Culture 20 December 2016
Growing up, my idea of wonder woman was that she was an annoying upstart to the more heroic and infinitely more capable superman, a clumsy and scantily clad woman who cared more about how much of her bosom she showed than how much saving was to be done.
But that’s just me, right?
When the U.N made the decision to appoint honorary brand ambassadorship to one of the first female superheroes back in late October, the reaction was muddied, and the hope for overwhelming support for the appointment was dashed, quickly. Not only were women confused by the imaginary nature of her character - but befuddled also by the fact that here was the U.N, aiming to reach its gender equality goal by 2030, but splaying the message across the world that to attain that goal, one of your #idols would of course be corset donning and airbrushed miss-look-at-my-bum Diana Prince. Hoorah!
The lack of imagination this exemplified at the time astonished many academics and indeed U.N workers alike who couldn’t believe the very thought of this poster pin-up as an aspirational standard set by one of the globe’s foremost governing bodies. Where was the thought, the examination? One look into the archives would have told you that Wonder Woman lost her feministic furor once her creator, Charles Marston died. For the next few decades she petered in and out of jobs decidedly womanly and never dominated nor inspired; as secretary, advice columnist and child minder.
Gal Gadot’s recent cameo as Wonder Woman came as a welcome opposition to the feministic deterrent the character had become after Marston’s death, it was still however, not enough to detract from the simple fact that there were many better choices for the U.N in the first place. What does it say about the state of the gender divide that another more suitable - real symbol could not have been bequeathed the role? And were that the case - would she have lasted longer? It’s been less than two months, and Wonder Woman has already disappeared into the annals of honorary ambassadors, to be replaced, one hopes, with an infinitely more worthy figure.
Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Perhaps had the U.N waited for after Gadot’s forthcoming movie dedicated entirely to the character — a showcase of what many believe will be 21st century feminism at its finest — the decision would have been greeted with a more positive attitude. Instead they chose the character at a time when the world is begging for a female superhero in reality.
The thought is there- the action however is missing, and indeed begs the question - who would have been better? What woman would have stood up to the condemners, the haute-feminists, me? Hilary, Merkel, Beyonce, Adele, Michelle? The comic world is certainly not chock-full of engaging women but surely there was someone more qualified for the role - Captain Marvel or Elektra? Even at that - the list of potentials is sparse, so why not have chosen a real-life character - a CEO; or an Olympian that defied every definition of gravity we know this year like, for instance, Simone Biles; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Shonda Rhimes from the writer’s corner?
The list is endless, and the names would roll off anyone’s tongue who has been paying the least bit of attention to the changing pace of feminism in the last 10 years.
It is no joke, nor is it in our imaginations. It is about time those real people who are furthering the cause are recognized for their work - for pushing the boundaries of sexism and paving the way for a future that is no less real than was the suffrage movement in the last century.
3 Min Read
"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.