Today, to celebrate International Women's Day and spread awareness of positive changes regarding gender equality, we would like to introduce you to four successful Icelandic businesswomen.
Learn more about their stories and be inspired to leave your comfort zone and take-on whatever life throws your way. According to the World Bank, only one in three businesses internationally are owned by women. Although this may not seem like a massive feat, women have continuously climbed the ladder in all industries in Iceland. From the biopharma and food industries to hospitality and beauty, these women have made their mark as successful business owners and executives through hard work and resilience.
Fida Abu Libdeh, CEO & co-founder of Geosilica
Fida Abu Libdeh was born in Palestine (Jerusalem) and moved to Iceland in 1995 as a teenager. Fida Abu Libdeh is a Licensed Engineer by the Ministry of Industries and Innovation in Iceland and holds an MBA from Reykjavik University. Fida started GeoSilica Iceland based on research she was doing for her B.Sc. thesis with a fellow university student. The company aims to develop, produce, and market valuable natural silica-based health products extracted from geothermal water using a groundbreaking mineral extraction technology called Geostep. Silica is important mineral for the formation and growth of bones and is also necessary for healthy skin, teeth, hair, and nails. Geosilica products are widely available in Iceland and through its online store.
Sóley Elíasdóttir CEO of Sóley Organics
Sóley Elíasdóttir is a well-known Icelandic actress and entrepreneur. She founded her brand Sóley Organics after years of researching the healing properties of Icelandic herbs. Her passion for natural remedies stemmed from her grandmother, who taught her the value of herbal medicine at a young age. Sóley creates organic skincare products using pure, wild-harvested Icelandic herbs and oils, free from harmful chemicals or synthetic fragrances. Sóley's love for her homeland and its pristine nature inspired her to create a brand that reflects the purity and simplicity of Icelandic life. Her commitment to sustainability and ethical production practices has earned her a loyal following. Her brand has become a household name in Iceland and abroad. Sóley Organics' mission is to promote the healing power of nature and encourage people to embrace a natural and holistic approach to self-care.
(L to R) Sóley Organics products are popular in Iceland, Halla María Svansdóttir of Hjá Höllu restaurants, and Agnes and Ólafur of Brugsmidjan Kaldi.
Halla María Svansdóttir, founder of Hjá Höllu Restaurant
Hjá Höllu is a charming restaurant that has been making delicious home-cooked food since 2012. Halla María Svansdóttir started her restaurant Hjá Höllu literally in her kitchen, cooking up a storm on her trusty 20-year-old stove. Hence, the cozy and inviting name of Hjá Höllu translates as "At Halla's" in Icelandic.
At the time, she was only serving a handful of people. Still, word quickly spread around town about the incredible dishes she was serving. Before long, Hjá Höllu had grown into a successful restaurant in Halla's hometown of Grindavík.
Halla has spread her wings and opened another restaurant inside Keflavík Airport, Iceland's main international hub. The restaurant seeks the best organic ingredients and sources locally whenever possible. A rarity for airport food! At Hjá Höllu, everything is made from scratch to ensure guests get fresh and delicious food with an authentic Iceland twist. So if you're ever in Iceland, stop by Hjá höllu for a bite.
Agnes Anna Sigurdardottir, founder of Bruggsmidjan Kaldi Brewery
Bruggsmidjan Kaldi was founded by a lovely couple, Agnes and Ólafur, in 2006 when there were few microbreweries in Iceland. Ólafur was a fisherman for 26 years but unfortunately suffered a knee injury at sea in 2003. It was a tough time for the couple. There were few job opportunities in the small town of Árskógssandur—except fishing. At that time, everything revolved around the fishing industry. If you're wondering where Árskógssandur is, it is about 35 km from Akureyri and 12 km from Dalvík in a rural area of North Iceland.
In June 2005, Agnes happened to catch an interview on TV about microbreweries and how they were gaining popularity worldwide. She was particularly interested in a small microbrewery located in Denmark. At the time, there were no microbreweries in Iceland, just two mass-production breweries, Vífilfell and Ölgerðin. Agnes remembered how lucky they were to have access to such good and clean water in their little town, which comes from a spring in the mountains above Árskógssandur. And then, she had a crazy idea: open a microbrewery. Fast forward to September 30th, 2006, and Kaldi officially opened its doors to the public. Today, Kaldi is still brewing in Árskógssandur. They brew various styles and seasonal beers that are available across Iceland. More importantly, Agnes helped launch Iceland's burgeoning micro-brewing scene.
These inspirational businesswomen of Iceland are shining examples of how to harness the natural riches of a country and create successful businesses. They have shown that it is possible to build a profitable enterprise while respecting the environment and contributing to local communities. Their commitment to sustainability, innovation, and collaboration has set a high standard for businesses worldwide. We can only imagine the more opportunities that will arise for these visionary women and many others.