Inc. has released the third rendition of its Female Founders 100, an annual list that celebrates the female entrepreneurs who are producing game-changing innovations, inspiring others, or having fast success. This year, two North Texans made the cut: Enseo’s Vanessa Ogle and Scout & Cellar’s Sarah Shadonix.
Amidst the unprecedented challenges of 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic, government shutdowns, forest fires, social injustice, political unrest—Inc. chose this group of women based on their ability to “improvise, adapt, and make something from nothing.”
In its Female Founders 100 issue, Inc. gives the honorees a platform to share their stories and best business advice in five key areas, from creating a culture to funding. It’s a group that’s “first, fearless, and formidable,” Kimberly Weisul, the editor-at-large for Inc.com, writes—and there’s a lot to learn and admire from them.
“As our staff reports on startups and small businesses throughout the year, these are the women whose names keep reappearing,” Weisul writes in a Female Founders 100 column. “They are the most inspiring, the most creative, and the most tenacious role models in entrepreneurship—and therefore, the ones we are most excited to celebrate.”
The entrepreneurs on the Female Founders 100 list represent a range of ages, backgrounds, geographies, industries, and company sizes. Per a statement, the editors and writers at Inc. spent a year researching candidates, including those who were invited by the publication to apply.
Each of the founders is credited with leaving her mark on her industry throughout the past year by setting audacious goals or achieving business milestones. Together, they are meant to represent a future of business that is female-led.
For instance, the last six months have been brutal for many people connected to the hospitality industry, but Enseo founder and CEO Vanessa Ogle has refused to let the COVID-19 crisis dismantle the business she has spent some two decades building.
Enseo provides technology services primarily for the hotel industry. When she saw the majority of her clients’ revenues start to drop, she began iterating technology that could be useful in a post-COVID world. She was issued more than 10 new patents and introduced seven new products, with several related to touchless technology and remote control.
That included leveling up her enseoCONNECT product by adding Fido, which turns a hotel guest’s smartphone into a type of universal remote. By scanning a QR code, guests can control the TV, thermostat, lights, and other smart devices with a cell phone. They also can see the details of cleaning and sanitization processes for the room and the building.
In a matter of weeks, the improved enseoCONNECT system was launched in more than 20,000 hotel rooms.
Other recent additions include VERA, a video-enabled remote agent that helps guests via a live feed, and the MadeSafe Checkpoint to measure an employee’s temperature before shifts.
“The most difficult thing about radical change is breaking inertia,” Ogle told Inc. “To go to an entire team of engineers and say, ‘Thanks for all the hard work on the products you’ve been building. I want you to drop everything and go do this new set of products that we’ve never done before,’ was an intense effort.”
And Sarah Shadonix, the founder and CEO of Scout & Cellar, hasn’t backed down from the coronavirus either.
Shadonix is known for blazing a trail in the idea that “wine doesn’t need to be stuffed with chemicals and additives.” Founded in 2017, Farmers Branch-based Scout & Cellar leaves synthetic chemicals and artificial ingredients behind. The social-selling company aims to create a higher standard for how wine is made, coming out with its own Clean-Crafted option that’s made simply and honestly from grape to glass.
The team had already been steadily growing its authentic mission, garnering more than 7,000 consultants last year. But when online alcohol sales started rising during the stay-at-home nationwide order, Shadonix and her direct sales winery got a massive boost.
Scout & Cellar grew more in April 2020 than it did in all of 2019, according to the DBJ. The winery had already moved five times in the last two and a half years to adapt to growing pains, and COVID brought even more supply chain issues.
Shadonix and her team diversified their supplier pools, the DBJ reported, to work through the backups. She said COVID-19 even accelerated the manufacturing and release of products already planned down the line.
In July, Scout & Cellar introduced MIXABLE, a brand of lower-alcohol alternatives for cocktails.
“I feel so honored to be among this group of esteemed and inspiring individuals who have paved new paths in their respective industries,” Shadonix said in a statement. “It’s amazing to me that I get to pursue my passion for bringing Clean-Crafted wine to people every day, and I’m so grateful to the hard-working team at Scout & Cellar that has done so much to get this company to where it is today.”
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