According to Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine, says Tory Burch has most definitely secured herself a place in heaven. Cindi said, “There is the Madeline Albright quote that goes ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’ Well, Tory’s definitely not going to hell!” Tory Burch not only helps women by providing them with beautiful, clothing, bags and shoes but by also helping them reach their entrepreneur potential with the Tory Burch Foundation, a fund group started by Tory with the specific purpose of helping women entrepreneurs in various fields receive financing. Last week I was lucky enough to attend a Tory Burch Foundation mentoring event for women entrepreneurs held at the company’s headquarters in Manhattan and got to see the fabulous work Tory and Terri McCullough, Executive Director for the foundation, are doing with women.
Burch feels so passionately about helping women entrepreneurs 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 Center for Women’s Business Research, data shows that while about 41% of private companies in the U.S. are owned by women, only 3-5% of them get venture capital. The U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor says that women start ventures with eight times less funding than their male counterparts. In a recent interview with Fast Company Tory said she was interested in reaching out after she herself had faced challenges as a woman starting a business.”Early on, it was just the way potential investors were a little condescending. I felt that from the beginning. There was a stigma attached to being a woman in business. I think it’s about the ambition.”
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.” The foundation holds events in not only New York but Los Angeles, Chicago, Hawaii and even Morocco.
The foundation partnered with ACCIONUSA, a U.S. microlender, that provides loans from $500 to $50,000 to more than 11,000 small businesses nationwide. “I wanted to help women and their families. I spent a lot of time thinking about and researching the best way to get involved. We launched our foundation two years ago to empower women through microfinance and mentorship in the United States. It’s not charity; it’s empowerment. It’s an investment in our collective futures,” said Burch. According to Fast Company, the foundation has given more than 50 loans–that’s more than $500,000 to Accion. The average loan is about $8,000.
You can tell the women attending the event, who come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages, are all thrilled to meet Tory. After all, it has only in been eight short years that Tory has built a brand that is recognized around the world. The company is expected to have sales of $800 million for this year. To have Tory stopping in and chiming in on the conversation is amazing but the mentees are also so excited to meet the robust list of mentors Tory and Terri have collected. Tory has recruited a list of experts for these events that would get Warren Buffett’s attention. At the event in New York, entrepreneurs got to sit down and pick the brains of business queens and kings including Linda Addison, Partner in Charge at Fulbright & Jaworski, Cozy Friedman, Founder and CEO of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids, Leive and Glen Senk, CEO of David Yurman and former CEO of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. With its speed dating like formula, which helps the women get to meet not only the mentors but other entrepreneurs, the Tory Burch Foundation may have come up with the perfect networking and learning model. Accompanied by a little wine and cheese (and at the New York event, pieces from Tory’s recent collection), it was entrepreneurial heaven.
Leive said, “I am so impressed with the work Tory does. Mentoring really matters. It is true in relationships and true in work.” Cindi went on to say she is really a believer in the power of women which is why events like these are so great. She continued, “I am often asked by people, ‘What is it like to work with so many women. There must be cat fights all the time. And it is just the opposite. We are such a thriving, productive team. I am such a believer in the power of women.”
Photo: Noa Griffel