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NYC-Based Female Entrepreneurs in Sustainability

NYC Spotlight: 11 Successful Female Entrepreneurs in Sustainability


New York City has always been a magnet for anyone with a dream and the guts to pursue it.  That is especially true for female entrepreneurs in sustainability.

While sustainability and climate tech is usually associated with the West Coast, the City that Never Sleeps has afforded opportunities for founders looking to make a difference for the planet.  Let’s take a look at 11 successful female entrepreneurs in sustainability in New York City bringing their ideas to life while helping build a better future for us all.  

Stories of Women Entrepreneurs Driving Sustainability in NYC

Women are leading the charge in every facet of sustainability.  And truly, these ladies are breaking the algorithm, as they are coming from diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds.  Let’s take a look at some of the areas where NYC-based female entrepreneurs in sustainability have made their mark.

Circular Economy

AptDeco is a online marketplace for buying and selling quality preowned furniture, a perfect solution for furnishing your eco-friendly office!
AptDeco is a online marketplace for buying and selling quality preowned furniture, a perfect solution for furnishing your eco-friendly office!

Reham Fagiri, AptDeco

The idea for AptDeco crystallized for Reham Fagiri when she was able to expedite the search for a buyer of her friend’s couch by simply loaning her truck out to him.   Since 2014 she has built a business that connects sellers and buyers of quality used home furnishings in NYC and now across other parts of the US.  AptDeco lowers risk and inconvenience for both buyers and sellers by vetting each party and providing pick up and delivery services.  

Prior to starting AptDeco, Reham was an electrical engineer, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and a Y Combinator and Goldman Sach alum.  

FABSCRAP endeavors to end commercial textile “waste” and maximize the value of unused fabric

Jessica Schreiber, FABSCRAP

A self-described “trash nerd,” Jessica Schreiber launched FABSCRAP in 2016 as a way to save waste fabric from commercial business from the landfill by upcycling and recycling unwanted fabric.  FABSCRAP has now expanded its operations to Philadelphia.  

A scientist by training, Jessica earned degrees in biology and climate and worked for New York City’s Department of Sanitation coordinating programs related to textile recycling across apartment buildings throughout the city.  

Clean Energy

A field of air turbines exemplify the work of COI Energy.

SaLisa Berrien, COI Energy

“On a mission to decarbonize the built environment by recycling energy waste,” SaLisa Berrien founded COI Energy in order to assist businesses improve their energy performance and reduce emissions.  Her company, founded in 2016, also gives back by providing clean energy resources to marginalized communities.  

With 25 years of experience in the energy industry, a BS in Mechanical Engineering, and an MBA to her name, SaLisa possesses the perfect mix of experience and skills to help accelerate the green economy.  Most recently, SaLisa became an alumna of the Apple Impact Accelerator.  She also serves as a Verizon Forward for Good Advisor to up-and-coming founders in the impact space and has for decades fundraised for scholarships for deserving students. 

Clean Transportation

Tiya Gordon, itselectric

Tiya Gordon co-founded itselectric during the pandemic in 2021.  A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, she has used her problem solving skills to create a business which pays property owners to host chargers on their curbs while allowing subscribers to access those chargers across the city.  The pain point that itselectric helps remove is determining the suitability of a location for charging infrastructure and walking the property owner through the permitting process.  

itselectric has been recognized far and wide by the White House EV Acceleration Challenge and is the recipient of the SXSW Innovation Award, the Fast Company Innovation By Design Award for Sustainability, and the City Solution of the Year from judges of the Earthshot Prize.

Climate Tech

Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli and Laura Rosenshine, WATS

Co-founders Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli and Laura Rosenshine are waste experts who came together during the pandemic to build a SaaS platform known as WATS (Waste Administration + Tracking Software).  

Created for businesses, the WATS platform reduces operating costs and provides dashboards for clients to track their waste management across multiple locations.  Anyone who has had to build a sustainability report by begging the accounting department for a year’s worth of invoices on municipal solid waste disposal and recycling pickups will come to appreciate this tool.  

Prior to creating WATS, both women were heavily involved in composting efforts in New York City.  

Jessica O. Matthews, Uncharted

Jessica O. Matthews founded Uncharted in 2011 to accelerate the equitable development of smart and sustainable infrastructure.  The company offers SaaS solutions to improve the efficiency and accessibility of energy, water, air, transit, and connectivity infrastructure. 

Jessica is a legend in climate tech.  She was invited to the White House to represent small businesses at the signing of the America Invents Act in 2012.  Later in 2016 she raised the largest Series A round ever by a Black female founder.  She currently serves on the Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee.  A double Harvard grad, she has a BA in psychology and economics and an MBA.  

