Five Woman Entrepreneurs You Need To Know

    like a boss

    by , and · February 23, 2016

    Photographed by Jesse DeFlorio. Makeup: Simon at One Represents.

    Who runs the world, you ask? These women make the answer crystal clear. The following feature appears in the February 2016 issue of NYLON.

    Parris Goebel

    New Zealand-born dancer and choreographer Parris Goebel just might be the coolest pop culture icon you’ve never heard of. Even if you don’t recognize her name, we’re guessing you’ve seen the 23-year-old’s work for Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, and most recently Justin Bieber. “He sort of dropped this huge bomb into my life,” she says of the call she received from Scooter Braun around three weeks before Bieber’s album dropped. “He said, ‘I have this crazy idea—how do you feel about doing a dance concept for every song?’” Goebel, who calls the video series “the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career,” put her entire heart and soul into the project, which consisted of 13 videos that hit the Internet simultaneously and without warning, à la Beyoncé.

    Goebel’s first big break came in 2012 when reps for Lopez called and asked if she’d like to choreograph JLo’s world tour. A total badass in her own right, the dancer had already founded an internationally renowned dance group at age 15 and was turning into something of a YouTube sensation, known in the hip-hop community for her crew’s wins at international dance competitions. Suddenly, she found herself on a plane to Los Angeles, and the offers haven’t stopped rolling in. When we speak, she is in between choreographing JLo’s opening dance sequence for the American Music Awards and finishing South Korean superstar CL’s monster video for “Hello Bitches.”

    But let’s be real. You’re here for the Bieber series, which climaxes in an epic video for “Sorry,” in which a fun-loving girl gang dances through the chorus in Goebel’s signature “polyswagg” style (a hip-hop fusion that has become standard at her studio, The Palace, which she founded at age 18). As of this writing, the “Sorry” video has 274 million views [Editor’s Note: now it’s 901 million], largely due to Goebel’s crisp execution and her dancers’ endearing charm. “It really put what we do in the dance community into a public, international forum so that the entire world could see and appreciate what we do,” she says. “So many times we’re hidden behind the artist or overlooked, but what we do is so, so powerful.” MOLLY BEAUCHEMIN

    Photographed by Tawni Bannister. Hair and makeup: Mahfud Ibrahim at Exclusive Artists using Dior Beauty and Oribe Hair Care.

    Yasmine El Baggari

    Tech entrepreneur Yasmine El Baggari is always on the move. On this busy Monday morning, fresh off a trip to China, where she met with potential investors for her Internet launch Voyaj, she’s Skyping in from a bustling New York City coffee shop, her makeshift office. She’ll be in Manhattan for exactly two days, then she’s off to D.C. and Texas. Before we can even dive into the online platform she founded—which pairs travelers with hosts in the country they’re visiting—the 22-year-old Moroccan native is giving me travel advice on how to make friends at airports: Find a signature look. “Blue eye shadow and a hat” are hers, she says, as she grabs a Trilby and places it on her head. “People compliment you and it starts the conversation.”

    She’s practically an expert, having visited 38 U.S. states and 40 countries (and counting) while researching and supporting Voyaj, a platform that employs an interest-matching system using values and emotional intelligence to connect people. El Baggari’s main goal is to foster authentic, intercultural relationships—which seems more important than ever in this political climate. “We need to exchange common interests like music or photography first,” she says. “Then we can talk about our cultures and religions, and break down stereotypes.”

    The seed for Voyaj was planted in 2010, when El Baggari was sponsored by the State Department to visit the U.S. as part of a post-9/11 program dedicated to fostering understanding of Islam. El Baggari spent a year in Kansas with a host family learning about American culture and sharing her own. She absolutely loved it. Later, while studying at Hampshire College, she “traveled around the world conducting research on identity, entrepreneurship, and women’s issues in the Arab world.”

    The life-changing experience inspired her to create Voyaj, which won a $60,000 grant from her school, and landed her two visits to the White House and on a speaking panel in Morocco with Vice President Joe Biden. Now, the self-proclaimed go-getter, who speaks four languages, has a team of six working on and testing the platform, connecting a beta group of students from various universities with their school’s alumni around the world. Later this year, Voyaj will launch globally. “I feel like I’m on a mission,” says El Baggari. “Not until we meet face-to-face and exchange our stories can we understand each other across cultures and create more understanding, peace, and tolerance.” LISA BUTTERWORTH

    Photographed by Quan Mai.

