxygen mask metaphor, but now I treasure my times for quiet reflection because that’s when inspiration can flow.”

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