Reflections on the Tory Burch Fellowship
Since I launched my firm almost four years ago, I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with numerous entrepreneurs, particularly other women. I have found the energy, drive and enthusiasm for making an impact on the world to be greater among entrepreneurs than any other group I have been part of (and I’ve been in many groups with smart and highly engaged people!). The creativity and sense of focus and purpose is tremendous, and I find that my own innovative thinking, creativity and energy increases when I spend time with other entrepreneurs.
This spring, I had the honor of being selected to the Tory Burch Foundation’s 2019 Fellows Program for women entrepreneurs. The year-long Fellows Program kicked off this month with four days of events and training sessions at the Tory Burch Foundation offices, where we met one another and had the opportunity to learn from an impressive lineup of leaders in fields relevant to women entrepreneurs. Many people have asked me to share my thoughts about the fellowship, so I put together some takeaways and observations from my time spent at the Foundation.
The fifty (50) 2019 Fellows are women with successful early-stage businesses in a myriad of industries including food and beverage, tech, clothing, transportation and logistics, beauty and, yes, even law. They come from all walks of life and parts of the country. And while I am one of the oldest Fellows, the ages range from fresh out of college to decades of working experience. Another interesting characteristics among the Fellows is how many of them include a “give back” element either as part of their business or in a companion non-profit, like mine with Women Owned Law. Indeed, Tory Burch herself spoke about how when she started her company, she knew that one of her goals was to start a foundation to help other women entrepreneurs. In all, it is one impressive group of entrepreneurs and I am humbled to be part of it.
While I am still unpacking all the lessons from those four days, there are a few I’d like to highlight:
1) Small Changes Can Yield Big Results (Hopefully). A favorite activity for myself and the other Fellows were the daily mindfulness sessions with Carmen Morcos of Impact Visionary. Given the many hats we wear as entrepreneurs, partners, mothers, daughters, friends, etc., we all agree that finding time for ourselves is hard. (Indeed, that is also the case for lawyers generally as the dismal statistics on lawyers’ mental health and well-being show.) One of the lessons Carmen offered was adopting a daily gratitude practice, where you spend a few minutes each day noting three things you are grateful for. While I’ve tried this in the past without much success, with Carmen’s guidance this time around, I realized that these items could be very small (such as the soft fabric of my office chair) and the process should be super easy to do. Thus, I found a simple app on my phone to record my three things a day and am pleased to report that I’ve incorporated this daily habit into my life! Am I happier? Hard to say just yet. But, I do enjoy reflecting on the small positives in life especially on difficult days.
2) Networking = Problem Solving. I learned to think differently about networking from ex-lawyer and author Kelly Hoey. Over the years, I thought I had heard everything there is to know about networking – but Kelly proved me wrong! She suggests that you approach networking not just as a way to get to know people, but also as a way to solve problems – yours and others. In this context, it makes it much easier to think about what networks you should be in and who you should be meeting. In her approach, there is also an element of serendipity – after you identify the problems you need to solve, you should be sharing these challenges with whomever you meet, even if you aren’t certain they can help. This idea was underscored by Keisha Smith-Jeremie,the Chief People Officer for Tory Burch and the CEO and Founder of Sanaia. Keishatold a story about how she needed a green apple supplier for her apple sauce company, which she casually mentioned at a business meeting one day, and it turned out that someone in the room had an uncle who was the largest grower of green apples in the Pacific Northwest! That story underscored that you should never underestimate people you meet – they may be able to help or you may be able to help them in unexpected ways. Many of the speakers also emphasized that when it comes to networking, the give is as important as the get, and that sharing your networks with others is a way to help yourself too.
3) Craft Your Six Word Hook. Several of the speakers, including Kelly Hoey and Mary Kate McGrath, Chief Content Officer at Gallery Media Group, shared the importance of storytelling in talking about your business. Both also discussed how powerful it can be to describe your business in just six words. We spent time in several sessions coming up with these and it was extremely hard! I started out with “We protect businesses’ key strategic assets” and ended up with “Protecting your business like it’s our own” (yes, I know that’s actually seven words). Both of these taglines reflect what we do as a firm. Fundamentally, whether it is through corporate work, IP protection or litigation, our job is to protect our client’s interests – and especially their most important ones. Part of my job is to help clients identify what is really important from a business and legal perspective and then identify the best solution for preserving those interests. Since I expect high quality service at reasonable prices for my own business, I try to offer the same to my clients. Hence our “six words.” What are your six words?
These three takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg and I am certain that the Fellows experience will continue to bear fruit for the rest of this year and beyond. If anyone is interested in learning more – or perhaps in applying to be a Fellow next year – please feel free to reach out! We are tasked with recruiting other inspiring woman for upcoming cohorts, and, even without that impetus, I am happy to help others benefit from this tremendous experience and opportunity.