You might remember seeing a great deal of articles last year declaring that the number of female CEOs for Fortune 500 companies reached an all time high in 2020. However, the catch was that the actual number of female CEOs was 37, which only accounts for 7.4% of the companies listed. Despite this discrepancy, we are seeing huge changes in the world and women-led companies are proving to be more profitable and more appealing to investors. Because female entrepreneurs are held to higher standards, they push themselves harder to overcome the hurdles standing in their way and, as a result, take their companies to new heights. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are seven female founders sharing wise words on overcoming hardships in the entrepreneurial world.

Evelyn Lopez, CEO & Cofounder of Raised By Latinos

Evelyn Lopez is the CEO and cofounder of Raised By Latinos, a streetwear brand that aims to elevate the Latino community and connect them to their roots. Born and raised in Canada, she began her career working in IT before jumping into the fitness industry. After accumulating extensive experience in brand development, she and her cofounder noticed the lack of representation for Latinos in streetwear and decided to launch their own brand in 2018.

What was the toughest thing you had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“One of the toughest things I have had to face is not being taken seriously and acknowledged in a male dominated work environment. No matter how many times I make my presence known, there are many instances where I am overlooked an unheard. There are two people who started RBL and, unfortunately, I get dismissed as being the other half. This isn’t a complaint, it’s the reality.

“I put my blood, sweat, and tears into my company. It is my baby. I build amazing relationships, come up with ideas for campaigns and designs, write, and so much more. I am the CEO of RBL and all the while I am the head of my house and do everything that encompasses.

“This is an everyday struggle and because of this I have learned to be extra tough. The good thing is the world is changing and women, like myself, are standing up. One thing is for sure though, I am proud to say que Soy Latina!”

Is there another female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

Yasmina Harrison of Tzol’Skin—a natural skincare line inspired by her Mayan Roots. Latina-owned.

Vanessa Abron, Founder of Agency Abron

As founder of the independent public relations firm, Agency Abron, Vanessa has over fifteen years experience in the industry. She leads multicultural and global communications initiatives, event management, promotional visibility, and more to any company or brand that identifies as unconventional, unorthodox, or avant-garde. Vanessa has received numerous awards for her work including Chicago Defender Women of Excellence (2018), Dillard University Alumni 40 Under 40 (2019), and was a SABRE Innovations Finalist in 2019.

What was the toughest thing you had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“The toughest thing I had to face as an entrepreneur is trusting myself and my capabilities. Perseverance got me through. Sometimes you just have to jump out the window, even if you’re scared out of your mind. I’ve learned to close my eyes and jump constantly. I always land safely. I might get a few bumps or bruises, but I always land safely.”

Is there another female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

“To give a shout out to only one woman-owned business is such an unfair position to be in. There are far too many women-owned businesses that I love and support. To call out only one woman-owned business is like being a parent of several children and telling the world which one is your favorite.”

Debra Chen, CEO & Founder of ICON Media

Former Wall Street executive Debra Chen is the CEO and founder of ICON Media, which provides strategic communications to a diverse client base serving the U.S. and Asian markets. She earned her expertise on the trading floors of Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan and later by managing shareholder strategy for WWE Shane McMahon’s Chinese media company, You On Demand. Debra is also the creator and producer of the award-winning podcast, The Great Fail, that has been featured in Forbes, ABC News, Podcast Magazine, and Digital Hollywood.

What was the toughest thing you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“One of the toughest things that entrepreneurs face is the rollercoaster they ride each day—there are days with real highs and then there are some days where the dip makes me want to hurl. It comes with the territory of launching, running, and growing a business.

“It’s only for a selected few, who keep hopping back on for more because the thrills are exhilarating and because it’s a powerful test of resilience. But it’s not easy and my approach to staying centered with my passion point, and staying connected with myself, is through meditation. It’s a reminder that there are rewards and joy in remaining still.”

Is there a female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

“Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark of My Favorite Murder podcast have been an inspiration to the launch of my show, The Great Fail. I admired how they were able to tell true crime stories with a comedic twist and it allowed me to look at business case stories in a much more compelling and twisted way. The Great Fail is a genre-bending show that takes business case studies through a true crime feel and I think that inspiration stems from seeing how shows like My Favorite Murder and others have been able to make their platform just a bit more unique to stand apart from the crowd.”

Yasmina Harrison, Founder of Tzol’Skin

After working for twenty-seven years in the beauty industry, Yasmina Harrison realized there were few skincare products that met the needs of Latinas in their 40s. So, she decided to take inspiration from her Mayan roots and launched Tzol’Skin, a 100% vegan skincare brand. Yasmina got her start in the beauty industry after obtaining her cosmetic license to support herself through college. Upon completion, she was quickly promoted to an executive position at Bloomingdales in New York City where she learned the secrets of the trade. Today, her skincare brand has been featured on Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Condé Nast Travel and provides affordable skincare to underserved women.

What was the toughest thing you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“Having self-confidence was my toughest challenge. Sometimes your own insecurities are your worst enemy. After many years in the corporate world and running a successful business, I was scared to go out on my own. I’m so glad I took the first step!”

Is there a female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

Nancy Cabral, founder & CEO of Style Loft high quality active wear, based in Miami.

