I believe it is important for female entrepreneurs to look to other women who are going through similar experiences or have been there before. We can learn from each other and lift each other up. I wanted to look at a few key examples in the fashion and beauty industry who can inspire us. These innovative women show their power through the impact of their brand, through their successes and failures, through the brilliant concepts they designed to help other women, and through their ability to connect with other females to empower them.
Diane von Furstenberg
A true innovator in the fashion world, Diane von Furstenberg gave us the wrap dress in 1974 that helped women change our wardrobe options forever. This dress is something that developed, starting as a skirt with a wrap top. Then, DVF saw how the two pieces were working together and envisioned it as a dress. She saw it as an option that would be easy for women while helping them look sexy. At the time, she didn’t expect it to become so popular.
DVF became a model for success when she created this instantly popular dress at just 27 years old. Later, she faced bankruptcy when demand for the dress decline. But she didn’t let that end her career. Using the same dress to relaunch her brand in 1997, she learned from her past to create a more sustainable, stronger business.
The wrap dress provided us with a powerful silhouette that represents both fashion and inner confidence. It’s a piece of “every women’s” attire that is universally flattering and appropriate for different body shapes and ages. It is easy to throw on to instantly look elegant and polished. You can transition from work to an evening out in this dress, and you can change the look through accessories. We gained this important wardrobe piece through DVF when she created this new design and then brought it back into style later.
Sara Blakely became a billionaire by creating Spanx. This product was born from her ingenuity in dealing with an everyday problem. When working as a door-to-door salesperson in the heat of Florida, she was required to wear pantyhose but wanted to wear open-toed shoes. Because she did not like the look of the seamed foot, she cut off the pantyhose bottoms. She liked how her altered pantyhose smoothed out her body and covered panty lines but without showing the foot seam. The idea of Spanx was born.
She tried pitching the idea to numerous hosiery mills but was rejected multiple times. One of the problems she discovered was that these mills were run by men who did not actually use the products they made. The one mill operator who decided to give Blakely a try was a man whose three daughters liked the idea. She was able to create a prototype, get her idea trademarked, and develop packaging. She got Neiman Marcus to sell her product by putting it on in the restroom during the meeting to show the difference it made. She then got other major department stores to follow suit and grew from there.
Spanx is not just for plus-size women. They gave women of all shapes and sizes more confidence with their bodies and with fashion. They removed panty lines, muffin tops, and other issues to make fashion look better on every body type.
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Why does business have to be so serious? Who made the rules anyway? I think one of the biggest myths about owning a business is that you have to become super serious to be successful. Why? Humor is so important in business. The best kind of humor typically comes from being vulnerable, and from a willingness to laugh at yourself. It establishes stronger human connections.. and makes everything so much more FUN! At @Spanx, we are constantly trying to find the “funny” at work. When you learn not to take yourself and work too seriously… life gets a whole lot more fun. 💥 💪 ❤️ #Humor #WhySoSerious #GetOverYourself #MakeItFun #LifeIsFunny #MondayMotivation
Tory Burch also achieved monumental success through fashion. While her brand makes a variety of items from handbags to sunglasses, she became known through her signature ballerina flats. She had been building her business before the debut of her flats and was endorsed by Oprah the year before they came out. The shoe was an instant hit that gave women a shoe that was comfortable yet stylish and classy for work and casual outings.
Burch’s “Reva” flats feature her signature “TT” logo on the top. This is a key piece of her branding, which is based on a luxury and sporty lifestyle. She was able to show us the power of branding and how effective it can be to sell a lifestyle, which was based on her own personal brand.
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson
After attending Harvard Business School, working in fashion and cofounding flash sale company, Gilt Groupe, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson cofounded GlamSquad.
We can see Wilson as a disruptor in the beauty industry, as she built success by changing the game. Her company gave us the option of on-demand beauty services at home that we could book through an app, and it quickly took off. She’s continuing the same idea into fashion, with Fitz, which gives in-person wardrobe consultations and shopping advice.
Rather than basing her business around her own fashion ideas, Wilson focused on the needs of the consumer. For example, GlamSquad helps customers save time, and time is luxury. By looking at consumer needs, she was able to create a sustainable, profitable and scalable business.
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Happy International Women’s Day! I celebrate these women who inspire me to achieve #BalanceForBetter: my mother (I am who I am because of her), @maybank (my forever wingwoman), @mindygrossman (my role model), @carmen.busquets (my inspiration). 👏🏻 💃🏼👏🏻@womenseday #iwd2019 #friendship #motherhood #girlpower #womensupportingwomen #womeninbusiness #femalefounders #thefutureisfemale #femalementors #femalerolemodels #InternationalWomensDay
Sophia Amoruso had her ups and downs but came out on top. She founded women’s fashion company Nasty Gal, which quickly expanded. She was recognized for her business savvy, quick business growth and for making millions. All in all, her business was a success. She also wrote an autobiography called #Girlboss that was successful and picked up by Netflix for a show, and she started Girlboss Media. But her reputation took a hit when she was trying to inspire other women while also filing for bankruptcy, losing her wealth, and resigning as executive chairwoman of Nasty Gal because of troubles in the company.
Despite her failures, this wasn’t the end of her story. She realized through her difficulties that women needed more support in entrepreneurship and that she could offer this through Girlboss Media, which became hugely successful. Now, she’s a positive force for women through her female-oriented content and rallies for young entrepreneurs. She decided to run this company differently than the last, and it has paid off.
Amaruso has power through her persona. She was able to build a strong following through her brands and was able to keep it through her tough times. She continues to connect to young women, working to understand what they need, and give it to them.
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2 years ago today, Girlboss was born. Just 3 months after Nasty Gal went belly up, I and a crack team of three put on an event in downtown LA, hosting 500 women from across the globe. I had no idea what we were doing. We called it the Girlboss Rally. I invited every strong, smart, accomplished woman I knew to speak. Expected little. After all, I was a joke at this point, right? But they showed up. My friends. My colleagues. Those I admired. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In the two years that have passed since, team @girlboss has grown to nearly 30 people and we’ve raised $6.6m in venture funding from brilliant investors and entrepreneurs. We’ve won awards, hosted 4 incredible conferences, and produced half a dozen podcasts. Don’t call it a media company; today, we are building a digital community for ambitious women, which is currently in beta with around 500 users (wee)! The @girlbossrally is still important — it’s the physical extension of the magical universe a small team of engineers are building with zeroes and ones as you read this. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve learned about leadership. About how to steer a company. About financial responsibility. And I’ve learned that I’m still much better at writing than I am at speaking. Eyeballs are intimidating, are they not? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Ultimately, the past two years have made me less of a misanthrope, and someone who finally believes in the power of community. Without that tiny Girlboss team, the 50 friends who showed up to speak, or the 500 women who showed up to learn, I don’t know if I’d have had the confidence to keep going. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So thank you — first, to team Girlboss, who wake up every day and inspire me to work smarter. Thank you for trusting my vision and letting me convince you that building software is an important future for us. For those reading, every graphic you see, word you read, personality you hear, email you open, or stage you witness is the brilliant work of this team. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And not second, but equally, to to you, who we do it all for. Thank you for giving us the vision and inspiration we can build our humble scaffolding around. Happy anniversary, @girlboss! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ What do YOU want to accomplish in two years?
The idea isn’t to copy these women but to be inspired by them. It’s essential to see the hard work that goes into these successful businesses, and how they can be started through the tenacity and inventiveness of one woman, growing into million-and billion-dollar businesses. As we see with these examples, there can be rises and falls along the way, and you can rise again and be successful in the end.
Could you apply the lessons of these female entrepreneurs to your own ideas?