Celebrating women founders

What do video-based art instruction, equine regenerative medicine, and a healthier version of the traditional wheat tortilla have in common? Each is the big idea behind a women-owned business. And all of those businesses—Let’s Make Art, Equine Amnio Solutions, and Coyotas—are winners of the 2021 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

Women entrepreneurship has come a long way in the last three decades. It may seem hard to believe now, but before the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act in 1988, many states had laws requiring women to have a male relative or husband co-sign a business loan.

According to the National Women’s Business Council 2020 report, women-owned businesses now represent 42% of all U.S. companies. Yet women entrepreneurs received only 2.2% of the total $130 billion in venture capital dollars in 2018.

We talked with these women founders about how they started their businesses, how they’re marketing and meeting demand, and their advice for other women entrepreneurs.

Create something unique, and the world will beat a path to your door

Each of these women founders have a product or experience rooted in their own unique experiences, backgrounds, and ideals, which is helping them attract customers and create new opportunities.

Coyotas co-founder Janet Flores grew up in Sonora, Mexico, and studied culinary arts in San Diego. “I fell in love with California,” she says, “the people, the lifestyle, the positivity.” She searched for health-conscious tortillas in grocery stores but found them bland and crumbly compared to the authentic hand-made tortillas she had grown up with.

So she decided to create her own—vegan, grain-free, gluten-free tortillas with the taste and texture she remembered. “As I studied how people make tortillas in Mexico, I realized that much of the rich flavor and the texture of the tortillas is lost when tortilla-making equipment is used, and when you add unnecessary ingredients or preservatives,” she says. Janet now makes each small batch of tortillas with cassava flour and coconut oil using traditional techniques she learned from the “tortilla ladies” in her hometown. Now Coyotas tortillas are available on their website, where they get orders from as far away as Hawaii as well as 20+ local grocery stores and restaurants.

A women eating a taco


A women eating a taco


So she decided to create her own—vegan, grain-free, gluten-free tortillas with the taste and texture she remembered. “As I studied how people make tortillas in Mexico, I realized that much of the rich flavor and the texture of the tortillas is lost when tortilla-making equipment is used, and when you add unnecessary ingredients or preservatives,” she says. Janet now makes each small batch of tortillas with cassava flour and coconut oil using traditional techniques she learned from the “tortilla ladies” in her hometown. Now Coyotas tortillas are available on their website, where they get orders from as far away as Hawaii as well as 20+ local grocery stores and restaurants.

For Equine Amnio Solutions co-founder Ginger Hull Johnson, her unique background and experience led her to launch a company that distributes next-generation regenerative veterinary products. She explained, “I had a practice as a chiropractic neurologist for 12–15 years and then became a fast-food franchise owner-operator with my husband for 15 years. And my daughter was a barrel racer, so we were on the go all the time with horses and vet bills.”

Working with a chiropractic patient who had a spinal cord injury led her to meet the owner of a company that had developed amniotic tissue products for human patients. Says Ginger, “When he started telling me all the issues he was treating, all I could think is ‘We need this in the horse world so bad.’ He found out we had horses, and he said, ‘I'd love to bring this to the equine market.’ And I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, me too. Let's do it.’” Ginger’s mix of medical and animal knowledge plus her experience with a high-volume business made her the perfect match.

Equine Amnio Solutions is the exclusive distributor of RenoVō®, which is quickly being adopted and recommended by top veterinarians for a variety of conditions, from lameness to hoof injuries. “That has been really helpful,” Ginger says. “These vets are highly regarded in their field, and it’s definitely helped our business for them to say, ‘Hey, you need to try this stuff, because it is something.’”


“We realized that if we can approach teaching and art and buying art supplies in a way that wasn't intimidating, then we can probably get people to understand the real joy of creating.”


For Let’s Make Art co-founder Sarah Cray, making art is a joyful process that she loves sharing. As a freelance artist and art teacher, she discovered that “People really want to know exactly what paints and brushes and paper I'm using…they don't want to have to do a lot of the research,” she says. “We realized that if we can approach teaching and art and buying art supplies in a way that wasn't intimidating, then we can probably get people to understand the real joy of creating.”

