17 Women-Led Sustainable Businesses Changing the World
Women like Pinky Cole of Slutty Vegan are leading sustainable, ethical, and vegan businesses. | Shake Shack

17 Women-Led Sustainable Businesses Changing the World

These women-led businesses and brands are all about building a kinder, more ethical, and more sustainable world.

As the economic toll of the pandemic continues to fall hardest on women, and especially women of color, one crucial way to show up for them  — and honor Earth Month at the same time — is to patronize women-owned sustainable businesses. 

Women business owners and entrepreneurs often encounter a wide range of barriers their male counterparts don’t, from limited funding to lacking the same institutional networks and connections available to male entrepreneurs. But that hasn’t stopped the following entrepreneurs from carving out their own paths forward and leading sustainable, ethical, and vegan businesses.

If you’re looking to inject more sustainability, flavor, and glamour into your life this Earth Month, look no further than the following women-owned businesses and brands.

Women Leaders in Climate Science

Rachael Miller, Founder of Cora Ball

A National Geographic Explorer and Explorer’s Club fellow, Rachael Miller founded Cora Ball in 2018 to address pollution to oceans and waterways. Cora Ball is a filter that can be placed in laundry machines to reduce microfibers and waste from laundry, which often ends up in the ocean.

Miller told Story Exchange in 2019 that she’s often the only woman in the room in her clean-water work — and that that needs to change. “I think everyone brings relativity and intelligence to a problem,” she said. “We need a whole team — it doesn’t make sense to have a lack of diversity working on this.”

Miller founded Cora Ball, which is made in the US from 100% recycled and diverted material, as part of her Rozalia Project for Clean Oceans.

Check it out here.

Miranda Wang, Founder of Novoloop

Miranda Wang, a member of Forbes’ 2019 30 Under 30 class, founded Novoloop in 2015 to “give plastic trash new life.” Novoloop can turn one ton of plastic trash into more than $2,500 worth of chemicals and can prevent 20 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

Currently, less than 10 percent of packaging plastics are recycled. The rest often goes to landfill, litters the natural environment, or ends up in the sea. It’s estimated there are now 15 to 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, from the equator to the poles, and there isn’t one square mile of surface ocean that’s free of plastic pollution.

Novoloop is currently working with select brands that are highly committed to sustainability through limited, special partnerships before its product becomes more widely available.

Check it out here.

Lynn Jurich, Founder of SunRun

In 2007, Lynn Jurich left a stable, lucrative career in private equity to start SunRun, a home solar, battery storage, and energy services company. “One hundred percent of people told us it was a mistake, and that I was crazy to leave my job in private equity,” Jurich says.

Because solar energy doesn’t produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, converting your household to solar energy could significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Currently, the average household produces 7.5 tons of carbon emissions per year.

SunRun’s customizable plans and services have revolutionized the energy industry by selling solar energy as a service, like water and gas. 

Check it out here.

Plant-Based Food Businesses

Louise Fritjofsson, Founder of Reimagine Foods

A native of Sweden, athlete and serial entrepreneur Louise Fritjofsson started her first company when she was 19. In 2019, she founded Reimagine Foods, a digital-first, multi-brand food company that’s all about plant-based, nutritious ingredients and sustainable packaging and production. 

Reimagine Foods is powered by “co-creation.” The brand encourages followers to request and share ideas for food products via social media.

Check it out here.

Miyoko Schinner, Founder of Miyoko’s Creamery

From vegan butter to plant-based artisan cheese wheels, Miyoko Schinner’s vegan creamery has it all. Schinner grew up as a vegetarian in Tokyo, and initially struggled to give up cheese and dairy-rich foods when she decided to go vegan to support animal rights. That’s why Schinner set out to start the “vegan cheese revolution.”

“The creamery of tomorrow is superior [to dairy],” Schinner told LIVEKINDLY. “It looks, tastes, and performs like dairy, it tastes better, and it has none of the negative aspects.” 

Last Year, Schinner told Forbes it was initially difficult to find financial backing for her plant-based food company. “Now they are just lining up at the door to throw money at plant-based businesses,” she said.

Check it out here.

Deborah Torres, Founder of Atlas Monroe

Deborah Torres’ Atlas Monroe, a viral, vegan delivery brand, launched in 2017 at the Vegandale festival, after years of developing the company’s classic fried chick’n recipe.