    Vanessa Hong

    Being a boss runs in Vanessa Hong’s blood. Take her grandfather, for instance—the son of a pig farmer, he immigrated from his native China to Canada, bought a grocery store, and grew the operation into a successful chain. “On both sides of my family, everyone’s an entrepreneur. No one ever worked for anybody else,” says the jet-setting Hong when she FaceTimes me from Vancouver, where she’s visiting relatives before heading to L.A. for work. So it’s not very surprising that the 31-year-old, who is based in both Beijing and New York, turned her part-time blog The Haute Pursuit into a powerhouse fashion and lifestyle site, design label, and full-time creative gig in just a few years. “I’ve always kind of seen the world through business lenses,” she explains with a smile, her bleach-blonde hair artfully disheveled, her thick black liner on point. She’s wearing a simple black sweater with a delicate gold necklace, demonstrating her signature minimalist aesthetic.

    What is more surprising is that Hong has a degree in biochemistry and genetics and was working at a biotech company when she created The Haute Pursuit from her cubicle. But she wasn’t long for that life. “I saw the CEO of the company and he’s in this big ol’ cushy office and I remember thinking to myself, ’I want to be that guy, I want to be the guy who runs the show. ’Cause that’s got to be the best job in the world,’” she says. And according to Hong, it is.

    Despite her science background, fashion was always a part of her world. She started dressing herself from “the moment [she] could walk” and her mom, who rocked Yohji Yamamoto and Calvin Klein in the ’90s, was a huge influence. Thus, parlaying the popularity of her blog into a label, dubbed THP, was a natural instinct. Hong began THP with jewelry and basics, then made her first official foray into ready-to-wear last fall (including a range of gorgeous faux fur jackets and stoles in vibrant colors). This year she’ll branch out even more, with a denim line, stationery collection, and artist collaborations in the works.

    Lately her workdays are more 24/7 than 9-to-5, but that’s just the way she likes it. Somehow she still finds time to practice yoga, get her astrology charts read, and dip into spa culture. When asked what’s next for THP, Hong ends our conversation by answering affirmatively: “Everything.” LISA BUTTERWORTH

    Photographed by Tawni Bannister.

    Chloe Coscarelli & Samantha Wasser

    There’s often a line around the block to get lunch at By Chloe, a new vegan restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The bustling, light-drenched space isn’t exactly designed for lingering—with counter service and limited seating, the grab-and-go atmosphere is perfect for a busy downtown clientele—but between the hanging basket chairs, communal table, and tiny succulents, it’s easy to imagine whiling away an afternoon nibbling on matcha blueberry muffins and sipping coffee with homemade “half and half” (half almond milk, half cashew.)

    “I had so many friends who said, ‘I could be vegan if you cooked for me every day,’” says co-founder and chef Chloe Coscarelli with a laugh. “Then I was like, what if I came up with a [restaurant] concept where I actually could cook for people every day?” To make this kind of eatery a reality, Coscarelli teamed up with Esquared Hospitality’s Samantha Wasser, who oversees the brand. While not a vegan herself, Wasser immediately understood the vision. “I wanted to create something that people would take pictures of and get into, and not [have it be] screaming, ‘We’re vegan!’” she explains.

    Indeed, By Chloe certainly isn’t exclusively for patrons with plant-based diets. Although the endlessly creative menu is 100 percent vegan, Wasser estimates that less than 20 percent of their usual customers actually identify as such. And of those regulars, many stop by multiple times throughout the day—occasionally for all three meals. Because of the demand, they’re gearing up to open a second By Chloe location this spring in the Flatiron District.

    So how did two women in their 20s build such an instantly successful food business? Well, neither one is a newbie: Wasser has helmed the launch of several brands since joining Esquared, and Coscarelli was the first vegan chef to win Cupcake Wars, beating out other chefs who used butter, eggs, and milk with her creative alternatives. It’s Coscarelli’s ability to make vegan ingredients feel so familiar that sets By Chloe apart from similar spots and explains its universal appeal. “If I can test the recipes on a die-hard carnivore and they say they like it, that’s how I know it’s good to go,” she explains. Which is maybe why the most popular item is the Guac Burger, with a patty made of sweet potato, quinoa, and black beans, topped with chipotle aioli, lettuce, tomato, onion, crispy tortilla strips, smashed avocado, and jalapeño-corn salsa. Hungry yet?

    Coscarelli and Wasser’s success is no small feat, especially in such a male-dominated industry—and that’s not something that they take for granted. So, they’re paying it forward by setting up a female leadership team at By Chloe, ranging from the kitchen to areas like design, branding, and PR. Every day they’re challenging the status quo in the culinary world. “When we’re checking out equipment at the restaurant [trade] show, and the people selling it tell us that we don’t look like chefs,” adds Coscarelli, “I say, ‘OK, so what does a chef look like?’” GABRIELLE KORN

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    Last updated: 2016-02-23T16:41:33-05:00
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