Highlights from Inc. Magazine's Inaugural Women's Summit in NYC (12/1/11)
(Photo credit: Empowered Bookkeeping, Flickr)
I've just returned from a busy week spent traveling to the East Coast which, despite its intensity was incredibly invigorating and fulfilling. Aside from having the opportunity to schedule quality time with some of my amazing clients back East, I also attended Inc. Magazine's inaugural Women's Summit in NYC (held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, Manhattan).
I'm so glad that I made the decision to register for the event since you never really know what to expect with an inaugural event of any kind, but considering it was being put together by the folks at Inc. Magazine, I figured it would be top-notch. It was and then some! I've been kicking myself for not posting sooner but I truly feel that the information and advice resulting from the event is so significant for existing and would-be entrepreneurs alike that the relevance will endure not only one week post-event but perhaps for a lifetime therefore I'd like to share some of the highlights with you in this post.
To start things off, the Editor of Inc. magazine, Jane Berentson, opened up the event by reading a handwritten letter submitted by a female prison inmate (from Florida) who essentially congratulated Berentson and the Inc. team for putting together a women's business event such as the Women's Summit. In her letter, she explained how happy she was to know that there was a drop of female-centricity in an ocean of male-centric entrepreneurial and business-focused events. Needless to say, this was nowhere near the kind of opening remark that any of us expected to hear from the Editor of Inc. magazine, but then again, it was very cool just for that reason - because it was unexpected and out of the box!
The afternoon's agenda kicked off with an elaborate and scrumptious lunch which was followed by insightful presentations from the scheduled speakers as well as several informative panels woven intermittently throughout the day.
- Sara Blakely, founder & inventor, SPANX: What we now recognize as a household name took over a decade to develop eventually becoming the brand that it is through nothing less than sheer drive and determination on the part of Sara. After conceiving of the idea for the product, she literally left no stone unturned when it came to finding out how to make her vision become a reality. From relentlessly researching hosiery mills to learning how to DIY her own patent application to pulling off acts of vigilante remerchandising at Neiman Marcus stores which featured her product in its early days, she is THE unstoppable force majeure behind SPANX from day one to the present day.
Before she made it big: her full-time job prior to starting SPANX was selling fax machines but the relentless sales mentality and work ethic prepared her for her future role.
Key inspirational takeaways: 1) She ran a lean operation from the very beginning and found creative ways to keep costs down,then reinvested her profits back into the business to help it grow. 2) She didn't tell her friends & family for over a year what she was up to when creating SPANX so as not to allow the opinions of others to run the risk of potentially killing her dream. 3) She has never officially advertised SPANX to this day - the company has grown to become what it is through word-of-mouth and customer referrals.
Follow her on Twitter @SPANXinc
- Barbara Corcoran, Founder of The Corcoran Group & Star of "The Shark Tank": If you've ever watched Barbara on ABC's hit show "The Shark Tank", you either like her or you don't. Not one to shy away from offering her blunt opinions, her direct style of communication can be a bit too abrasive for some. That same hard-hitting tell-it-like-it-is attitude was a big factor in her becoming a completely self-made woman who turned a $1,000 loan into an incredibly successful real-estate firm which she recently sold for $66 million. Not having come from a life of privilege, she invoked the lessons learned from her working class upbringing to carry her through some great challenges in life which have helped her become the successful investor and businesswoman who she is today.
Before she made it big: she was not a good student by conventional means and had approximately 20 odd jobs by the time she turned 23.
Key inspirational takeaways: 1) Perception creates reality: we've often heard "Fake it till you make it" but how you think of yourself and how you allow others to think of you actually affects the outcome of your efforts so you may as well create a positive perception, no matter how far-fetched; 2) Expand before you're ready: Often the most difficult and dark times are the best times to make a move towards expansion, growth, etc., especially if you're one of the "little guys" your competition will usually be taking the opposite approach; 3) Fun is good for business: Whether it's geared toward your team in your business or with your clients, etc., fun is an essential component of business and it can set you apart from those who take themselves too seriously.
Follow her on Twitter: @BarbaraCorcoran
(Photo credit: Empowered Bookkeeping, Flickr)
- Lisa Price, Founder & President, Carol's Daughter: What started out as a hobby mixing fragrances and lotions in her Brooklyn kitchen has been transformed over the course of a decade as a result of incredibly hard work and perseverance into a beauty product empire which includes numerous celebrities and famous people amongst its loyal customer base. Given that several of Lisa's family members participated as vendors in their local neighborhood flea markets, Lisa's mother, Carol, encouraged her daughter to participate in the same flea markets mainly as a way to build more family camaraderie, social interaction, etc. An appearance at one flea market event eventually led to numerous others and despite many obstacles along the way, the brand has developed into a formidable beauty enterprise with multiple product lines.
Before she made it big: she had a full-time job working in the field of TV production (a job which in her opinion, prepares you for entrepreneurship given the unsteady income, schedule, etc).
Key inspirational takeaways: 1) Incorporate your passion with your customer's needs - sometimes you might be in love with something so much but if your customers aren't into it, then in order to stay in business, you have to pay attention and be prepared to change course. 2)You're not perfect so don't try to be. You can't do it all and that's okay! 3) Every email correspondence written by an employee of Carol's Daughter indicates their name and who they are a daughter or son of as a way of honoring their beginnings. We can't forget our beginnings - whether they are positive or negative circumstances, they shape who we become and we can use those experiences to our advantage.
- Mallika Chopra, Founder & CEO of Intent.com: Mallika's talk touched upon her experiences in the world of entertainment and media where early on she realized the tremendous power of these industries to touch and heal the world. Growing up in a household with a high profile father (Deepak Chopra), she took the time to use the power of meditation to discover her own life purpose. Her self discovery has led her to become the founder of Intent.com which has built an entire online community around the concept of support of others' positive intents. Citing motherhood as a watershed moment in her life, she often makes decisions based on how those actions, attitudes, and words would be perceived by or would affect her daughters. What served as a perfect ending to a perfect day at the Inc. Women's Summit was when Mallika led the audience in a group meditation exercise calling upon us to reflect upon our intents in our personal lives as well as in our professions and businesses and asked us to think about how to channel those intents in order to be forces of positive change.
Before she made it big: Mallika spent years working in the media and entertainment industry, having worked along side Michael Jackson to launch the Heal The World Foundation as well as being one of the key individuals responsible for the launch of MTV in India.
Key inspirational takeaways: 1) Meditation plays a critical role in her life since she has personally witnessed its transformative powers to make people happy (including her own father back in the days when he was a stressed out cardiologist). 2) We have to be aware of the power of intents as entrepreneurs by leveraging the emotional connections that we have with our colleagues,clients, etc. - it can only make us better at what we do by bringing us closer. 3) Our networks and our social/emotional connections have the transformative power of happiness which is chronicled by studies analyzing the effect that other happy people can have on our lives. We not only have to work on making ourselves truly happy but we have to recognize that our happiness can transcend beyond us to affect others around us!
I hope you find these tidbits informative and inspirational regardless of whether you're employed, self-employed or unemployed. The truth is that we all have our humanity in common first and foremost and especially as a community of women, we must truly do all we can to help to uplift, inspire and educate one another in order to make strides in areas where our world needs our gifts and services the most.
You can also connect with me on Twitter @FemPowerFinance.