Chef Whitney Watts, Founder of This Girl’s Grub

Chef Whitney Watts is a master vegan chef, nutritional counselor, recipe curator, vegan transition coach, and more. After taking long a break from completing culinary school, she launched This Girl’s Grub in 2015, which is a vegan food delivery service based in Chicago. When she isn’t busy cooking, Chef Whitney also balances life as a mom, model, and writer.

What was the toughest thing you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“I would say the toughest thing I had to face as an entrepreneur was accepting that I could be very lazy. I’d have days where my head just wasn’t there, and I wasn’t in the ‘mood’ to cook, or be social, so I wouldn’t. It was a harsh reality to accept that I have gotten in my own way by choosing to not be more productive.

“That was until I compared my brand and the effort it requires to maintaining a marriage, friendship, or raising my child: you really do only get back what you put into life and the things you love. And you have to almost have an abnormal work ethic in order to really make a dent in your goals. I practice balancing my tasks to stay productive 7 days a week now, because it’s always easy to work for someone else and make them wealthy, and I have to have that same energy for myself.”

Is there a female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

“There’s so many! Moving Purpose, Jade the Chef, Sage Vegan Meals, Zha Zha, Varta Melon. There’s so many amazing women entrepreneurs out here!”

Morgan Phelps, Founder of Colorful Connections

Morgan Phelps is the founder and CEO of Colorful Connections, a social enterprise which provides long-lasting solutions for employers committed to creating diverse and inclusive teams for their companies. They also uplift underestimated professionals by helping them secure promising careers in such inclusive environments. As a graduate of both Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and Oberlin College, Morgan currently teaches Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity in Organizations at Marquette University.

What was the toughest thing you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“Having to be twice as good with half as much and move forward despite the odds, while also wearing a smile. I know—that sounds like a common story for many Black women, and other underestimated professionals, but it’s the underlining theme of my most challenging hurdles.

“From lenders to investors to clients. Your biggest learnings will come at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, and that time is so precious and critical. So, find early adopters who are more inclined to extend grace, appreciate your value and support your growth. Look into community lenders versus national banks. And before you invest time in investors, determine if they are even worth your time.”

Is there a female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

“Kelly Shelton, founder of Shelton Solutions, which provides energy management services, solid waste reduction strategies, and community outreach and engagement services.”

Jamila Trimuel, Founder & CEO of Ladies of Virtue

Jamila Trimuel is a mentor, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist, with over ten years of experience in strategic planning and community engagement for nonprofit organizations. In 2011 she founded Ladies of Virtue, a mentoring program that strives to help young women not to be perfect, but to be the best they can be in every aspect of their life. Since it’s launch, Ladies of Virtue has empowered over 1,000 young women to become confident and purpose-driven leaders. Jamila is a leader in several Chicago community programs and was most recently appointed to the 78 Community Advisory Council by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

What was the toughest thing you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

“Pursuing my purpose has definitely not been easy. In 2015, I felt like I was in a winning season. I was recently accepted into a prestigious educational residency program and Ladies of Virtue was going well. But in what was supposed to be one of the highlights of my career, I experienced some of the most devastating losses bringing me to the lowest points I had ever encountered.

“In a chain reaction of events, I lost my mother-in-law to cancer. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant, but I lost the baby to a rare condition after five months. Due to all of the stress, I turned to eating and gained weight at an exponential rate, putting my health at risk once again. 

“Everything in me wanted to quit, and I know I had good reason to do so. During this time, I often reminded myself of what I often tell my mentees, ‘it isn’t what happens to you in life; it’s how you respond to it that matters’. I also stood on Romans 8:28, “and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was born to mentor our Black girls in the Chicagoland area and I had to keep going.

“Living my purpose meant I had to serve more than just the girls I was mentoring. My mental and physical health needed to be a priority, as well. If I didn’t change my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be a healthy vessel for the girls in Ladies of Virtue.

“With the help of a mental fitness coach, I began making myself a priority.  I took these three steps:

  1. I scheduled my workouts in the mornings before starting my day.
  2. I learned to view food as only nourishment and stopped overeating.
  3. I also made new friends who held me accountable and enjoyed living a healthy life just as much as I did.

“These small steps led to huge results. I lost 50 pounds and 5 dress sizes in less than 2 years! Ultimately, taking care of my health directly reflected in the girls that I mentored. I had more energy to do fun activities and was able to pass on incredible life lessons of resilience. This experience reminded me that unpredictable obstacles will come, but if you keep your purpose as your north star then you will overcome.”

Is there a female entrepreneur or woman-owned business you want to give a shout out to?

“There are so many women-owned businesses that I could highlight. But I would love to give a shout-out to Chris-Tia Donaldson, Founder & CEO of Thank God It’s Natural (TGIN). TGIN is a manufacturer of natural hair and skincare products. Under her leadership, Chris-Tia has grown TGIN to a 7 figure business and you can find their products in Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Sally’s Beauty, and Walgreens. She is a cancer survivor, speaks truth to power, and has been a long-time supporter of Ladies of Virtue.”

What other female entrepreneurs or women-owned businesses do you admire? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.