Boosting women-owned businesses to achieve accelerated growth: EY announces 12 winners of the North American EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program

Nov 12, 2015, 15:00 ET from EY

PALM SPRINGS, Fla., Nov. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- For the past eight years, through its Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program, EY has taken aim at the gender gap among high-growth companies. Despite years of progress, today, women-owned businesses still struggle to reach the same economic scale as businesses started by men. For instance, according to the Economic Policy Institute, women-owned businesses earn 25 cents for every dollar male-owned businesses earn. To address this imbalance, EY helps women entrepreneurs overcome obstacles to growth through its Entrepreneurial Winning Women program. As a group, past participants of the program have seen their companies' revenue increase by 54%, with some individual participants far outpacing that average growth rate.

The program acts as an accelerator to help successful women entrepreneurs gain business knowhow, resources and advice to grow their companies, access capital and develop the networks necessary to become formidable forces in their industries. Today, EY announces the 12 newest members of its program, the 2015 class of Entrepreneurial Winning Women.

This year's winners faced more competition to join the program than ever. EY received record numbers of qualified applications and nominations. The diverse class comprises some of the most promising women in business today. As a group, they average $11.3 million in revenue, with combined proceeds of $136 million. Their three-year combined growth rate is 164%, and their companies have, on average, 116 employees.

Additionally, this year marked a sharp rise in applicants in STEM-related fields. Twenty-eight percent of this year's applicants were in the technology sector, compared to 9% in 2014. These entrepreneurs break the mold of stereotypical female-run businesses, some creating market disruptors that effectively compete against established ways of working or enable today's most innovative technologies.   

"Being a part of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program allowed me to think differently about the future of my company," said Elena Bajic, Founder and CEO of Ivy Exec and a member of the 2014 Class of EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women. "The knowledge and tools provided by this exceptional program have helped me to create lasting connections and a professional network that I couldn't have otherwise done on my own. The program has also inspired me to think big. As a result, Ivy Exec has achieved tremendous growth over the past several years and been named to the Inc. 5000 list for three years in a row."

Launched in North America in 2008, Entrepreneurial Winning Women is a national competition and executive education program that identifies a select group of high-potential women entrepreneurs from the United States and Canada. Since inception, the program has helped more than 80 participants grow their companies.

Participants are specifically coached on five foundational steps that can help scale their companies:

  1. Thinking big and being bold
  2. Building a public profile
  3. Working on the business, rather than in it
  4. Finding and establishing the right network
  5. Evaluating financing for expansion

The program continues to help the entrepreneurs in the years that follow their initial selection. Many past winners stay engaged in this community where they find like-minded peers with common values, purpose and entrepreneurial ambition. 

"This year's class of women is an impressive group. We are looking forward to working with them, guiding them through critical growth periods, and helping them reach their full potential as entrepreneurs. When you look at the revenue growth past participants have achieved, it's proof that the program does work, and can help these women achieve new heights and meet bigger, bolder goals," says Kerrie MacPherson, Principal, Financial Services Office, Ernst & Young LLP, and EY North American Entrepreneurial Winning Women Executive Sponsor.

The members of the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2015 are:

Claudia Mirza
Plano, TX
Akorbi, the fastest-growing language services provider in the world, offers multilingual business solutions in over 170 languages to global companies, including Google, Aetna, MoneyGram and Tyco. The company offers professional staffing, translation, interpretation, multilingual call centers, business process outsourcing, sign language interpretation, e-learning and e-discovery.

Nikki Barua
Los Angeles, CA
BeyondCurious is an award-winning innovation agency. It brings together the creativity of Madison Avenue and the inventiveness of Silicon Valley to help companies innovate for the mobile age. BeyondCurious' top talent teams craft the strategies and build the digital products that help large brands get to market quicker and challenger brands scale their business faster.

Jody Greenstone Miller
Business Talent Group
Pacific Palisades, CA
Business Talent Group is a global marketplace for top independent consultants and executives interested in project-based work. Clients include 20% of the Fortune 500 as well as mid-cap companies, private equity firms and major non-profits. As the US leader in this high-growth emerging business services category, BTG's independent professionals provide everything from growth strategy and innovation to pricing and performance improvement. BTG's uniquely scalable model has enabled over 60% growth in each of the last three years.

Susan Catalano
Cognition Therapeutics (CogRx)
Pittsburgh, PA
Cognition Therapeutics has discovered drugs that can potentially reverse Alzheimer's. These drugs work by a novel mechanism that's different from anything tried before, and the lead drug is currently in clinical trials. When successful, CogRx could become one of the largest drug companies in the world.

Aneela Zaib
emergiTEL Inc.
Richmond Hill, Ontario
emergiTEL is a pioneering recruitment agency that has re-invented the way traditional recruitment occurs in the IT and telecom industries by making it more effective and efficient. The company partners with clients throughout the entire HR life cycle to source, recruit, manage and retain employees. emergiTEL is successfully serving telecom, banking, software houses and management consulting clients all across Canada.

