Meet 9 Young Entrepreneurs Who Risked Everything — & Won

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We get it. You want to do your own thing. Start a business. Be your own boss. But, while it’s easy to complain about your current secure-but-not-so-satisfying position and ramble fantastically about an ingenious invention or innovative business idea you have, one daunting question always remains: Where would you actually start?

In our latest installment of Beauty Nation's The New Provocateurs, we teamed up with Revlon to track down nine brilliant young entrepreneurs who once arrived at that same crossroads and asked them how they found the courage to make the leap. Below, they talk openly and honestly about going into debt, getting fired, and becoming power players in brand-new fields. Their stories are equal parts empowering and unnerving — but that seems to be the guiding principle when it comes to successful entrepreneurship.

And, these sharp, fearless women have made it work. They share how they keep it all together, from defining a work-life balance to perfecting their executive-level beauty moves. So, grab a memo pad and put on your thinking cap. It’s time to draft that business plan.

The Sexual Revolutionist: Talia Frenkel

PHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON
How does a young photojournalist go from traveling the world documenting earthquakes, fires, floods, and tsunamis to…making condoms? For Talia Frenkel, CEO L., the career shift was a no-brainer after an assignment in Sub-Saharan Africa put her face-to-face with women suffering and dying from HIV/AIDS due in part to a lack of condoms. The experience moved Frenkel so deeply that at the age of 25, she put her camera down to do something about the crisis. Thus, L. (which doesn’t stand for any one thing in particular) was born — and the “condoms with a cause” movement began.
The concept is simple: For every L. condom purchased, another will be distributed in a developing country to prevent diseases and unplanned pregnancies. L. also trains women to become health-care providers in their communities. And, as a millennial-friendly enterprise, L. condoms can be ordered online and be discreetly delivered to your door within an hour by bicycle if you live in NYC or San Francisco. So, after all this, what’s next? Frenkel plans to roll out with sanitary pads and tampons, using the same holistic approach as she does with her condoms. Needless to say, Frenkel is turning things up both in your bedroom and abroad.
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A different kind of sexual conquest
“The consumer packaged goods space is dominated by men, and this space in particular, even more so. So, being a woman-owned company that’s focused on products that empower women has been interesting to work and navigate through. Then, there’s the whole branding thing, right? Trojan Magnum Armor, Fire & Ice…Sex is being marketed as a conquest, and it doesn’t align with the modern view of sexuality. So, that’s when I thought there was room for better brands — something more sophisticated and that has a positive message.”
Why I do what I do
“AIDS is still the number one killer of women my age, [between the ages of] 15 and 44. I hadn’t grown up with that knowledge. The second biggest killer is maternal death. Both are preventable with a condom. The fact that 90% of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa go through condom stock-outs [when stores run out of condoms] and that the one tool of prevention isn’t being made available to the people who really need it most was really a turning point for me.”
Condoms that make a difference
“When most people complain about condoms, it’s that they smell bad, they taste disgusting, they’re irritating, and they’re uncomfortable. So, we tried to address each of those issues by sourcing higher-quality ingredients and not putting any of the harmful additives in there. Our condoms are more sustainably made: glycerin- and paraben-free, packaged in 100% recyclable materials with vegetable-based inks. Women who contact us say, ‘I used to get yeast infections and urinary tract infections every time I used a condom, and now I don’t!’ It’s awesome that they can use condoms while helping women in developing countries.”
On removing stigma around sexuality
“We can’t continue to shame women for being sexually active. We need to give them the tools they need to thrive in their communities — and that means protection. If pregnancy is the number one reason girls are dropping out of school, it’s time we face that reality. And, why is there so much shame around a girl getting her period? Like, having to hide my tampon if I’m going to the bathroom. We’re trying to think about those stigmas and ask, ‘What does an empowered woman look like?'”
The true meaning of doing it all
“Being a CEO of a social enterprise is a full-time job. This is what I’m called to do and need to do. But, I think as women, we’re dynamic. We don’t need to be just one thing. We can be photojournalists, we can be entrepreneurs, we can be activists and philanthropists, innovators, dancers, girlfriends, wives, and moms. We can be all those things!”
Zara heels, vintage dress, model's own earrings and bangle.
Photographed by Geordy Pearson; Makeup by Sophie Haig; Hair by Michiko; Styled by Laura Pritchard.