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This holiday season, in addition to highlighting thousands of incredible small businesses, brands, and their founders, goodbuy is fortunate to shine a spotlight on three remarkable impact partners doing good in our shared world every day. First up, meet Cassie Abel.
Abel is the founder and creator of Women Led Wednesday (WLW), a purpose-driven holiday that occurs annually on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the U.S. (that's November 23rd this year!). WLW encourages folks to shop with women-led businesses in an effort to support female-founded brands, redistribute economic resources and opportunity to women-owned businesses, and inspire future generations of female entrepreneurs.
Here, you can read our conversation with Abel and learn more about her journey as the founder and creator of Women Led Wednesday and Wild Rye.
gb: Cassie, thanks so much for taking the time to share more about the incredible mission behind Women Led Wednesday. For starters, can you introduce yourself and share what inspired you to create Women Led Wednesday?
Of course! My name is Cassie Abel and I’m the founder of Women Led Wednesday and the small business, Wild Rye. When I first started Wild Rye, I struggled to find a shopping holiday that felt “right” for our brand. Black Friday felt gross and riddled with empty consumerism; Small Business Saturday felt more “brick and mortar;” and Cyber Monday was a surefire way to get lost in the battle of ad dollars. After extensive research, I realized that a women’s-specific shopping holiday didn’t exist, but there was simultaneously so much chatter around getting more women in leadership positions and executive boards. As a female founder myself, I also felt strongly that we should be paying more attention to the brands that already had women in leadership. I’ve never been someone to back down from a challenge, so despite the fact I was drowning in start-up life, Women Led Wednesday was created then and there.
gb: What an awesome story of meeting the need and the moment. Love that. For those who may not be familiar, what is the importance of Women Led Wednesday, and more broadly, the importance of supporting female founders and women-owned businesses?
I mean honestly this list could go on forever… but it really boils down to a few main points, stemming from the quote:
“you can’t be what you can’t see.”
The ultimate goal is more women leading and operating successful businesses and becoming role models for the next generation. To get from point A to Z, however, isn’t so easy. Take for instance that women are still fighting an uphill battle when it comes to funding. The percentage of venture capital (VC) funding invested in women-led brands is actually decreasing and historically, women only receive a fraction of debt financing compared to what’s been available and afforded to male founders. Women-led brands need the support of their communities. We need the public to vote for women in leadership with their hard earned dollars. Women Led Wednesday is designed to inspire conscious consumerism in support of women-led brands, especially because supporting female founders and women-owned businesses is a vital part of creating a future of empowered women.
gb: Thank you for that important education and reminder. Speaking of women-led brands, in addition to being the creator and founder of Women Led Wednesday, you mentioned earlier that you’re also the founder of your own small business: Wild Rye. Can you share more about Wild Rye and what the experience of being a female founder has taught you personally?
Absolutely. Wild Rye is a women’s outdoor apparel brand dedicated to crafting apparel that’s both beautiful and technical! We launched to fill a serious hole in the market for women in outdoor sports. I’m talking every step of the way. In previous roles, I was consistently one of the only women in the room in the outdoor industry. Female athletes were getting a micro-share of the marketing airwaves, and as a result: product quality suffered.
As far as what I’ve learned… I’m still learning every single day and I will be for the rest of my career, I have no doubt. That said, I’ve always thought perfection can be paralyzing, particularly for women, so I’ve learned the art of failing fast. Putting myself out there, despite my (and my brands’) imperfections and adjusting from there. I’ve also learned that women tend to undersell themselves, whereas men often lead with overconfidence. This becomes particularly detrimental when it comes to fundraising. I’m actively fundraising right now and I’m having to fight my natural instinct to be methodical, conservative, and to under-promise and over-deliver, because that simply doesn’t fly when it comes to pitching VCs and most other investors.
I’m personally working hard to overcome imposter syndrome, teaching myself to be a better saleswoman for myself and my brand, so that we get the recognition we deserve.
gb: Thanks for sharing more about your experience with us and for carving a path forward for so many other female entrepreneurs and leaders. Speaking of which, this year, Women Led Wednesday is celebrating five years. Congratulations! When you reflect on these last five years, what are you most proud of?
I’m just so incredibly proud of our community. Seeing how many people show up for Women Led Wednesday and support women-led brands is incredible. It really shows that we have something special here and that it’s worth celebrating and pursuing whole-heartedly. I absolutely can’t wait for Women Led Wednesday to become a household name— much like Small Business Saturday— nationwide.
gb: Yes! We couldn’t agree more. Building on that aspiration, we’d love to know: what is your wish for the world and/or your wish for women of the world?
My wish is that women can fearlessly go into any realm they choose and feel seen, empowered, and like they truly belong. While I love working hard for what I have and where I am, I hope that because of the work we’re doing through Women Led Wednesday and at Wild Rye, that others won’t have to struggle quite so hard to prove themselves.
gb: 100%, we’re with you. For those who are committed to helping actualize this wish, and who are equally as excited about supporting Women Led Wednesday as we are— what are the different ways to get involved?
Beyond this, every social media and online shoutout is helpful. Due to the grassroots-nature of the initiative, we rely on the reach of our brands and their communities to help spread the word. For brands, we have a shareable social media kit. For everyone else: share, share, share! The more people that know about Women Led Wednesday, the wider influence we have to inspire conscious consumerism!
gb: Supercharged by community! Love that. Speaking of community, we have to ask: apart from Wild Rye, who are a few of your favorite small, women-owned businesses and what do you admire most about them?
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with other female business owners over the past few years and have met some of the most incredible people as a result. That said, this is a tough one because I love and admire SO many brands in our community. Here are a few:
Bronwen Jewelry. Some of my favorite jewelry that’s tough enough to play in!
Oiselle. Sally has been a mentor to me and her running apparel is just the most beautiful. I’m not a big runner, but it makes me want to become one!
Tough Cutie. The most comfortable wool hiking socks. Brittany is a force and a name everyone will know someday soon!
Maker Wine. Co-founded by a woman I went to high school with, but one of the coolest things about Maker is that they work with small batch wineries to offer it in canned sets!
Wild Rye. I simply cannot forget my own brand! I live in my Wild Rye and not only that, we’re now B Corp certified and we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to fight for reproductive rights.
gb: Thank you for all of these inspiring recs! Okay, last question. For any of the aspiring (or current) female entrepreneurs out there reading this, what would you like to tell them?
This is a question I get a lot, and it’s a tricky one to answer concisely. There are so many layers to starting a business. The advice I’ve received in the past and really hung onto is “fail fast.” As in, just go for it hard and fast and if it doesn’t work out, pivot, adjust, and make tweaks to find that market fit as quickly as possible. And once you start, be prepared to be ALL in because it’s all-consuming to take a brand to a sustainable level. Starting a business is the easy part; sticking with it and creating a business that grows sustainably and adapts to different social climates is a whole different beast.
Shop Cassie’s collection of women-owned picks here and don’t forget to join us for Women Led Wednesday, November 23rd!