Rachel Mielke
Hillberg & Berk
Regina, Saskatchewan
Hillberg & Berk designs, manufactures and retails luxury jewelry for the mass market, growing 600% in the last five years. Its jewelry, which is 80% made in North America, is sold globally. The company differentiates itself by being a female-driven and female-focused company, giving a minimum 2.5% of profits to charities that benefit women around the world. Among their many endorsements, Hillberg & Berk was commissioned to make a brooch for Queen Elizabeth II, which she has worn several times.

Ariel Garten
InteraXon Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
InteraXon produces Muse, the headband that makes meditation easy by providing feedback on your brain state while you meditate. Muse helps you reap the rewards of a consistent meditation practice, including better sleep, focus and response to stress. It is used by more than 120 research institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and Harvard.

Leah Garrad-Cole
Love Child Organics
Whistler, British Columbia
Love Child Organics is a fast-growing, Canada-based baby and children's food company, which makes 100% organic products powered by superfoods. These tasty meals and snacks are nutrient-rich and filled with only simple, clean ingredients that parents can feel good about. Because it all begins with food.

Alissa Bayer
milk + honey
Austin, TX
milk + honey is a collection of premier spas and salons with an accompanying luxurious, organic product line made with hyper-clean premium ingredients. milk + honey has won more than 75 awards, has been on the Inc. 5000 list six years in a row, and is a "Best Place to Work" in Central Texas.

Lisa Falzone
Revel Systems
San Francisco, CA
Revel Systems is an award-winning iPad point of sale solution for both single-location and multi-establishment businesses across a variety of industries. Its product is designed to improve the shopping checkout process while providing business owners with top-of-the line security, advanced analytics and features that cater to the needs of each business.

Michelle Vondrasek
Von Technologies, LLC
Oakbrook, IL
Von Technologies is an information technology services corporation focused on network infrastructure, unified communications, wireless networks and cabling. Its services portfolio encompasses the network lifecycle from planning and consultation, to design and deployment, to optimization and support. The company prides itself on being creative, nimble and flexible based on customer needs, enabling clients to provide the reliable access their consumers demand. Clients include AT&T, Hilton Hotels and Ford Motor Company.

Anne Wagner
WaveStrike, LLC
Crownsville, MD
WaveStrike is a software engineering firm providing mission-critical applications to the US Government and Department of Defense. Our specially trained engineers work to solve some of the most difficult national security challenges in the areas of big data analytics, cloud solutions and cybersecurity.

The 12 members of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women class of 2015 received an all-expenses paid trip to the EY Strategic Growth Forum® 2015, a CEO invitation-only gathering of more than 2,000 high-growth business leaders held this week in Palm Springs, CA. The conference presents a one-of-a-kind platform for Entrepreneurial Winning Women to introduce their companies and integrate into a community of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® winners, top executives, prospective investors and business advisors. The 2015 class members were introduced and honored today at a celebratory luncheon hosted by Steve Howe, Chairman of Ernst & Young LLP and EY Americas Managing Partner, at the EY Strategic Growth Forum.

The entrepreneurs were selected for the 2015 program by a panel of independent judges:

  • Mike Cohen, Managing General Partner, VG Partners
  • Sarah Kauss, Founder and CEO, S'well (and a member of the 2014 Class of EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women)
  • Christina Lampe-Onnerud, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Cadenza Innovation, LLC (formerly Founder and CEO, Boston-Power)
  • Steve Streit, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Green Dot Corporation

An investment in the advancement of women that now spans more than 30 countries worldwide, the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program is part of EY Women. Fast forward, a global platform designed to accelerate the achievement of global gender parity.

"Women's advancement and leadership are central to business performance and economic prosperity," says Lisa Schiffman, EY Director and Global Co-lead, Women. Fast forward. "Through this accelerator and programs such as Entrepreneurial Winning Women, we are using our influence and resources to catalyse opportunities for women in the workforce and advance their interests around the world."

Entrepreneurial Winning Women is conducted in collaboration with several organizations that encourage the development of women-owned businesses, including the Women Presidents' Organization (WPO), the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), The Committee of 200 (C200), Golden Seeds, the Kauffman Foundation and Babson College's Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership. For more information on the program, visit

About EY's Strategic Growth Markets Network
EY's worldwide Strategic Growth Markets Network is dedicated to serving the changing needs of high-growth companies. For more than 30 years, we've helped many of the world's most dynamic and ambitious companies grow into market leaders. Whether working with international mid-cap companies or early stage, venture-backed businesses, our professionals draw upon their extensive experience, insight and global resources to help your business succeed. For more information, please visit us at or follow news on Twitter @EY_Growth.

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member of the global EY organization that provides services to clients in the US.

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