I've traveled over a million miles. Most of those miles were for business travel, and with a carry-on suitcase.
Over these miles and years traveled, I've developed a packing system that has helped me pack for a bevy of occasions from investor meetings, to trade shows, to manufacturing facility tours. I've dutifully followed this system to pack for the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference and to the United State of Women Summit.
And I have never checked a bag.
My book, How To Pack, outlines my entire packing method in detail. These five rules are the cornerstones of the method and will help you keep calm and carry on for your next work trip.
Make a list, check it twice
Writing a list seems obvious, and most of us just don't write one when it comes to packing. Sometimes, we get it right. We pack everything we need, zip up the suitcase with ease, and start our trip feeling confident and on top of everything.
Other times, we forget to pack our underwear or the proper work shoes. We frantically throw random items in our suitcase 2 minutes before jumping in a cab. Stress overwhelms us, and we find it difficult to get back on track and focus on the goal of the trip.
By writing a list a week in advance, you can plan the perfect outfits and give yourself ample time to get them laundered and mended. You can enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast the morning you leave instead of sitting on your suitcase to zip it closed. Doing the former sets you up for success for your trip.
Pack not-so-basic basics
Basic isn't a bad thing. Some may view it as boring. I see basic as essential, classic, and versatile. It's this definition of basic that filters the clothes I select and pack.
I want tailored, powerful pieces that I can wear at least twice. I pick pieces and outfits that make me feel confident and ready to tackle the world.
Such items are simple, unfussy, and comfortable. My tried and true basics are ponte pants (stretchy, but tailored), collarless blouses, and sheath dresses that can be dressed up with a bold necklace or a great pair of heels.
Pre-pack your toiletries
No matter how frequently you travel, pre-packing your toiletries is the ultimate time-saving and stress-relieving tip. Never again will you be rushing to decant your essential products into tiny bottles right before leaving or having to pay significantly more to buy contact lens solution at the airport. You'll always have this one part of your packing routine completed. Hop over to Amazon or Sephora and order your favorite products - dental, skin, face, hair - in TSA-approved sizes. Invest in a plastic, zippered quart-sized bag. Not only will it last longer than a Ziploc bag, you'll be able to fit more products inside. At the end of every trip, refill or replace the empty bottles and set the bag aside. You'll be ready to go.
Streamline your shoes
Three pairs of shoes are all you'll ever need for a trip, especially a business trip. A classic pair of heels, a sharp pair of flats, and sneakers, for the requisite workouts.
After clothing, shoes occupy the most space in your luggage. They're also the items requiring the most thought when selecting which to pack. Style and comfort are top priorities, and a great pair of shoes can elevate your outfit.
I like one pair to be a bold color or a bright pattern that complements your neutral outfits. To contrast, I also like a classic style that will always be safe. If fitness is important to you, it's worth investing in a pair of sneakers exclusively for travel. Nike FlyKnit or New Balance Minimus styles pack nearly flat while providing incredible support for strenuous workouts.
I recommend packing your shoes in their own bags - either a roomy shoe bag for all your shoes or a small drawstring one for each shoe - to keep the rest of your belongings clean and protected from the soles of your shoes.
Pick the right bags
What you pack your belongings in is as important as how you pack them. A lightweight suitcase with a solid handle and sturdy wheels can make walking through the airport a breeze, while a bulky duffel or a loose wheel can throw you off - literally.
Similarly, your personal item is equally important. A structured tote with lots of pockets will organize your belongings beautifully, while a cavernous tote can become a black hole and make it impossible to find your ID while going through security.
I select my bags over a week in advance, and inspect them to make sure they're in good enough condition to travel. There is nothing worse than having a suitcase break while en route, and having to purchase and repack your belongings while trying to make your flight. I would know. This actually happened to me while traveling in Asia.
We're here. We're queer. Now that it's pride month, it feels like every store and corporation is flooding us with their best rainbow merchandise, capitalizing on a $917 billion dollar consumer market.
The rainbow flags are out. The mannequins are sporting pride tees. And corporate newsletters are full of interviews showcasing all their queer employees ("Look, we have a gay person here! We GET you!").
To me, this is blatant evidence that the future is queer.
These corporations follow the money, and with 20% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z openly identifying as queer, these businesses have to capitalize on the growing purchasing power of LGBTQIA+ consumers. With a recorded market size of $917 billion dollars in 2016, and a growing interest in socially conscious brands among young consumers, this is clearly a market opportunity that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
However, I'm always surprised by how little attention investors and the entrepreneurial community devotes to this undeniable trend, despite being constantly inundated with overwhelming statistics proving the importance of diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018, less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, and only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or Latinx founder. These statistics are over-quoted but underacted upon.
This gender and diversity inequality significantly hinders economic growth, since 85% of all consumer purchases are controlled by women, and startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm.
The data is clearly leading to one direction: investing in women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, immigrants, and other minority groups in entrepreneurship leads to higher revenue and better business results.
As data-driven and forward-thinking as this industry claims to be, we haven't caught up to the queer founders, particularly queer women, who are rethinking the future. These founders understand and speak to a generation of increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ people whose market share will only continue to grow exponentially. VCs and investors are already behind the curve.
SoGal Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, is helping bridge this divide between queer women founders and investors with the launch of applications for the second annual Global Pitch Competition for diverse entrepreneurs. Hosted in 25+ cities across five continents, and culminating in a final global pitch competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is the first and only globally-focused pitch opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs.
Startups that are pre-Series A (raised less than $3M) with at least one woman or diverse founder, apply here to pitch! The top teams selected from each regional round will join SoGal's final global pitch competition and bootcamp in Silicon Valley for guaranteed face time with dozens of top Silicon Valley investors, curated educational programming, unparalleled 1:1 mentorship, press exposure, and a chance to win investment capital.
Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders: what's the best way to kick off pride? Apply to pitch!
Regional pitch rounds will be held August-November 2019; final pitch competition in Silicon Valley in February 2020. Details and additional cities to be announced.
SoGal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the largest global platform for diverse founders and funders in 40+ chapters across 5 continents; our mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal Foundation's global startup competition represents the first and largest opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs and investors to connect worldwide. Join the SoGal community & follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.