Angelique Mercurio, EnerKnol

An NYU-trained economist and an MIT Sloan School of Business graduate, Angelique Mercurio developed EnerKnol in 2014 as one-stop solution that connects market participants with comprehensive access to federal, state, and local energy policy information, in real-time.  Business leaders using the platform are able to make informed decisions more quickly by reducing the time to research changes in the regulatory landscape.  

Prior to starting EnerKnol, Angelique worked in the banking sector.  She is also the co-creator of New York Energy Week.  

Sustainable Agriculture

Farming is such an important part of the climate action movement. Seen here is a farm like those by Oko Farms.

Yemi Amu, Oko Farms

An immigrant from Nigeria, Yemi Amu looked to her Yoruba heritage to build Oko Farms in 2013, the first and only first and only publicly accessible outdoor aquaponics farm in New York City.  Yemi and her team raise several varieties of fish, whose waste is then utilized as fertilizer for a cornucopia of fresh produce including cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots, sweet potatoes, lemongrass, cilantro, millet sorghum, okra, peas, peppers, tomatoes, indigo, cosmos, marigolds, lemon balm, and marshmallow.  

Part urban farm, part educational center, Yemi is bringing access to healthy food to Brooklyn everyday.  

Agriculture and farming, seen here, can be revolutionized by diverting food waste from landfills. This is what Re-Nuble does.

Tinia Pina, Re-Nuble

Tinia Pina describes herself as a “new farmer,” which is true considering her extensive experience in business information systems prior to starting Re-Nuble.  After a successful career working for powerhouses like EY and MacKay Shields, Tinia started Re-Nuble in 2015 and since then has raised over $9M.

Re-Nuble’s mission is to divert food waste from the landfills by employing a closed-loop process to convert unrecoverable food byproducts into water-soluble organic hydroponic nutrients and grow substrates.  Re-Nuble prevents the production of greenhouse gasses from waste food while helping grow new food in the process and is active in 12 countries across four continents.  

Sustainable Entertainment

Emellie O’Brien, Earth Angel

For everyone who has had the time of their lives at a concert to step out of the venue and take a glimpse at overflowing trash cans and who might be wondering, “Isn’t there a better way to plan for this?”, wonder no more.  

Since 2013, Emellie O’Brien and her team at Earth Angel work in NYC and in Canada to reduce the environmental impact of events across the entertainment industry.   Their work has already been featured in Deadline Hollywood, and the team has earned praise for making The Amazing Spider-Man 2 one of Sony Pictures’ most eco-friendly blockbusters. 

Emellie has a degree in Film from NYU and has been involved in the New York City film industry throughout her career.  She concurrently serves as a sustainability consultant to the Mayor of the City of New York where she developed NYC FILM GREEN - a first-of-its-kind environmental sustainability designation program for New York City’s film and television production industry.

Sustainable Living

Kayli Kunkel, Earth & Me

Earth & Me is the first zero-waste store in Queens, NYC. The store aims to reduce waste by offering sustainable products and promoting a zero-waste lifestyle​ and sells primarily beauty and household products.  Founded by Kayli Kunkel, Earth & Me prioritizes partnerships with small-batch makers, many based in the US, and the store’s mission is centered on sustainability and social justice.  

Prior to founding Earth & Me at the height of the pandemic in June 2020, Kayli worked as a marketer.

Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Success in the NYC Market

While NYC still remains in the shadow of the West Coast for sustainability start-ups, that doesn’t mean the competition isn’t any less fierce.  After all, this is still New York.  

The common thread that binds the extraordinary women we’ve learned about here is passion and focus.  Each of these ladies are working on very specific missions that they care deeply about.  Nearly all of these women have had formal business training in a university setting, an accelerator/mentorship program, or a combination of both.  

And the one final commonality I see seems to be taking advantage of the now.  If not founded during the pandemic, many of these businesses were started during the recovery period after the Great Recession.  When things may have looked bleak, these ladies bet the house on themselves–and won!

Empowering NYC-Based Female Entrepreneurs in Sustainability the Emerald Summit

Do you already have a start up business in NYC or would you like to learn about creating one from the ones who already have? This year’s Emerald Summit sponsored by WalletMax is the perfect place to start. 

Speaker alumnae include industry leaders from AmazonStudios, Climatize, and NetaCarbon and this year’s speaker list will be announced shortly.  Network directly with empowering female business leaders in the sustainability arena.  There is power in community.  Help build yours today by signing up now!  


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