#CHOOSEWOMEN: What We Learned At The Women's Entrepreneurship Day


This past Friday, the third annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Featuring female leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs like Randi Zuckerberg, Dylan Lauren, Sandra Lee and Iris Apfel, the event aimed to address the fact that while women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, they earn only 10 percent of its income. It was also announced that WED will launch a new online platform, choosewomen.org, which gives consumers purchasing options from female-supported retailers.

Despite a palpable sense that many attendees were discouraged about the results of our recent presidential election, spirits were high as guests and speakers shared personal stories and experiences and how they related to female empowerment. Here, 10 things we learned at Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2016.

1. The UN Under-Secretary General believes the US must rally in the face of a Donald Trump presidency

“Some figures in terms of representation, presence in the economic areas and political areas are not good, but I would say to everybody that precisely because they are not good and because we might be feeling backlashes, I think what we have to do is get more together and get more determined,” Cristina Gallach, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, told SWAAY. “The overall United Nations agenda is absolutely centered on equality, particularly gender equality. What we need is to get organized at all levels. We have to organize through NGOs, we have to get organized in the workforce, we have to get organized even individually. Being proactive and challenging the current situation by speaking up is the way to go. For me, the way to advance is to do it in groups and get together, because this is a situation that affects many. I am very encouraged by the fact that women really want to transform. Yes, there might be setbacks, but the future is based on equality otherwise there is going to be no future.”

2. The UN agenda is female-focused

“We have an organization at the UN, UN Women, which specifically deals with the issues of women, and we have a commitment to make this organization even more active and through grassroots [activities] to make legislation work with the economic structures to advance in multiple areas,” said Gallach. “We have to advance in politics…we need to adapt our ways of consumption and production to be more sustainable, and women are very good at that. We need to take care of climate change. All these different aspects have women and equality at the center.”

"I am very encouraged by the fact that women really want to transform. Yes, there might be setbacks, but the future is based on equality otherwise there is going to be no future.” - Cristina Gallach

3. A Female Secretary General may not be too far off

“For some months there was a movement to promote a woman Secretary General. [At the UN], at entry level there are more women than men, but when the scale goes up, it changes,” said Gallach. “This is not acceptable. I have heard the incoming Secretary General, António Guterres, say he is making equality, 50/50 a clear determined goal, so I am very encouraged. Yes, he might not a be woman, but he said ‘I can deliver an equality agenda.’”

4. Karrrueche Tran blames social media for insecurities in young girls

“For me social media is a blessing and a curse. I have 6 million followers, so because of social media I’m able to work, and have a career, but there’s a negative side,” said the actress, social influencer and Women's Entrepreneurship Day Fellow. “There’s a lot of hate, a lot of cyber bullying, a lot of negativity that's tough for young girls. It can be very intense and hard. With social media nowadays it’s all about posting pictures and girls become self conscious of how they look, of how their bodies are. They see women on TV that may be what they want to look like. Plastic surgery is getting younger. I’m only 28 but when I grew up we didn’t have phones and social media, so I look at younger girls now and they look like they are twenty something years old. When I was 12 I was a skinny, scrawny girl, with messed up teeth, and now these girls have makeup and eyebrows done. It’s totally flipped.”

5. And she wants to pay her success forward

“All this life, this fame, whatever it is, just kind of came to me,” said Tran. “So one day I said what can I do to best utilize my voice and to reach these young girls. And I think for me, this is the perfect opportunity to use that and to let girls know it’s OK to be exactly how you are. This is how God made us, it’s OK. I think we need to push acceptance and let girls know it's OK to be how you were born. You don’t have to reform or look a certain way. The best I think would be for women who have voices, like I do, to say this because those are the women young girls are looking at.”

Courtesy Of Real Simple

6. HSN CEO Mindy Grossman believes businesses need to fully own gender-equality

“I think the dots aren’t being connected because of ownership,” said Grossman. “This is not something…for your HR department [to deal with]. This is something that has to come from the board and the CEO and it has to be a core belief and tenant of your business strategy. Period.”

