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International Women’s Day: Celebrating small business founders and leaders


Mar 8, 2024

LAST UPDATED: Mar 8, 2024

The UN theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) this year is ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’. The lack of investment in gender equality measures is seen to be a human rights issue by the UN, and a cornerstone for building inclusive societies. Climate change, geopolitical conflicts and the current economic system exacerbate inequality and disproportionately impact women. 

There are many ways we can make an impact and #InvestInWomen in our local communities. Investing in women doesn’t require having thousands of dollars to buy shares in a business or programmes, it could be as simple as shopping locally or online at a women-led store, or supporting organisations that promote gender-equality or a greener and more caring economy.

Bringing women-led small business to the fore

Among the many Xero customers, there are incredible small businesses that are led and/or founded by women. As part of our celebrations for International Women’s Day this year, we want to recognise some of these inspiring women and their organisations. Last year, we held the inaugural Xero Beautiful Business Fund which received over 5,500 entries, many of whom were from fantastic women-led businesses. In fact, over half of our winners are women-founded/led!

We’re proud to showcase some of the winners and share their views on how achieving gender equality and women’s wellbeing in all aspects of life can help us build healthier and more prosperous communities. 

Art Outreach Singapore – Chaired by Mae Anderson, Art Outreach Singapore promotes access to art education in schools, for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the wider community with the aim of improving art literacy and critical thinking. Art Outreach’s board is made up of four women, including Audrey Phng, Asa Tucker and Kaori Zage alongside Chairman Mae Anderson, who are all passionate about the arts and versed in areas such as entrepreneurship, wealth and philanthropic management, consultancy and media.

Constantia Food Club – Founded by Noma Matoko-Louemba and Courtney Atkinson, Constantia Food Club connects small local growers and producers directly with customers in Cape Town. Constantia Food Club aims to support local regenerative farmers to help reduce biodiversity loss, promote sustainable food production and create a decentralised food system.

Hand Me Up – Hand Me Up is an e-commerce solution setup by Nicole Boynton and Kara Livingston to make it easier for families to shop second-hand for their kids. Long-time friends with kids of their own, Nicole and Kara know first-hand how expensive and wasteful the kids clothing industry can be. They want to change that by connecting families with affordable preloved kidswear, and reducing textile waste, through Hand Me Up.

Hoot Reading – Founded and run by co-CEOs Carly Shuler and Maya Kotecha, Hoot Reading is on a mission to transform children’s lives through literacy. Hoot strives to address the educational disparities that impact countless students by providing evidence-based, 1:1 online literacy instruction that’s accessible to all children. 

Maya Kotecha & Carly Shuler, Co-CEO’s and Co-Founders of Hoot Reading shared: “We are incredibly proud to say that over 80% of Hoot Reading employees are female, nearly three times the industry average. Furthermore, 92% of our leadership team consists of talented women, surpassing industry norms by over three times. These statistics underscore our unwavering commitment to an inclusive environment where diversity isn’t just celebrated but is integral to our success.

At Hoot Reading, we strive to address educational disparities by making evidence-based, 1:1 online literacy instruction accessible to all children. Investing in women helps us to achieve our goals, but goes beyond business – it fosters communities that are equitable, supportive, and innovative.” 

Let’s Go Physio – The physiotherapists at Let’s Go Physio work to rehabilitate children and adults who’ve been diagnosed with neurological and other conditions. Claire Ingham started Let’s Go Physio in 2019, after an extensive career in the NHS and Private Practice.

More Granola – During the 2020 pandemic, Sarah Aubrey-Davies decided to launch a product that satisfied her love for granola clusters that would occasionally appear in granola boxes. Hoping to bring a sense of play into healthy eating, More Granola creates fresh baked, extra-chunky granola made from real ingredients that taste like a treat.

Oranjezicht City Farm Market – Started by Sheryl Ozinsky, The Oranjezicht City Farm Market in Cape Town connects small-scale organic farmers and food producers to thousands of customers. After being involved in various community safety projects, Sheryl realised that if you want to build real community, then you need to bring people together, and what better way of doing so than through food.

Oriental Remedies Clinic – Oriental Remedies combines traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with cutting-edge technology to enhance patient well-being. Co-founder and CEO, Beatrice Liu is passionate about the patient-centered care they provide and the team she has assembled.

Oysterly – Most businesses are struggling to keep up with social media. Oysterly is a short-form video agency founded by Melissa Laurie that specialises in creating user-generated content videos to give forward-thinking companies massive exposure and growth across the big 6 platforms: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, LINE, X, and YouTube.

Rock Recovery – Carylynn Kemp Larson started Rock Recovery in 2007, after a strong recovery from an eating disorder was disrupted by devastating life changes. With the goal of helping people overcome eating disorders and body image issues, Rock Recovery provides direct, affordable therapy and support services.

Reflecting on this year’s IWD theme, Christie Dondero Bettwy, Executive Director at Rock Recovery, shared: “Without wellness, there is no equality. Eating disorders are the second deadliest mental health condition (surpassed only by opioid use), and women suffer at alarming rates. Rock Recovery is doing life-changing and life-saving work to make treatment and support available to those who need it, so that they can have the wellness and resources they need to be fully engaged in their lives and in the world.”

Suitcase Records – Co-founded by Kathy Wilson, Suitcase Records is a family-run state-of-the-art vinyl pressing plant in Brisbane, Australia. Passionate about supporting artists to keep making music, Suitcase Records challenges the status quo and are investigating more sustainable ways of constructing vinyl records.

Kathy Wilson, Suitcase Records Co-founder, shared her reflections on women entering the traditionally male-dominated music and manufacturing industries: “I came to both the music and manufacturing industries later in my career and came in as a business owner. I do think both industries were different places for women 20 years ago and increasingly, women are making their presence known (in a good way) in both industries and adding a different perspective on how things can be done. We believe this change is both important and necessary. We are hosting a Women in Music event this week, partly to celebrate this in the industry and also because every day, cool women including musicians, music executives, not for profit managers and more, come across our radar and we want to bring them together and see what fabulous things can happen.”

The Seam – Founded by Layla Sargent, The Seam is a digital platform for highly skilled makers from across the UK to be paid in exchange for offering specialist wardrobe care and repair services to those that need it. The Seam’s platform can reduce the amount of garments being sent to landfill by matching people with skilled makers who can help them extend the life of their items through alterations and repairs.

The Together Project – National, intergenerational charity The Together Project brings communities together to reduce loneliness and tackle disadvantage. Louise Goulden, Founder & CEO, was inspired to set up The Together Project in 2017 whilst on maternity leave from her marketing career. Having experienced the profound change that parenthood brings, she wanted to feel more connected to her local community and created a grassroots project that would unite age groups for mutual benefit.

We’re inspired by the women leaders recognised through the Xero Beautiful Business Fund. Our customers and the work they’re doing each and every day remind us of the importance of investing in women entrepreneurs and the future planet and society we want to live in.  If you’d like to know more about how you can help support this year’s IWD theme, take a look at the UN Women’s IWD blog.

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