photo of Lorna Jane Clarkson, founder of Lorna Jane
store window of a Lorna Jane store

Retail Brands Founded by Women


Although women face challenges in the world today, we thought we would also take a look at some of the inspiring women who have founded their own companies. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9.4 million companies are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015.

Lorna Jane

One of those companies is Lorna Jane– which was founded in 1989 by Australian woman, Lorna Jane-Clarkson. Her goal was to see women becoming more active and healthy – as well as feeling stylish. It was Lorna who coined the term “active-wear” that is so wide spread today.

The foundations of what Lorna Jane is presently was derived from the disappointment she had with women’s exercise wear. So Lorna began to design and sew her own stylish, yet practical active wear. People began to notice her elegant attire, soon she started creating custom made pieces for close friends. Now the brand is globally adored by women who seek to look and feel good.

Lorna maintains the philosophy of Move Nourish Believe, which intern inspires women across the globe to live to their potential whilst actively living, striving to be the best woman that they can be.

Body Shop

Anita Roddick opened a  small shop in Brighton, England, in 1976 selling 25 hand-mixed products.  Her ethos was to use organic ingredients, minimise waste and promote environmental sustainability.

Although it started off as a small business, Roddick displayed that we all have the ability to achieve great things, she once said;

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Gaining increasing popularity the brand soon grew to what it is presently, having over 2500 stores in 60 countries. Today the Body Shop continues to foster a love of the environment and have run campaigns against human rights abuses, protecting animals and the environment. In 1990 they launched their own charity, the Body Shop Foundation, which helps and supports people in need as they strive to have equal rights for all humans as well as for the eco system.

Anita’s lifetime work was recognised in 2003 when she was awarded as a Dame of The British Empire. Although she passed away in  2007, The Body Shop today continues to maintain a holistic approach towards environmental sustainability, as they continue on her legacy.

To read a short biography about Anita Roddick’s life by Entrepreneur click here 

Picture of Body Shop original re-fillable bottles

American Girl

Pleasant Rowland founded the American Doll company in 1986 after trying to find dolls based on historical characters for her nieces.  She believed that young girls might become more interested in history by identifying with dolls based on a specific time period.  Although Pleasant Rowland now sits at 49 on the Forbes’ America’s Richest Self-Made Women list, she began her career as a primary school teacher during the 1960’s.  She later worked as a television newsreader and reporter during the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s.  After leaving journalism, she developed a reading program and wrote a series of literacy text books for young children.  It was the proceeds from these text books (US$1.2m) that she sank into building the American Doll business, which she sold to Mattel in 1998 for US$700.

Her marketing prowess and flair for business saw her add books, clothing and other accessories.  The American Girl stores have cafes, host birthday parties and even have dolls hairdressers.

After selling her business in 2004, she founded the Rowland Reading Foundation to promote the Rowland Reading Program.  Her and her husband remain major philanthropists and in 2010, she was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree of Humane Letters from Edgewood College, Madison Wisconsin.  If you wonder why you have never heard of her, it is because she is extremely publicity shy…