Tory Burch: Fashion Guru And Small Business Mentor For Women

Tory Burch knows a thing a two about starting a small business. She started her successful clothing line from her kitchen table. Within a few years she had about 1,000 employees, 44 US retail stores, and revenues expected to top $500 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though Burch could just sit back and relax now and enjoy her success she continues to push forward (thank goodness because she really continues to come up with the cutest designs) and she is reaching out to help other female business owners.

Burch feels so passionately about  helping women in business in particular that she started the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to assist women by providing microloans to them in various fields. According to the foundations web site, “micro-entrepreneurs – so called because of the smaller, or micro, size of their businesses – support their families and are the front line investors in their communities. They are more likely to be denied a loan by a traditional bank and face higher levels of financial discrimination.” According to the US Small Business Administration, small businesses employ more than half of all workers in the private sector, and make up more than 90 percent of the nation’s  employers.

The foundation partnered with ACCIONUSA, a U.S. microlender, that provides loans from $500 to $50,000. Nationwide, ACCION has financed 24,000 loans so far, with a repayment rate of 90%. The concept of granting small loans to businesses has been used for years in developing countries, and is slowly gaining ground in America.“We realize that women are great at helping each other, and there’s synergy,” said Burch. “I went to Haiti before the earthquake,and women there helped each other. If one woman was behind on her loan, the others would pitch in and help.” The collaboration of ACCION and the Foundation provides a steady stream of advice from successful business owners, including the fashion designer herself. “For me, I feel like it gives me the motivation and energy, it also makes me want to succeed to be able to give back,” said Burch.

She recently met with women business owners in Chicago and suggested they blog about their business. Social media is at the forefront of Tory Burch’s marketing and promotional efforts, but the key to social success is to make it appear as non-promotional as possible. When used correctly, the goal of social media is to create a two-way community with a brand’s fanbase that is equally beneficial for the customers and the brand.  “This is the age of social media. We at Tory Burch have benefited from growing up in it. Our vision was to create a luxury brand that was accessible and socially-responsible,” she said at the Women’s Wear Daily’s CEO Summit 2011. “I’m so grateful for what we have achieved so far and social media has been critical to that growth. Our vision was to create a luxury brand that was accessible and socially-responsible,” she said. “It’s how we communicate with our customer and she in turn helps our brand.” The brand launched its ecommerce store simultaneously with the opening of its first store on Elizabeth Street in New York. Then in 2008, Tory Burch launched its Facebook account and has since created a community of 260,553 fans.

Photo: Debby Wong/

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