Atlas Monroe rose to national fame upon appearing on Shark Tank in 2019, and offers a wide range of mouth-watering meat alternatives, from plant-based fried chick’n, to ribs, stuffing, bacon, and popcorn chick’n. Torres initially adopted a vegan diet following her father’s type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and has been experimenting in the kitchen ever since.

“When you go on a raw diet, you’re forced to get really creative, so I experimented with plant food textures and flavors,” she said. “My food was really good because what was at stake was my father’s health. There was no cheating this.”

Check out the brand here.

Shama Lee, Founder of Sunfed

Shama Lee, a software engineer turned entrepreneur, founded Sunfed in 2015 in New Zealand, with the simple goal of making delicious foods that are healthy and sustainable. Sunfed’s extensive, plant-based catalog includes “chicken-free chicken, bull-free beef, and boar-free bacon,” primarily made from yellow pea protein. 

Lee told Vogue Australia in 2019 that her journey to create Sunfed began when she left her engineering job in 2012. Lee adopted a vegan lifestyle, and also set out to address the burgeoning crisis of the meat industry’s environmental impacts.

“The energy used in food production eclipses all other industries, including transport,” says Lee. “As the industry is more intensified and grows in scale, the risks also grow – of damage to soil, water, deforestation, and food safety. It’s the definition of unsustainable.”

Check out the brand here.

Vegan Restaurants

Francesca Chaney, Founder of Sol Sips

In 2018, Francesca Chaney founded Sol Slips, a Brooklyn-based, community-centered vegan cafe that strives to make plant-based food and wellness available to all. Sol Slips prioritizes the wellness of not just its customers, but also its staff. Chaney has said she’s determined to dismantle the toxic work culture of the service industry.

“[A restaurant] doesn’t have to inherently be exploitive,” she told Eater last year, and suggested restaurant owners think about “upholding the actual people that are [working] in these spaces regardless of the job description — upholding them and saying, ‘I’m going to make sure that you feel supported, that you feel safe.’”

Chaney went from making herself organic drinks with four ingredients or less, to selling her drinks at local festivals, to starting Sol Slips to make a healthy, plant-based lifestyle more affordable in her Brooklyn neighborhood, and told Elle people buying her drinks “were actually seeing the benefits.”

You can order Sol Slips’ pre-made meal kits on its website here.

Brenda Beneer, Founder of Seasoned Vegan

Brenda Beneer founded Seasoned Vegan, a Harlem-based, vegan soul food restaurant, with her son, Aaron, in 2015. The mother and son duo say they “use the term ‘soul food’ loosely,” as they aren’t just referring to Southern cuisine. Instead, Seasoned Vegan aspires to give traditional Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and American dishes a “vegan, home-cooked, soulful twist.”

Brenda told VICE in 2019 she started Seasoned Vegan because of the lack of other quality vegan dining options in her community. “I was determined to make the food taste good because the few vegan places that were open, they were just opening packages and heating up the food,” she said.

Seasoned Vegan’s dishes are available locally in Harlem, and Chef Brenda also sells her classic, crawfish vegan protein online via the Super Vegan Marketplace.

Pinky Cole, Founder of Slutty Vegan

Pinky Cole opened the Slutty Vegan in Atlanta in 2018. The plant-based burger joint became an overnight, national phenomenon.

Offering a wide range of plant-based burgers loaded with vegan bacon, cheese, and Cole’s classic “slut sauce” on a vegan, Hawaiian bun, the Slutty Vegan now has locations across Georgia.

Cole, whose father was sentenced to life in prison the day she was born, grew up watching her mother work three jobs to support her and her siblings, which inspired her “to fight for greater,” she told the Bitter Southerner

Cole became a millionaire within six months of starting the Slutty Vegan, and also runs the Pinky Cole Foundation, which invests in communities of color, and strives to empower entrepreneurs and changemakers. 

Check out the restaurant here.

Rachel Hugh, Founder of Vurger Co

Rachel Hugh founded the London-based Vurger Co. in 2016, setting out on a “mission to revolutionize fast food through the power of plants.” Vurger Co.’s menu boasts a wide range of loaded burgers, salads, fries, and even vegan shakes, and has a “zero to landfill” guarantee.

