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The Ivanka Effect: The Business Ramifications Of A Turbulent Presidency

Politics

Ivanka Trump is very relatable and likable, a reassuring contrast from her polarizing father. During her father's presidential campaign, she advocated for making child care more affordable and accessible.


She helped create the child care tax plan that he released in September. The child care deduction that the Trump campaign proposed, back in September, was meant to augment the current child tax credit and dependent-care flexible spending accounts and could be available to families with a stay-at-home parent as well as to those paying for child care.

Photo: Business Insider

The plan that Ivanka wants would allow individuals earning less than $250,000 a year, or married couples earning less than $500,000, to deduct child care expenses from their income taxes, up to the average cost of care in their state, according to the September plan. Lower income families would receive a rebate for their expenses, up to $1,200 per year via the earned-income tax credit.

She's often portrayed herself as the advocator for bread-winning mothers as she harnessed her father's White House campaign and victory to elevate that image. She rallied to close the gender pay gap during her RNC speech: “Single women without children earn 94 cents for each dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents," said Ivanka. She added: “Gender is no longer the factor creating the wage discrepancy in this country, motherhood is." She's almost right; the gender is still a factor, but her point is notable.

It was almost enough to buy-in to her motivating speech. Ivanka IS a real-world role model. Had her father been almost any other man in America, her campaigning and stumping for her father would have been a resounding success.

But he isn't any other man, and he constantly reminds the American people every chance that he gets.

Presidential linguistics?

Whenever he encounters a perceived rival or potential threat, he bluntly assesses their appearance: “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? He said about Carly Fiorina, before adding: “I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on, are we serious?" He also declared that model Heidi Klum is “no longer a 10," that Arianna Huffington is “a dog who wrongfully comments on me," that Bette Midler is “extremely unattractive," and that Rosie O'Donnell is “a dog." His misogyny is well-documented and widely known.

But then came the shocking 2005 recording (published by The Washington Post) of his boasting that he could “grab women by the p***y," because “when you're a star they let you do it." When his wife, Melania, was questioned about it, she seemed genuinely hurt: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me," she said in a statement. “This does not represent the man that I know." She continued: “I hope people will accept his apology as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world."

But when did character stop being an important component of leadership?

Even with his unrelenting stream of misogynistic comments, his supporters could conveniently dismiss all of it as locker-room banter. Even Ivanka publicly commented on her father's now infamous comment: “My father's comments were clearly inappropriate and offensive," she said in an interview with Fast Company magazine; and I'm glad that he acknowledged this fact with an immediate apology to my family and the American people."

But that wasn't good enough for many others, including Shannon Coulter, who runs a marketing boutique firm near San Francisco. A male boss had groped her once and Trump's comments reminded her of that pain, saying: “She (Ivanka) puts women's empowerment at the center of her brand, and is still campaigning for someone who is an alleged serial sex assaulter." Coulter birthed the hashtag #ivankant and shared her thoughts with the Internet, sparking a trend that had reached more than two million Twitter accounts: #BoycottIvanka.

The popular hashtag #GrabYourWallet urges American consumers to boycott stores and websites that carry Trump products. The movement has persuaded several companies to drop their Trump products, namely items in Ivanka Trump's fashion line.

Clarifying words...

But his own words allege sexual assault, of course he dismissed it as locker-room banter, but that revelation became ground zero for #ivankant #fashionnotfascism #BoycottIvanka and #GrabYourWallet, and with it the birth of a powerful movement. His unorthodox leadership style fueled mass protests not just around the country, but also in cities around the world.

A talented writer who writes for Cosmopolitan, Michelle Ruiz, wrote a riveting piece about why women are boycotting Ivanka Trump, back in October, 2016.

Ruiz talks about one woman's personal account, a female college student that she interviewed, a former self-described “Maxxinista," who can longer shop there because they carry the Trump clothing line. It didn't even matter that Ivanka's name was the only Trump name on the label. Read the Ruiz article but be warned of certain trigger words and expect to be moved by the female college student's personal account of how she suffered traumatic flashbacks to the physical and sexual abuse of her past.

In short, the student said: “My first thought was, grab them by the p***y, we can do anything we want, we don't even ask." She went on to say that “This is what Trump means to me." And she's not alone.

Photo: Mark Wilson

Another woman who, wishes to remain anonymous, identifies as a proud Republican, and lives in New York City. She said that, she too, can no longer purchase Trump's blouses: “I just can't do it; I can't bring myself to buy it." She added that she doesn't dislike Ivanka at all: “I know that she can't control her Dad; she's in a hard position."

Appearances can deceive...

Ivanka has been remarkably cool and composed given how it's affecting her business prospects: “The beauty of America is that people can do what they like, but I prefer to talk to the millions-tens of millions-of American women who are inspired by the brand and the message I've created," she revealed in an interview with Good Morning America.

When Ivanka gave the introduction speech during the Republican National Convention, she said that her father had told her, when she was growing up, that there's nothing that you can't accomplish when you marry vision and passion with an enduring work ethic." One cannot help but imagine just how much she must work now to undo the damage created by her father's seemingly never-ending string of verbal mishaps.

Significant fallout...

Since the election, 3,600 Trump-branded products have been dropped from online stores. That represents a 61 percent drop in products since late November, 2016, according to Shannon Coulter who published the data. Stores such as Nordstrom's, Neiman Marcus, Belk, Kmart, Sear's, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and others have stopped selling Ivanka Trump's products online.

Getting beyond something of this magnitude will require a significant amount of endurance and strength to overcome. Publicly she appears composed and strong. But when alone one must wonder how heavy a toll this must be for her to endure. Then again, countless scores of people suffer quietly alone, everyday of their lives, struggling with the painful memories of sexual abuse.

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Fresh Voices

My Unfiltered Struggle of Introducing a Product to a Neglected Market

Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses

Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.


I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".

Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.

I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.

I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.

The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony

The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.

I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.

I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.

I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke

I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".

It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.

I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.

From Paper to Digital

We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.

The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.

I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.

I second guessed myself all the time.

A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.

I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.