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These Women Are Creating Confidence With A Million Dollar Movement

Business

The Oxford dictionary defines confident as, “feeling or showing certainty about something." What it doesn't tell us, is that a confident mindset is one that takes years to develop, and is only as strong as the foundation that supports it.


In the midst of the #MeToo movement and long-fought war on pay gap, confidence emerges as a less distinct, yet just as significant, gap between women and men.

“As women, we tend to be more focused on competence than confidence. And it's holding us back," says Carrie Kerpen, CEO of social media agency and digital content studio, Likeable. Kerpen is one of the keynote speakers at this year's Million Dollar Women Summit, where she hopes to convey the importance of confidence as a tool of empowerment.

As a part of the Million Dollar Women movement, founded by Julia Pimsleur, this year's second annual Summit is a two-day event of coaching, interactive workshops and keynotes by successful female founders. The theme is Women Who Dare, “in honor of all the women who dared before us, not just entrepreneurs but inventors, activists and trailblazers of all kinds, who defied societal expectations and took risks in order to live their boldest lives," explains Pimsleur.

A two-time founder, author and influential speaker, Pimsleur understands confidence. This is why she set out to share her hard-earned wisdom as one of the few VC-backed, women-run businesses in the country. It all began as a controlled workshop to coach 75 women through their early rounds of funding.

Founder MDW, Julia Pimsleur

Three years later, and a collective $15 million in capital raised, Pimsleur decided to share the lessons in her book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, before ultimately establishing the company, Million Dollar Women.

“Knowing that they [women] have a tribe of other high growth women should make it a bit easier to access the three things you need to 'go big:' the right mindset, skillset and network," shares Pimsleur. “The Summit helps with all three. We are demystifying what it takes to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar company and breaking it down for women so we can make that three percent a thing of the past."

The three percent that Pimsleur addresses is the sobering statistic she discovered six years ago while raising capital for her company, Little Pim. “Fewer than three percent of women entrepreneurs get to $1 million in revenues and just four percent of venture capital is invested in women-run businesses," she explains.

With a mission to help one million women reach $1M in revenues by 2020, Million Dollar Women channels Pimsleur's confidence into a community for women navigating one of the most isolating periods of entrepreneurship. “At the beginning of my business I had so much passion and enthusiasm and drive, but a few years into it, I was burnt out, and needed new skills and networks to get to the next level," admits Pimsleur on the self-motivated mission to learn from fellow entrepreneurs.

“We are helping women go beyond their comfort zones and build big, successful businesses. Now they can scale up faster, and in great company," she states.

Although the entire Million Dollar Women company is steeped in the underlying theme of confidence, as women gain a community of like-minded motivation, this year's conference is a distinct opportunity to recognize the significance of what happens when you “dare" to think bigger--whether that's leaving your comfort zone or fostering belief in yourself.

“I think that male founders are generally more assertive, while female founders are generally more modest, myself included," says Shan-Lyn Ma, founder of Zola.com. As the co-keynote speaker at the Million Dollar Women summit this year, Ma reflects on the early days of her entrepreneurial venture, where confidence was her most important aspect but one she hadn't quite grasped yet.

“Venture Capitalists are attracted to founders who are confident in their ability to build the next billion-dollar business, which men time and time again promise they'll do, regardless if they have a solid idea or not," she says. “Women have a tendency to come in with a conservative five-year plan, which while practical, isn't as inspiring to VCs."

It took years of realizing her visions and community support for Ma to exude the confidence that reflected the investment she made in herself, to attract an investment from others. For this reason, Ma looks forward to encouraging this level of confidence for women in their early seeds of funding alongside fellow keynote speaker, Carrie Kerpen, and of course, the summit's founder, Julia Pimsleur at the Summit.

I hope my story helps light a fire in people's hearts to go after something they've always wanted to do, whether that's starting a company, taking on a project at work, trying a new skill, or something else entirely," says Ma.

As the confidence gap presents itself as a non quantitative fix, Pimsleur has undoubtedly created a platform where women can leverage their network to inspire the qualitative change--one which confidence's “feelings of certainty" are rooted in. “While #MeToo is fixing the egregious harassment issues, we are fixing the more subtle mindset, skillset and network issues," concludes Pimsleur.

In using these as key touch points, Million Dollar Women reflects how as confidence becomes more accessible and understood, women will no longer have to look at it as a daunting gap, but rather as another tool they can master along their entrepreneurial journey.

The Million Dollar Women Summit will take place April 5-6 at the Microsoft Conference Center in New York City. For more information on scheduling, coaches and registration, click here.

Culture

Why Whiskey Should No Longer Be Categorized As “A Man’s Drink”

I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"


I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.

In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.

Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.

For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.

Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.

The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.

It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.

While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.

What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.

While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.