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Former Austin Woman cover women share their vision for Austin’s future.

By Lauren Jones, Photo by Jarrah Boreman

Left to right: Katie Fang, Gigi Edwards, Melinda Garvey, Mellie Price, Christy Pipkin, Olga Campos Benz, Sharon Mays, Lisa Copeland, Sara Brand, MP Mueller

Austin is the city for the serial entrepreneur, the creative, the trendsetter and the digital influencer. It’s a city pulsing with an undeniable energy, a city with open-minded people seeking genuine connection and opportunities to collaborate. As the only women-centric publication in Austin, Austin Woman has cultivated a unique tribe of powerful and impactful leaders who have left a mark on every aspect of Central Texas’ growth, culture and business development. In Austin Woman’s nearly 16-year run, the magazine has told the stories of nearly 200 cover women and thousands of other women throughout its pages, continuing to spread a message of hope, empowerment and strength to its readers, all while normalizing the amazing things women are capable of accomplishing. With the magazine’s sweet 16 birthday right around the corner, AW caught up with a cadre of former cover women. Here, they share their unique paths to success and what they imagine lies ahead.

Strong women welcome

December 2017 cover woman Darbie Angell believes there is no place like Austin. Angell is the founder of Cru Dinnerware, a company she built while on bed rest with her first child. For Angell, being on the cover opened her up to a whole new network of entrepreneurial women. Already a well-known voice in the industry, she found doors that had previously been closed to her opened up. She has received national media attention and plans to expand her fine-china business beyond the U.S. market.

An empowered future

Texas is ranked as the No. 2 state in the U.S. for the fastest growth in the number of women-owned businesses, and Austin has quickly become the best place to start a company as a woman. Women are no longer waiting for a seat the table; they are making their own.

Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp, co-founders of True Wealth Ventures and May 2017 cover women, are rebranding the traditionally male-dominated venture-capital industry. In January, less than a year after their feature in AW, Rupp and Brand closed on a $19.1 million fund to invest in women-led startups. This opens an incredible growth opportunity for all female entrepreneurs and founders, especially considering that in 2017, women-led companies received just 2.2 percent of all venture-capital funding.

“There is a distinct history in Texas of badass Texas women. They are polite, well-dressed and powerful,” Rupp says.

Solidarity, sister

In light of the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there has been an uptick in solidarity among women everywhere. Now is the time to stand up, stand together and continue to raise the next generation of strong women.

Christy Pipkin, co-founder of the Nobelity Project, believes education is the key to a brighter future and, as women, we must continue to lift one another up. A child of the 1960s born to a progressive labor organizer and antiracism activist, Pipkin grew up attending picket lines, experiences that continue to influence her as she looks to other women who stand up for what they believe in.

There has always been a legacy among Austin women of “seeing women that can make their own way, even if it’s against what has been done,” Pipkin says, adding, “We’re all in this together.”

Much like Pipkin, June 2016 cover woman Katie Fang, chief executive officer of education-technology startup SchooLinks, envisions a future of continued success, not just for women in Austin, but for the city as a whole. Recently, U.S. World and News Report named Austin the best place to live in the U.S.

“Austin will continue to grow. More technology companies will call Austin home. Diversity and growth will continue,” Fang says. “But at the same time, I hope Austin can keep its open-mindedness and still keep it weird.”

There’s no denying Austin is a special city. WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner is one of many women proud to call Austin home. “The mentality is that when one of us wins in Austin, we all win,” Brunner says. “I truly believe that. Yes, we are competing, but at the same time, we are all rooting for each other. … Collectively, there is a sense of pride.”

So, what lies ahead for Austin women? It’s time to advocate for one another in the face of exciting and changing times. Sharon Mays, April 2009 cover woman and the chief executive officer of Baby Greens, puts it best.

“After following the corporate path in the music industry and feeling like the opportunities were not coming my way, I decided to start my own business,” Mays says. “I was done waiting for others to pick me. I picked me.”

Throughout the years, Austin Woman has been at the epicenter of the continuous fight for equality, shedding light on important issues, starting conversations in its pages and changing the way women in positions of power are viewed, providing relatable role models and an ever-growing community of strong, influential women.

For September 2015 cover woman Andra Liemandt, founder of the all-female rock band The Mrs and nonprofit The Kindness Campaign, being on the cover meant letting women everywhere know they can accomplish their dreams.

“AW has allowed us to see each other and know that we each exist,” she says. “That is everything.”

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