Women CEO’s & Mass Customization

by Joseph Flaherty on June 10, 2009


I was recently in a conversation about the scarcity of female CEO’s and the imbalance is staggering. At the start of 2009 there were only 13 women counted among the ranks of Fortune 500 CEO’s. However, in the world of mass customization women have founded and/or lead a much higher percentage of the market leading companies.

Maxine Clark has built the Build-A-Bear Workshop into a publicly traded fixture of malls around the world. It is an incredibly impressive business owning a third of the $1.5B plush toy market barely a decade after its introduction and is the most successful mass customization business since Dell.

Jana Eggers is the CEO of customized Tshirt manufacturer Spreadshirt.

Deborah Besemer recently joined custom jewelry start up Paragon Lake as CEO.

Sharon Kan is the founder and CEO of Tikatok a company that lets children create stories online and then have them transformed into nice hardbound books.

Eileen Gittins is a founder and CEO of print on demand company Blurb which does the same thing as Tikatok for an older demographic.

The world of 3D printing has been shaped extensively by female leaders. Marina Hatsopoulos was the founding CEO of 3D printer manufacturer ZCorp. Cathy Lewis is the CEO of Desktop Factory and has done a great job getting the $5,000 3D printer close to production (hopefully the fundraising situation will be finalized soon). Adina Shorr was the CEO of Objet Geometries until April 2009 and oversaw the commercialization of the bulk of their portfolio.

In the bootstrapped world women are also very active. Limor Freid is the Founder of AdaFruit Industries, makers of kit based electronics packages. Meredith Garniss founded Willoughby and Baltic, a fast growing Hacker Space in Boston. Lenore Edman is one half of the Evil Mad Scientist Labs team makers of a sweet 3D printer, the CandyFab 6000.

I don’t know if there is any particular explanation for the relatively high number of women CEO’s in the customization market, but they are all doing an amazing job making mass customization a reality.

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  • Paul Wallend

    You must really add Ms. Marybeth Luber, CEO of Archetype Solutions (http://www.archetype-solutions.com) to your list. She and her team are doing wonderful work in the custom apparel space with both white label deployment of their MC supply chain technology and services but also with two of their own brands; http://www.indidenim.com and http://www.inditailored.com.

  • Paul Wallend

    And you can also consider Brenda French, who was an early MC pioneer having started producing the French Rags brand of customized, high-end women's knitwear in the early 90's, distributed via in-home sales consultants. You can learn more about her business at http://www.youtube.com/FrenchRags.

    You are correct. For whatever reason, this is a field that has more than its fair share of women leading the charge and I say…”vivre la femme!”

  • http://www.blog.ponoko.com/ duann

    woah, that is interesting
    there is also Monika Desai at Sole Envie

  • Hebgen Lake Marina

    Paragon lake is simply amazing I ha visited its site, the designs are so pretty and original, right now they are doing some contest for a great design of jewelry.

  • http://www.slingshotseo.com/ Indianapolis SEO

    Interesting !
    Yeah , Disqus is using Twitter from a business standpoint .Paragon lake is simply amazing I ha visited its site, the designs are so pretty and original, right now they are doing some contest for a great design of jewelry.

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    The ideas behind these businesses are amazing this is proved that woman's are too good for enterprises.

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  • http://www.robertljensen.com Fresno Property Management

    Way to go. My wife specializes in custom drapes so when I read about the high number of women in the customization market I can relate. I think us guys have to face it, there are just some business sectors that women are better than us in.

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    I agree with Fresno., Not all business are for men… There are some business sector that will fit better for women than men.. And this is one example..

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  • http://www.digbands.com/grundge Grundge

    Well as for this time, women are now face in business sectors. But it is selected things. I can say that in designing more women are good in it.

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