March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and marking a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Over the past few years, women have increasingly claimed their seat at the table and become a powerful force in business. While there’s still work to be done, the progress we’ve made in gender equality in the workplace is significant. We work with several female-founded and -led companies at Fish, and are proud to highlight our impressive partners in honor of International Women’s Day. Keep reading to learn more about them and their inspiring success stories.
Stacy Brown, Founder of Chicken Salad Chick
Stacy Brown is the founder of Chicken Salad Chick, one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in America. In 2007, she was a full-time stay-at-home mom who was trying to make ends meet for her three young children following a divorce. She started making chicken salad out of her kitchen and began selling it door-to-door with flavors named after special women in her life. Stacy opened her first restaurant in 2008 with friend and future husband Kevin Brown in Auburn, Alabama. Chicken Salad Chick sold out in two hours and that success has continued. Over the past 12 years, the brand has grown to more than 150 locations across 16 states.
Shane Evans, Co-Founder of Massage Heights
Shane founded Massage Heights with her husband, Wayne, back in 2004, purely out of personal necessity. Since she was 19, she had experienced incredibly painful, recurring back pain. Chiropractors made it worse and massage therapy was so expensive, but what other choice did she have? She had to manage her pain. Years passed and she finally took matters into her own hands by opening Massage Heights in San Antonio in 2004. It was so popular that 9 months later she and Wayne opened a second location. They had no intention of franchising, but after realizing the growing demand for massage as part of people’s every day lives to manage chronic pain, reduce stress, etc., she saw an opportunity to take the brand national. In 2007, the first franchise location opened and, today, there are more than 200 locations.
Vanessa Yakobson, CEO of Blo Blow Dry Bar
Before acquiring North America’s original blow dry bar with her husband Ari, Vanessa Yakobson was a Blo customer herself. After seeing the business model’s great potential and growth opportunities firsthand, she had no doubt she wanted to not only be a part of Blo, but more importantly lead the company’s branding and development efforts throughout North America. Fast-forward seven years and Vanessa is not only a partner in the company, but sits at the helm as CEO of the now established franchise system. Since stepping into the role, Vanessa has been an integral part of the brand’s rapid growth and success. With a background in marketing and a 10-year stint as managing director for the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, Vanessa had a plan to take Blo to the next level and while Ari might have carried more clout as an established business man, Vanessa made it a point to have her voice heard, stay focused and adapt as needed, while remaining true to her vision of creating an experience that’s fun, flirty and relatable for all women. Her dedication and commitment to seeing her vision come to life is a result of the strength she instilled in her character while battling an illness as a young child. She learned to power through and “take a seat at the table” no matter what or who she had to face. Today, Blo Blow Dry Bar has grown to more than 130 locations across the U.S., Canada and the Philippines.
Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS
When Catherine Monson was in high school – yes, high school – she told herself she was going to be the CEO fo a company one day. It was a pretty lofty goal for someone who grew up in an abusive home and had to cope with her mother’s alcoholism, drug use, and intermittent homelessness. Nevertheless, she achieved it, breaking gender barriers in the male-dominated world of franchising along the way. Since taking the reigns of FASTSIGNS in 2009, Catherine has led the brand to achieve system-wide sales growth of over 90% percent, the addition of over 150 locations, and the brand grew its international footprint dramatically by entering three new countries.
Donna Golik, Co-Founder of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream
Donna Golik is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream, based out of Miami, Florida, where she manages and develops the branding and marketing operations at both the franchise and store level. She is heavily involved in recipe and flavor development with several proprietary recipes that she has introduced for the Chill-N menu. Donna was shaped by the combination of growing up in a humble, farm-to-table family with everything ‘made-from-scratch’ in Oregon, and then the diversity and culture of the people and food in Miami. Prior to Chill-N, Donna and her husband worked together in the medical sales field for 25 years, collectively owning over 5 businesses that they started in the Miami area. These diverse influences have made for a perfect blend of style that Donna brings to the Chill-N table, from the core values and hard work that she grew up with, to the entrepreneurial and determination that her and her kids learned from their father, George Golik. It has shaped and prepared them for the foundation and belief in this adventure of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream. Donna works with and credits her Co-Founder and son Daniel Golik, COO, as the genius behind the concept and proprietary systems that are constantly being developed and enhanced to grow and improve the Chill-N model.
Becky Mulligan, CEO of Little Beet / Little Beet Table
Becky Mulligan is a longtime Starbucks executive that became Little Beet’s CEO in 2018. She now oversees the day-to-day for both Little Beet and Little Beet Table. Prior to joining Little Beet, Becky spent more than 15 years with Starbucks in various roles focused on program development, operations, promotions and innovation. Little Beet started in 2014 with a mission to offer wholesome, healthy food that tastes great and makes you feel great. Little Beet and Little Beet Table offers plant-inspired, vegetable-forward innovative ingredients providing nutrients needed to live well. The company currently has locations in New York, New Jersey, Florida, D.C. and Virginia.
Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools
As CEO of Primrose Schools, Jo Kirchner has a lifelong mission to deliver a nurturing environment and a quality early learning foundation to help children become confident adults who love who they are and what they do. Jo leads strategic direction and external brand leadership efforts for Primrose, including the launch of Primrose on Premise℠ employer-sponsored schools. She joined the company in 1990 as Vice President and became President and CEO in 1999. Under Jo’s leadership, Primrose has grown from four schools in metro Atlanta to more than 400 schools nationwide. Jo holds an associate degree in marketing from Ohio Career College. She lives on a horse farm in Cartersville, Ga., with her husband, Rick. They have two grown children and two grandchildren.