By Laurie Fabiano of the Tory Burch Foundation
You may have recently seen the announcement of our new Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition. Ten women entrepreneurs will win mentoring, education and the opportunity to receive a $100,000 investment grant. But let me take a moment to explain why we thought this was such an important initiative to launch.
(Photo courtesy of Laurie Fabiano)
Let’s face it: women still have a long way to go to achieve parity with men in the workplace. Just one unfortunate fact among many—women entrepreneurs seeking capital are more likely to be turned down for loans than men, with only one in 23 dollars in loans going to a woman. Alongside the struggles every business owner faces, like raising funds, scaling a business or finding talent, women are more likely to be the cornerstones of their families. And the rules of the game are not always drawn to support the diverse roles that women play. This is why I was so proud to take on my role with the Tory Burch Foundation, named for its founder who is an inspiration to entrepreneurs — both men and women — around the globe.
The first critical step for success is for women to embrace ambition. Tory tells the story of how she shied away from the word “ambition” early in her career. Men are taught that ambition is good — desirable, even. The contrary is true for women; ambition is often looked upon with disdain. Women need to own their ambition and not be afraid to show it. Most men would never waste their time trying to appear less ambitious. You shouldn’t either.
In addition to changing cultural norms, which we know is a slow evolving process, there are four concrete things that all women entrepreneurs need now: credible resources, access to capital, business education, and mentors.
We conducted a great deal of research prior to launching our new Foundation website and there was one marketplace deficiency that we heard about over and over again: a one-stop platform for dependable, quality information and guidance. This is why our website now provides entrepreneurs in all industries the resources they need to grow — everything from expert insights to inspiration, and practical tools, like our dynamic business-plan builder. And because women business owners often have to accomplish what they need to do in “stolen moments,” even if it’s at 1:00 a.m. when the kids are in bed and the lunches made, we created a destination that works on any device, at any hour.
Then there is the need for capital — actual money. Women need to be connected to sources that they may not know about. To address the difficulty that women have in getting loans, we established the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, powered by Bank of America. The program provides women entrepreneurs the ability to access affordable loans through local Community Lenders. We have made more than $10 million in loans to women through this initiative and hope to expand our impact.
Getting the education you need to make smart business decisions is also critical. Oftentimes entrepreneurs are working in another field when inspiration strikes, and may not have an adequate business background to launch or grow a company. For this reason, we partnered with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Babson College to provide specialized, practical business education for women entrepreneurs. We have found that many entrepreneurs lack financial knowledge in particular and encourage them to increase their financial literacy.
A network of mentors, coworkers or friends provides invaluable connections and moral support. Women need mentors, but women also need to be mentors. Perhaps it’s time for us to create an “old-girls’ network.” If you are in the position to help another woman – do it.
Founded in 2009, our Foundation empowers women entrepreneurs to find the support they need to succeed. With the launch of our new website we solved the need for a digital destination for the advice, inspiration and tools needed to build a business. And with the launch of our Fellows Program, and our expanding capital and education partnerships with Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, we will continue to provide extraordinary opportunities for women-owned businesses. We are here to provide the tools. You bring the ambition.
Laurie Fabiano is the President of the Tory Burch Foundation, a not-for-profit founded by Tory Burch to empower women entrepreneurs. Fabiano has a long history of advancing philanthropic endeavors at organizations like Robin Hood, and is the former Deputy Mayor of Hoboken, NJ. She is also the author of the best-selling novel, Elizabeth Street.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.