Six Innovative Women to Watch in 2015

Congratulations to Angela Lee and the other five women who were recently named by Entrepreneur Magazine as the "Six Innovative Women to Watch in 2015"

"In fields as varied as robotics, finance, biomedical engineering and education, these innovators have taken a decidedly humanistic approach to effecting positive change. It’s a benevolent form of leadership that is driving real results while setting the stage for the next generation of socially conscious entrepreneurs. Keep an eye out for these women and their pioneering work—we have no doubt you’ll be seeing more of them.

Lauren Bush Lauren’s FEED tackles hunger through commerce 

Lauren Bush Lauren has a singular focus: feeding hungry people. Her New York-based consumer-goods company, FEED Projects, and its associated nonprofit, FEED Foundation, define success in terms of meals provided—85 million in seven years, the equivalent of roughly $11 million.

Bush Lauren, 30, believes social entrepreneurship is most effective when the mission is clear to the consumer. FEED Projects sends funds from products sold—each stamped with a number indicating how many donated meals will result from the purchase—to its partners on the ground fighting hunger: UNICEF, United Nations World Food Programme and Feeding America. As part of its fundraising initiatives, FEED Foundation creates events that ultimately support the same organizations. The dollar equivalent of each meal is 11 cents in the U.S. and 10 cents internationally.

“FEED connects consumers to the cause of hunger,” Bush Lauren explains. “If it is not quick and easy and simple, you lose the consumer. FEED is a nice way to hook people and make them more aware of what is happening around the world. That’s the role we can play.”

FEED’s simple calculus and youthful, well-designed products such as bags, bracelets, scarves and T-shirts have engaged Bush Lauren’s Millennial peers and made the company a model for other anti-hunger advocates. “It is a very big deal to reach young 

people on hunger,” says Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, which created the “No Kid Hungry” campaign. Bush Lauren’s model of social entrepreneurship, he adds, “has taught us a broader lesson: the opportunity for nonprofits to create wealth instead of just redistributing wealth.”

A new deal with West Elm will enable FEED to be even more effective at that mission. For the partnership, Bush Lauren worked with the home furnishings company to design a 30-item range of FEED housewares (in West Elm stores now); a spring collection and a steady stream of other projects will follow.

“She articulated our culture absolutely perfectly,” says Jim Brett, who was named West Elm president in 2010 and has turned the chain of more than 65 stores into Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s fastest-growing brand, in large part by partnering with high-profile designers.

Bush Lauren’s renown came at a young age. She doubled down on fame and fortune when she married David Lauren, son of American designer Ralph Lauren, in 2011. But as the granddaughter of one U.S. president and the niece of another, she already led an exceptional life. She modeled part time while attending Princeton University. She traveled around the world as a student ambassador for the U.N.’s World Food Programme.

It was while working with the U.N. in Guatemala in 2003, dishing up corn and soya porridge for schoolchildren, that she was inspired to make fighting hunger her mission and refocused her budding design career on creating products that would
engage others in that cause.

With no business experience, she founded FEED in 2007 and grew it slowly through a series of mostly one-off partnerships made possible through connections. This gained her access to the professional expertise she lacked, while the partners
assumed most of the risk of developing FEED’s products, as well as managing distribution and marketing.

“FEED has been built on partnerships,” Bush Lauren says. “FEED offers this nice, easy, clear solution for our partner companies to engage with the mission of hunger, to allow their consumers to participate with them in giving back.” 

The longest-running partnership has been with skincare giant Clarins, which has provided 6 million meals through its “Gift with Purpose” FEED bag program. Other collaborators have included Whole Foods Market, Godiva, DKNY, Target, Barnes & Noble, Gap, Women’s Healthmagazine, HSN, Lord & Taylor, Pottery Barn, Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods. 

Read the entire Entrepreneur article here.