At The Story Exchange, we often feature women making an impact in a world that needs fixing — and 2019 was no exception. Over the course of the year, we profiled female founders who started enterprises to do everything from helping unemployed Latino immigrants find jobs to designing action figures for young girls to making affordable prosthetics for the world’s amputees.
Here are the most popular videos on The Story Exchange in 2019.
1. Her Culinary School Provides Opportunities for Immigrants
Meet Paty Funegra, founder of La Cocina VA, a social enterprise that helps unemployed Latino immigrants find jobs in the food industry by teaching them food and language skills. For the past five years, she has run the culinary-training organization from the lower floor of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Virginia. But now, she’s ready to scale — and recently raised $2 million to open the Zero Barriers Training & Entrepreneurship Center, which will include a state-of-the-art kitchen incubator, a community cafe, and, she hopes, the promise of a successful future for newly arrived immigrants. Watch her startup story in this inspirational video.
[Related: Amid Angry Rhetoric, Kitchens Helping Immigrants and Refugees Are on the Rise]
2. Making Prosthetic Legs for Amputees Around the World
In this inspirational video, learn how plastics engineer ErinKeaney started Nonspec, a company that makes affordable prosthetic limbs for amputees in developing nations. Her startup’s patented “pylon” is for people who suffer limb loss below the knee. She and business partner Jonathan de Alderete decided to re-imagine the artificial limb after learning that, around the world, a person with an amputated leg couldn’t afford a high-cost prosthetic. They have raised about $1 million to fund Nonspec, mostly through grants and competitions.
3. Designing Fierce Female Action Figures
After realizing that girl superheroes on the market were really designed for adult male collectors, Julie Kerwin decided to take on the tiny-waisted big-boobed female action figure. Her company I Am Elemental makes figures that are “fierce, strong females worthy of an active, save-the-world storyline.” These products for kids aim to empower girls (and boys) and change they way they think. In this motivational video, learn how Kerwin started up without any business experience.
4. Making Math Fun for Kids
Angela McIver wanted her own children to learn strong math skills in elementary school, so she founded an after-school math program that quickly took off in popularity. In this inspiring video, learn how McIver created Trapezium Math, a Philadelphia company that uses fun games and brainteasers to teach math to kids. She has also created educational products that parents can use at home, and a curriculum for teachers. Now, children who learn math through Trapezium are performing math skills beyond their grade levels.
5. TV Host JJ Ramberg’s Startup Story
If you’re interested in how to be an entrepreneur, look no further than JJ Ramberg. She spent 12 years interviewing business owners about all aspects of entrepreneurship as the host of MSNBC’s “Your Business,” but JJ herself is an entrepreneur. In 2005, she and her brother Ken launched a startup that became Goodshop, a socially conscious coupon company. Learn how she got Goodshop — and her television career — off the ground in this video.
6. Growing a Home-Based Beauty Business on a Farm
On a farm in Canada, Leslie Bradford-Scott is growing a home-based multimillion-dollar business. In 2014, she started Walton Wood Farm in her kitchen, making bath and body products in small batches with all-natural ingredients. Her bath salts, lotions and creams are now in all 50 states and every province in Canada, making over $2 million in annual revenue. In this inspirational video, Bradford-Scott talks about how she started to diversify revenue on her small farm, and how she devotes proceeds to restoring old barns.
7. An Immigrant Success Story: Building a $55 Million Translation Business
It is not hard to find immigrant success stories, especially in the world of entrepreneurship. Claudia Mirza, who came to the United States from Colombia, turned her small business idea into a global company, Akorbi, which provides multilingual business services in over 170 languages. She is now a naturalized U.S. citizen who wants to help other women entrepreneurs succeed in their home countries.
[Related: This Immigrant Entrepreneur Came to America with $300. Now She Has a Successful Fashion Business]
8. The Family Business That Bakes 26,000 Poundcakes a Year
In Tyler, Texas, the mother/daughter team of Janie Clapp and Katherine Crow run Janie’s Cakes — a family business founded in 1987 that sells nothing but poundcakes. In this video, listen to how Janie started the business and how these women entrepreneurs run a bakery whose slogan is “Spread a little kindness, one cake at a time.” The poundcakes are made with all-natural ingredients like farm-fresh eggs and real creamy butter.
9. The School That Prepares Urban Students for Elite Success
When it comes to children’s education, Beacon Academy is a unique place. Founded in 2004 by Cindy Laba and Marsha Feinberg, the school offers kids from low-income backgrounds an extra year of intense schooling between eighth and ninth grades, which in turn helps them win scholarships to competitive high schools. In this motivational video, learn how Cindy and Marsha were inspired to start a place that provides opportunity to Boston school children.
10. Debby Shore on 45 Years of Helping Homeless Youth
If you’re interested in how to start a nonprofit, consider Debby Shore of Sasha Bruce Youthwork. The social entrepreneur has worked with homeless young people for 45 years. Watch this inspiring video to learn about how she started and the surprising way she found funding — and witness the important work Sasha Bruce is doing in Washington, D.C., for homeless youth.