Prepare To Be Crazy-Inspired By These Amazing Women

Photo: Courtesy of Artisan Publishing.
When I started my blog, Design*Sponge, 12 years ago, it was a straightforward ode to furniture and interior design. Over time, the blog has evolved into a celebration of the people and stories behind those designs. Creatives, from writers and painters to architects and upholsterers, have a unique perspective on the world of business and I love getting to share their advice and life lessons online every week. But when I looked to the world of business books, I wasn't seeing all of the amazing female-owned businesses that I admired. More importantly, the stories that were shared from women seemed to focus on thin, straight, white women, leaving out a wide and wonderful range of stories, backgrounds, and perspectives that deserved to be shared.

So, last year, I set out on an epic cross-country road trip to interview more than 100 of the most talented, hard-working, and inspiring women running their own businesses and creative practices. Those interviews are now available in my book, In the Company of Women. From poets like Nikki Giovanni and musicians like Laura Jane Grace to designers like Joy Cho and wheelchair ballet choreographer Mary Verdi-Fletcher, these women have broken down barriers, blazed their own trails, and set an incredible example for the next generation. I'm proud to introduce you to nine of them today.
Excerpted from In The Company Of Women by Grace Bonney (Artisan Books). Photographs by Sasha Israel, echo and earl, and Alexandra Valenti. Copyright © 2016.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Valenti.
Liz Lambert
There are so many reasons to love Austin. For me, Liz Lambert is one of the major ones. She has created so many beautiful spaces to stay, relax, and connect with people in and around Austin and continues to work to provide communal spaces where people can talk and connect in meaningful ways.

“When you start your own business, it’s an enormous amount of work and worry. But I don’t know if I would call that sacrifice. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Laura Jane Grace
Becoming your true self is a long and difficult process. Laura Jane Grace has shared her journey openly and with great integrity. I admire not only her commitment to honest and powerful music, but to living bravely and openly.

“It’s important to have people who can relate. Living an artist’s life and traveling a bunch — a lot of times it’s hard to talk about those things with people who don’t understand them. Having people who understand those things is essential.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Preeti Mistry
I have admired chef Preeti Mistry since I saw her stand up for marriage equality on Top Chef. Since then, she has gone on to become not only one of the most talented young chefs in America right now, but one of the few who are not afraid to speak up for what they believe in.

“I am myself. I refuse to fit into what people want me to be or expect me to be. I stand up for what I believe in and will fight for it.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Fay Andrada
I first met Fay Andrada in a Brooklyn dog park where, after a few days, I finally connected her dog’s adorable brass name tag with the line of jewelry I already coveted, but did not know she designed. Anandra's work is modern and forward-thinking and I know her designs will inspire the next generation of women to explore metalworking.

“I am willing to bet that riding the New York City subway can deliver inspiration to almost anyone in any field.”
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Photo: Courtesy of echo and earl.
Justina Blakeney
Blakeney hardly needs an introduction for her legions of #jungalowstyle fans online, but for anyone who is not familiar with her design work yet, she is well-known for leading the design community toward an enthusiastic embrace of color and bold pattern. Her prolific career, transparency about the realities of running a small business, and genuine warmth and embrace of her design-world colleagues makes her a true role model.

“I’m slowly learning that I know better than anyone what is good for my business — I also care more than anyone else what happens to my business and therefore am learning to trust my gut and ask lots of questions.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Tanya Aguiniga
When I need inspiration and motivation to work harder, I ask myself, What would Tanya do? Tanya Aguiniga is a steadfast supporter of women in craft and a powerful community-oriented activist who speaks up to celebrate and protect traditional techniques of native communities and their rights.

“Success means making meaningful work that promotes inclusivity and community.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Julia Rothman
Of the thousands of artists and makers I’ve written about over the past 12 years, Julia Rothman has secured a permanent place in my heart because of her genuine enthusiasm for art, her dedication to constantly learning and growing, and her open-hearted embrace of her fellow artists and illustrators. I’ve seen her practice grow from a tiny debut booth at Surtex (a trade show for surface pattern design) to being featured on a national billboard campaign. I know her work will inspire young artists everywhere to dream big.

“Confidence is mandatory.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Ping Zhu
Without knowing it, I was cutting out pieces of Ping’s artwork from the New York Times and the New Yorker for years and pinning them to my inspiration board. Then, I discovered she worked down the hall from my (former) office in Brooklyn. Ping’s work conveys so much emotion, power, and movement in such strong, but subtle, ways.

“Success is contextual and fleeting, so when things are harmonious, even for a moment, I try to savor it.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Israel.
Jodie Patterson
Jodie Patterson is one of the most all-around inspiring human beings I know. Her beauty products and online shopping destination empower and celebrate ethnic diversity and have given a voice to so many women in the beauty industry who were not being recognized. I respect and admire her dedication to making everyone in her life, professionally and personally, feel welcome, included, and heard.

“Winners are losers who got backup. Full stop. If you want something, grab it. Get it. It’s yours, damn it.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Artisan Publishing.