A lady sitting printing

What started as a list of watercolor supplies and a live video “paint-along” has become a monthly watercolor kit for subscribers with everything they need to work on weekly art projects. Companion “how-to” videos are available on the Let’s Make Art website free of charge. The website also sells non-subscription kits, books, and supplies, and has expanded to subscription kits in art journaling and kids’ projects. Says Sarah, “What we offer is different. There are other art subscription companies, there are education companies, there are art supply companies, but I feel like we married all three of those things together.” Sarah’s style of teaching is also unique. She explains, “There was a lot of criticism of how we chose to do things, a lot of people at first didn't like how much chatter there was in the tutorials. But I was trying to make this not serious. I wanted it to be comfortable. I wanted it to feel casual. That was the whole point! But that was new, that's not usually how art tutorials are taught or how education is taught, especially over video.” The rave reviews on the site confirm that her style resonates with customers.

Marketing—from grassroots to social media to sponsorships

Equine Amnio Solutions has a grassroots approach to building the business. Says co-founder Ginger Hull Johnson, “We literally started with nothing but a horse in a horse trailer, and now we’re probably up to at least 40 states, Canada, Mexico, the UK.”

In December of 2019, they went to their first trade show. “It was the first opportunity we had, on a national scale, to meet with veterinarians. We had a special ‘buy one, get one free’ offer, and so January and February of 2020 were our biggest sales months…we had scheduled another six or seven trade shows and all of them got canceled because of COVID.” In the absence of trade shows, “We really have just gone vet to vet to vet, from referrals, friends of friends, and gotten into all these veterinarian clinics.” Ginger knows that RenoVō® results are impressive, so her approach with veterinarians is “always offer them a free trial, just try it,” she says.

In addition to hiring a social media manager, Ginger says one of her best marketing moves was to start a sponsored athlete team. “We have sponsored six to eight of the top barrel racers and ropers in the world, and they have used the product with their horses and they love it. I could never pay for the amount of advertising that they’ve provided for us because of the way their horses have performed since using RenoVō®.”

Equine Amnio Solution
Equine Amnio Solution


In December of 2019, they went to their first trade show. “It was the first opportunity we had, on a national scale, to meet with veterinarians. We had a special ‘buy one, get one free’ offer, and so January and February of 2020 were our biggest sales months…we had scheduled another six or seven trade shows and all of them got canceled because of COVID.” In the absence of trade shows, “We really have just gone vet to vet to vet, from referrals, friends of friends, and gotten into all these veterinarian clinics.” Ginger knows that RenoVō® results are impressive, so her approach with veterinarians is “always offer them a free trial, just try it,” she says.

In addition to hiring a social media manager, Ginger says one of her best marketing moves was to start a sponsored athlete team. “We have sponsored six to eight of the top barrel racers and ropers in the world, and they have used the product with their horses and they love it. I could never pay for the amount of advertising that they’ve provided for us because of the way their horses have performed since using RenoVō®.”

Coyotas co-founder Janet Flores says they started out selling tortillas at a local farmers’ market—also, coincidentally, in December of 2019. “I was in a farmers’ market where there are a lot of tourists, in Little Italy here in San Diego. Some people didn't even know tortillas, what they were or how to eat them, so I would explain and give samples. It was really interesting, because it was like a focus group…if they liked our product they told us and if not, they’d tell us that too.”

Home made tortillas being put in a bag


When the farmers’ market was canceled in March 2020 due to COVID, Coyotas pivoted to selling directly to customers on their website. “The farmers’ market was a really good way for us to start,” says Janet, “because when we started our webpage, the growth was organic. I’m not sure how it worked, but when we put up our website we had customers already.”

As to how they got into 20+ grocery stores, she says, “We knocked on doors. We went to every store we like, or that we think serves our customer base. Some other stores contacted us, because of customer requests.” She says with a laugh, “We know everybody in the stores, so that's how we make sure they take care of our product, too.”

Let’s Make Art co-founder Sarah Cray says that Facebook ads have been instrumental to her company’s growth. “With each new medium we have a private Facebook group associated with it, so one for watercolor, one for art journals, lettering, and now a kids’ group. We wanted to create a place where people can connect and learn with each other, where they can ask questions or cheer each other on, or try something new. The community is strong and it’s grown pretty quickly.”

Since the community is already on Facebook, she says it made perfect sense to advertise there. “People see ads on Facebook, they click through, discover us and our Facebook group, and they’re able to connect easily from where they already are.”

Fresh and timely deliveries

Shipping is important to each of these founders, for reasons as different as their businesses. When Let’s Make Art conceived of their art kit idea, they originally started with a weekly subscription. “That worked wonderfully,” says Sarah, “but if a customer didn’t order the kit right away it might not get there in time for the live ‘paint-along’ tutorial. Our shipping window was really limited and we weren’t always able to get the kit to them in the time that they needed it.”