7. A good laugh can help make a difference

“Never underestimate the power of humor in calling something out,” said Grossman, who worked at a number of male-dominated industries and companies throughout her career. “I was in a global Nike basketball meeting and I was the only woman in the room. They are talking about global basketball and I’m still figuring out where the ladies room is. And so, all of a sudden… when I started speaking everyone stared at me like ‘Oh my God, she’s speaking.’ And I just looked at this room which was, from a male perspective, very diverse and I started laughing. I said ‘Guys, I’m a 48 year-old Jewish woman from New York who didn’t come out of the sports business. You want to talk global basketball and get a woman’s perspective? You may need more than one of me.’ And literally everyone just laughed. So, sometimes it’s a call out. It’s not complaining. It’s just giving a perspective. It’s just a realization that the world is changing. We have a big female fanbase. It’s a store for women too.”

8. Katia Beauchamp, founder of Birchbox, is empowered by challenges

Courtesy of Forbes

“We had a really hard year and when things change you have to navigate,” said Beauchamp. “I didn’t understand what a critical skill that would be and how it actually makes me a much more confident leader having gone through the hard things. I’m not just somebody who had an idea once and got lucky with timing, but that I’ve learned to build a team of people who are incredibly resilient and they themselves do a lot of the evolution, because eventually it becomes so much bigger than you. We don’t know all the right ways to do it, but we just say to ourselves; our number one most important goal is to stay relevant to the consumer, not to be the most innovative company in the world, because innovation can be there for innovation's sake. [We want to] acknowledge the consumer and their world, which has changed so much in six years and it’s on us to be relevant. We can’t just say ‘we did it six years ago, do you like it?’ In 2017 we have big plans to further evolve.”

9. In fact, Beauchamp is focused on disrupting herself for future success

“The beauty box market is now a market that’s sized at tens of billions of dollars,” said Beauchamp, who created the market when she launched Birchbox in 2005. “For anybody who is in an industry, you are first worried about competition being good, [then it changes] to being worried about competition being bad, because then people have an experience that wasn’t good and it makes it harder to overcome it than if they had never seen it. Now I’m really focused on executing well, and doing something differently from everyone else. Our competition is so focused on the beauty junkie and we have found a really beautiful spot with the ‘beauty normal,’ a woman who uses [beauty products] but is not obsessed and does not want to spend a lot of time watching videos and learning about all of this.” The question of evolving her storied brand is what will define her company’s future. “When you invent it, what are you going to do next?,” she said. “I spent a lot time talking to other industries and founders and companies and trying to think about how I would disrupt me, because the copycats just copied what we did 10 years ago. I spent time running the numbers and trying to come up with a business plan that would disrupt us from my vantage point.”

10. Iris Apfel is incredibly humble

“I never knew I was a pioneer, I never knew I was an entrepreneur,” said Apfel, a business woman, interior designer and fashion icon. “I’m someone who operates on instinct and gut. Things just come my way. I’ve been lucky that way.” Apfel, who was awarded an Entrepreneurship Pioneer Award during the event, was clearly a woman ahead of her time. “I didn’t even know what the word entrepreneur meant,” she said. “I just wanted to do something.”

One final learning lesson, which comes from our personal experience at Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is that despite there being a lot of female entrepreneurs in the room, we need many more in order to make an impact on our world. Although the event was well-attended, there was still a feeling that we can always have more women (and men) coming together to amplify and advocate for female economic empowerment. We couldn’t help but wonder how a room filled with our male equals, in comparison, would have been seen in the eyes of the press and attendees alike. The caliber of talent in the room as well as the depth and substance of the content deserves a lot of press coverage, powerful partners and strong sponsorships in order for the world to recognize and celebrate the importance of an international day dedicated to acknowledge and uplift the vital role women play in society and in the rise of our economy.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.