Plant-based queens: celebrating female founders

In honour of International Women’s Day (March 8) we are celebrating the inspiring female founders we have worked with here at ProVeg Incubator. From cultured meat to plant-based cheese these women are making waves and encouraging others to follow suit. 

At ProVeg Incubator we work with many inspiring individuals, it’s one of the best parts of what we do here. Our startup founders have chosen to dedicate their time to building companies that benefit people and the planet. They come from all over the world, all walks of life, and they all have something valuable to offer. However, in honour of International Women’s Day today (March 8) we want to celebrate one group of entrepreneurs in particular: female founders. 

In the one year since the ProVeg Incubator launched, we have supported over 30 startups. We are proud to say, that many have been founded by women or have female leaders on the founding team. Here are four of the most exciting companies led by women that we have worked with. 

Cheese the Queen 

Vera Tinkova established her company Cheese the Queen after being inspired to transform the global food culture. Using fermented, aged cashews she has developed a range of superfood cheeses. They are all 100% plant-based, high in protein, and enriched with probiotics. “I strive to give people the possibility to experience new ways of indulgence while still respecting the planet”, says Vera.

Vera Tinkova, founder of plant-based cheese company Cheese the Queen

“This is a mission that is bigger than me and my confidence in that is what keeps me going”. Vera admits that women continue to face challenges in business and that “there is still so much discrimination”.  However, she says she believes so much in her “contribution to the world” and what she creates with Cheese the Queen that “no challenge” can stop her. 

She says other women should believe in the power they have to influence change: “Be brave, be courageous, there is a lot you can give to the world!”.

“I grew up liking the taste of meat, in a country where red meat is deeply ingrained in the culture. However, I never fully enjoyed eating it because I don’t like to see animals suffer. I decided to take action by building a cultured meat company.” – Sofia Giampaoli

Cell Farm 

Founder and CEO Sofia Giampaoli is building Latin America’s first cultured meat company – Cell Farm – with business partner and CSO Carolina Bluguermann. The duo is developing stem cell lines from Argentinian cows, which will act as the basic starter material for other companies to develop clean meat products. 

Sofia Giampaoli, Founder and CEO of cultured meat startup Cell Farm

Sofia says she was inspired to create Cell Farm because she believes that “companies and new technologies are the most practical and powerful tools to solve global problems” – such as the environmental consequences of animal farming.

Although efforts to close the gender gap in business have advanced, there is still an underrepresentation of women. One study, for example, found that only 17% of startups have a female founder. While analysis from the USA shows that only 2% of venture capital investment went to startups founded by women. 

Sofia says she would encourage other female entrepreneurs to “keep moving forward”. “Just believe in what you are doing”, she says. “Learn to take problems as they come, transform them into challenges, and find a solution. If your project is doing good for people, animals, or the environment you will also find many allies who will help you to achieve your goals. Rest assured you are not alone.”

“The most powerful tools that a woman can have in her career are a bulletproof self-confidence and a strong belief that she can achieve everything.” – Julia Marsel

Greenwise 

Greenwise is one of the first plant-based meat companies in Russia. Co-founder Julia Marsel launched the company as one of a team of three, with two male business partners. This gives her an interesting insight on the topic of women in business. Julia says, “The biggest challenge is for women to be taken seriously”. 

Artem Ponomarev, Julia Marsel, and George Zheleznyi, co-founders of Greenwise

“At every investor pitch or presentation to retailers, I felt I needed to prove that my voice had the same weight as those of my male co-founders. It takes boldness and courage to make yourself heard. Female entrepreneurs must be confident and strong to have their opinions treated the same way as a man’s.”

Despite the challenges, Julia says, “being a passionate animal welfare advocate and a foodie” makes the role of plant-based meat startup founder an “absolute fit” for her. “It combines the topics I care about the most, but it also provides a real possibility to make a huge difference in the world.”

No Mo Moo

For Ana Maria Tuton, the decision to build a business became clear when she discovered her passion. “I always believed that I could do something impactful, but I had no idea what that was”, says Ana. “I was passionate about cooking. When I got into making plant-based cheese, I could see straight away how this could be the something that could help change the world.”

Ana Maria Tuton and Nicu Panfil, co-founders of No Mo Moo

Ana launched her own plant-based cheese company No Mo Moo (formerly Vegan Gourmet) in Romania and brought on her siblings Elena Licsandru and Nicu Panfil as co-founders. Together, their mission is to create healthy, delicious cheese alternatives that encourage more people to eat plant-based food. 

As a woman in business, Ana admits there can be challenges. “I am a mother and find it difficult balancing looking after young kids and building a business”, she says. “However, I get help from my family and from kindergarten so I have more time for work. It gives my husband a chance to spend more time alone with the children as well.”

Ana’s advice to women aspiring to entrepreneurship is simple: “Find something you’re passionate about and become an expert at it”. 

Since the ProVeg Incubator launched in late 2018, we have worked with more than 30 startups from 16 countries, helping them to raise over 8 million euro and launch more than 40 products. To see more of our alumni startups, click here

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