The solution was to create a monthly box with all the supplies for each week’s project. “We started that very first month with 30 subscribers, mostly friends and family. Now we use a third-party logistics company that does our fulfillment and our shipping.” That in itself was a game-changer, she says.

“Before that point it was me packaging up the orders and the subscription boxes and loading up the back of my car. My husband has this picture of me answering emails on Christmas Eve that first year, apologizing that people's Black Friday orders weren't there by Christmas because we were just caught off guard. We learned from that and ever since then we know we have to have a plan in place.”

Since Coyotas tortillas are made without preservatives, getting them to customers quickly is imperative. “They are really perishable,” says Janet, “they're good at room temperature, but only for four or five days.” In the early days, Janet ended up sending replacement orders due to pandemic- and weather-related shipping delays—and sometimes those replacements were delayed, too. “When we found FedEx it really helped us,” she says, “because we had a two-day shipping guarantee at a fixed price. That’s when we decided, ‘OK, we can do e-commerce now,’ because we felt safe.”

As the distributor of a medical product that needs to be kept at -80°F, Equine Amnio Solutions has unique shipping needs. “We could not have done it without FedEx, because we have to ship overnight on dry ice,” says Ginger. “We have all of our packages validated that they stay at -80°F for three to four days. Once the doctor receives it, they can just hold it in their regular -20°F freezer, just like a household freezer, for up to eight weeks. With FedEx we have all the data to support the stability of all the properties for that length of time, so that has helped tremendously.”

While they could get their packages picked up, driving them to the FedEx hub lets Equine Amnio Solutions offer added flexibility to their customers. “We tell our veterinarians, if you order by five o’clock CT, we can have it to you by the next day,” says Ginger. “The FedEx office is open until eight, so I can take orders really late.” She adds with a laugh, “Sometimes we come pulling in there pretty quick at about seven forty-five.”


“I think the biggest thing that I’ve had to overcome is empowering myself. There were times where I was nervous to make a decision, but if you don't make a decision it doesn't move forward”


Advice for other women entrepreneurs

When talking about what advice they might give to other women entrepreneurs, some common themes emerged: stay true to your passion and ideals, know your business better than anyone, and trust your instincts.

Janet is passionate about carrying on the traditional ways of making tortillas. “I started studying how tortillas were made from the source, from the ladies in Sonora. I learned that they're not teaching new generations because it doesn’t earn that much money. It's very important not to lose that tradition…it’s amazing what they do, it’s like an art. So, if I can represent a little bit, or dignify what they do, that will be more than enough.

“I’d like to inspire other women to start a business,” she says. “If I did it here, everybody can—if they have a laser focus, patience, and goals.” Her advice to other entrepreneurs? “Learn every process of your company, pay attention to every detail. For me, growing organically has been helpful. It’s been fulfilling to see how we grow with every step and every accomplishment. You know, you want everything perfect, but perfect is the enemy of something really good. If you don’t start with something really good you’ll never get there.”

Woman and child coloring a cupcake


Woman and child coloring a cupcake


“I’d like to inspire other women to start a business,” she says. “If I did it here, everybody can—if they have a laser focus, patience, and goals.” Her advice to other entrepreneurs? “Learn every process of your company, pay attention to every detail. For me, growing organically has been helpful. It’s been fulfilling to see how we grow with every step and every accomplishment. You know, you want everything perfect, but perfect is the enemy of something really good. If you don’t start with something really good you’ll never get there.”

Ginger of Equine Amnio Solutions says, “I think the biggest key, really, to any business, is saying: ‘The answer is yes. And let me figure it out.’ Be solution-oriented. You have to know your product, know your customers, know your competitors, know the information up one side and down the other…and then you’ll be just fine.”

Sarah of Let’s Make Art says, “I think the biggest thing that I’ve had to overcome is empowering myself. There were times where I was nervous to make a decision, but if you don't make a decision it doesn't move forward. I really had to learn how to trust myself, recognize that I can’t please everyone, and that I don't need to be the one who has all the information. But if I can be comfortable enough with myself to ask the questions, take that information and make the best-educated decision while still in line with my values and what I’m trying to do for our customers? That has been a huge, huge learning for me.”

Sarah says that creating a business has many parallels with the process of art. “I feel like so much of how we've been taught to view success, it's all tied up with money,” she says. “But how do we define value within our lives? Are we painting because our goal is to sell this painting for $40,000 or be in history books? That’s not my goal. I'm not interested in that. I'm doing this because I feel so much joy and release when I create something, when I explore, when I'm curious, when I'm vulnerable enough to allow myself to do those things. It just creates a more vibrant life.”

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