Hugh and her co-founder, Neil, discovered a wide range of vegan offerings on a road trip across California. Upon their return to London, they were immediately struck by the lack of similar, nutritious, and flavorful vegan options they’d enjoyed in California. 

“When we went to a chain restaurant and asked for a vegan option, we were met with a smirk. When we asked for a vegan burger, we were served a dry, bland mess,” Hugh told About Time Magazine. “That’s when we knew; it was our mission to take veganism mainstream in London.”

Check out the restaurant here.

Sustainable Fashion

Claire Carreras, Founder of White Rhino

A vegan musician, entrepreneur, and designer, Claire Carreras launched White Rhino Bags in 2018, shortly after searching for a high-quality vegan bag for herself on the market. Of the few options available, Carreras said “none filled the niche of being ethically sourced, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.” She launched White Rhino to fill that gap.

“The number one purpose was to make vegan leathers and designer quality bags and accessories accessible to the mainstream market,” Carreras said. 

White Rhino bags are available for purchase online, anywhere in the country, here.

Emanuelle Rienda, Founder of Vegan Fashion Week

A creative director and animal rights activist, Emanuelle Rienda started Vegan Fashion Week in 2019 to celebrate and lift up the work of vegan designers and creatives. Its inaugural 2019 season theme was “Fashion Is Activism.”

The first Vegan Fashion Week featured more than 200 designers, and drew more than 5,000 attendees.

“Animal exploitation and the current ecological disaster is directly linked to the health and economic crisis humanity is experiencing,” Emmanuelle told Bank of the West. “We need to rethink the way we consume, what we consume, and how to sync sustainability with ethics.”

Check it out here.

Julia Ahrens, Founder of Miakoda

Julia Ahrens started Miakoda, a plant-based, vegan, activewear fashion brand, in 2013. Ahrens found her inspiration to start Miakoda shortly after she began practicing yoga. Doing so prompted her to question many of her lifestyle choices, from her participation in fast fashion to her diet, and their impact on the planet. 

According to Business Insider, fashion production comprises 10% of total global carbon emissions, and 85% of all textiles wind up in landfills each year. “As I graduated, I felt disconnected from the fashion industry that can be [and usually is] so detrimental and exploitative and harmful to so many humans and our planet,” Ahrens told The Practivist.

Ahrens started Miakoda with her sister, Laura, one year later. You can shop the New York-based brand here.

Cruelty-Free Beauty

Gregg Renfrew, Founder of BeautyCounter

Gregg Renfrew is a mom and entrepreneur who launched BeautyCounter in 2011 with the goal of ensuring transparency and safety in the beauty industry. 

“As I applied sunscreen, lotion, and any number of beauty products on myself and my kids, I never thought for a second they might not be safe,” Renfrew notes on LinkedIn. “So imagine my surprise when I learned that when it comes to the personal care industry, companies are allowed to use potentially harmful ingredients.”

All of BeautyCounter’s items are cruelty-free, and the marketplace boasts a wide selection of vegan products too. You can shop BeautyCounter here.

Deepica Mutyala, Founder of Live Tinted

When beauty expert and Youtube personality Deepica Mutyala started her Los Angeles-based beauty brand Live Tinted in 2018, she did so with the goal of centering women of color and folks with underrepresented skin tones. All of her products are made with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients.

“As a little girl, I remember wondering why there was no one that looked like me in ad campaigns, in the media, on TV,” Mutyala told Forbes last year. “After college, I had the opportunity to work in the corporate side of the beauty space and it reminded me that I wanted to help other women of color feel heard and seen.”

You can shop Live Tinted’s inclusive, vegan products and merch here.

Stephanie Warren, Founder of Dimension Nails

A former health and beauty blogger, Stephanie Warren started her Florida-based nail care company Dimension Nails in 2018, shortly after adopting a vegan lifestyle.

Dimension Nails offers lacquers, gel polishes, nail powders, and nail art. Warren says she and her father opened “the business with the goal of spreading awareness about veganism though nail polish.”

You can shop Dimension Nails’ nail care products — including its classic plastic-free glitters — here.

LIVEKINDLY is here to help you navigate the growing marketplace of sustainable products that promote a kinder planet. All of our selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, LIVEKINDLY may earn a commission.