Risk/Reward: Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, CEO of Vaute Couture

“The World’s First All-vegan Fashion Brand”

Born in Darien, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago (“10 minutes from the McDonalds HQ”), Hilgart graduated college with a degree in education and had, to her surprise, gotten signed to Ford Models. (She’s 5’5”, which is short for a model, but one look at her face and it’s not hard to see why.)

Hilgart was modeling in Chicago and Asia while doing marketing for a company called Sittercity and working on animal-rights activism on the side when she had her aha moment, thanks to the female CEO of Sittercity. She “was young, and I realized she was still making a huge impact for women in America,” Hilgart recalls. “That’s when I knew I had to start a business—that was how I’d create the most change in this world.”

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