tory-burch-coverThe improving economy is encouraging many women to start their own business.  Entrepreneurs like Tory Burch are helping with programs that support the economic empowerment of other women entrepreneurs.  There are nearly 9.1 million women-owned enterprises, employing nearly 7.9 million workers and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues.

But women owned businesses are not able to grow at the same rate as male owned businesses. Businesses owned by men are three and a half times as likely to reach $1 million in annual revenues as are businesses owned by women. Investment is one struggle that women-owned businesses face.  The number is still small but nearly 20% of angels in 2012 invested in women-led businesses.

Burch is one who is trying to change things.  She began her own fashion house in 2004, and in ten short years, she has been listed as the 79th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In 2009, Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation, which supports the economic empowerment of women in the U.S. through small business loans, mentoring and entrepreneurial education.  In 2014, the foundation launched Elizabeth Street Capital, an initiative with Bank of America, with an initial investment of $10 million in capital to provide women entrepreneurs with access to low cost loans, mentoring support and networking opportunities. The initiative is named for the location of the first Tory Burch boutique. The foundation also offers an entrepreneurial education program in collaboration with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Babson College. Burch’s stores sell products whose proceeds support the Foundation’s work.

If that doesn’t make you want to buy a new pair of Tory Burch flats, I don’t know what does.


iStock_000019937684LargeYes it does. In 2013, 52% of online shoppers used their smartphone throughout the shopping process. In fact, one in three shoppers would rather use their smartphone than ask for help in a store.  Smartphones are our personal shopping assistants, and considering mobile as part of your marketing mix is imperative.

Here are some of the facts on how mobile is impacting shopper behavior:

  • 84% of smartphone shoppers use their device while shopping in a store
  • 53% of shoppers are using their smartphones to make price comparisons
  • 39% use their smartphone to find promotional offers
  • One in three will use the their smartphone over asking for asking for help in store

Information Shoppers Need Online

In terms of search, the more helpful the information that shoppers find on line, the more likely they are to visit your store.  According to a recent Google, Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands survey, the typical information they are searching for include:

  • Price of item at a nearby store – 75%;
  • Item is in stock at nearby store – 74%;
  • Location of closest store with item in stock – 66%;
  • Details about local stores (hours, phone number) – 63%
  • Map showing which stores carry the item searched for – 59%
  • What else is available at the store that carries the items searched for – 57%.

The Next Step

You have your website optimized for mobile and you have your information updated.  What’s next?  Personalized recommendations and coupons are valued by shoppers – 85% of respondents say they would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized and exclusive offers provided in store, and 64% are more likely to shop in stores that offer recommendations for products.




LeeAnn Maxwell (left) and partner Carrie King (right) took an unforgettable girls trip to St. Simon’s Island and came home with the genesis of Vixen Vodka, a new vodka company targeted to women. Their research into vodka and distillers showed that vodka was ready for a female revolution.  Their vodka is available in five states in the Southeast.

1.  How did you decide to start a vodka business focused on selling to women?

It all started on a girls’ beach trip.  We’ve all been there – lying around the pool, coming up with these great ideas.  Then we get back to life, to work, to kids, to husbands, to school, and then next year’s beach trip comes around and we go, ‘remember that great idea we had last year?’  Well, we put actionable steps behind the crazy idea of starting a vodka by women for women (not a skinny, not a mix, not a flavor, just a pure 80 proof vodka that talked TO women, not down to them), and made our favorite quote come true:  a dream without action is merely a fantasy.  We made our dream a reality!

2.  How has being an entrepreneur changed your life?

It’s the best job; it’s the worst job.  You’re never ‘off’.  You live –  eat – breathe – sleep the brand.  It’s the first thing you think about in the morning and it’s the last thing you think about at night.  And I wouldn’t change a moment of it!

3.  What has been the best moment since you started the business?  What has been the worst?

The best moment (and it still is!) is seeing our dream a reality on the shelf.  Every time I see that bottle on a liquor store shelf or on a back bar or in someone’s cart – I get a chill up and down my spine.  I honestly can’t say there’s been a ‘worst’ moment, I’ve learned from every so-called mistake and obstacle.  I believe that the fear of never trying is much much worse than the fear of failure.

4.  How does having a partner help your business?

There are some entrepreneurs who live by the mantra:  ‘small ships, tall ships, no partnerships’.  I could not disagree more.  I don’t know how I would do this without my partner in crime, Carrie King.  We have a big age difference; I say she was born on the night of my high school prom.  But we’re targeting women ages 28-54 and we are living our own demographic.  We balance each other, we have similar work styles, similar work ethics.   And if we don’t agree, we don’t do it.  And it has served us very well.

 5.  What is the biggest surprise in starting your own business?

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is tough.  But surprisingly, most people want to help you.  They want to see you succeed.  All I do is ask people to ‘hold my hand’ and I think when you do that, it gives them permission to help you without condescending to you or being resentful of you. Oh yeah, and having to do everything!!!  I was just asked to coach at a business event.  They asked do you specialize in marketing, business start up, branding, social media, financing, or sales?   I said yes, all of the above.  Because as an entrepreneur, you have to do all that and more!

 6.  What does success look like?  

Success to me is not the sale of a bottle of vodka, although yes please everyone who is reading this go out and buy a bottle.  But success to me is the stay at home mom who comes up to me and says that I empowered her to turn her passion into a project.  Success is the wedding photographer who says after meeting us at an event she decided to start her own business of portrait couture, bringing out a woman’s best self.  Success is the woman who introduced herself to me as a sculptor, not a kindergarten teacher, because I inspired her to describe herself as her purpose not her paycheck.

 7.  Have other women been supportive of your business?

Absolutely!  Because it’s not about the vodka; (but again please go buy a bottle), it’s about the fact that Carrie and I took the leap.  We went for ‘it’.  Our ‘it’ happened to be starting a vodka company that is tailored to a female palate and does not look upon women as arm candy or sex objects.   But your ‘it’ may be climbing a mountain, running a marathon, becoming a race car driver (ok, I admit that’s on my bucket list).  We’re just using vodka.  And I started this company the year I turned 50, the year my boys moved out and my ex-husband came out. (oh by the way, he’s now the creative director for Vixen Vodka – life’s too short to be madJ)   If I can turn my life around from sitting at home watching “Dancing with the Stars”, anyone can!