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When Tory Burch takes to the stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center on a comfortably warm night in June to close out a day of empowering conversations, networking and talks from some of the most influential women entrepreneurs and change leaders in recent history, no needs no introduction. .
Burch is the reason the approximately 1,200 (mostly) women in attendance are here, not to mention the ones tuned in virtually from around the world. They have all applied to win a coveted seat at the annual Embrace Ambition Summit organized by Burch’s nonprofit, the Tory Burch Foundation.
Here, women who have scored in different industries and fields have come together to grow, learn and connect, all under the leadership of Burch and his expert training, which this year included tennis icon and activist Billie Jean King and actress and author Mindy Kaling, to name a few.
Although the summit only spans one day, it is a tangible example of Burch’s mission in the business world forever.
“The confidence we’re helping women instill in themselves is something I’m very passionate about: owning their ambition,” Burch says. “And when I say that, it may be what they choose their path to be. They could be a stay-at-home mom or a CEO. But that’s something I had to fight, this negative stereotype associated with women and ambition. “It’s been a challenge, and I’ve learned to be, to accept it and to really believe in it.”
Like most women, Burch wears a lot of hats.
Of course, she is the founder of the women’s clothing company Tory Burch, which in 2021 alone earned an estimated $ 1.5 billion in revenue.
She is also a mother, a tennis expert, a board member of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and a philanthropist.
Paying for it has always been the end of the titan of the fashion industry. When she started her business, she knew she wanted to finally have a philanthropic arm to care for women and children, and she knew she had first-hand experience with the challenges women in the company face.
“The reason I wanted to start a business was to create a foundation,” Burch tells me at first glance. “2004, which doesn’t sound like that long ago, was such a different world and attitude towards this and how this was part of my business plan. When I went to raise money, a lot of people told me that business. and the purpose must be kept separate. It is clear that today there is a massive change in this, which is really gratifying to see. “
Tory Burch and Billie Jean King hit tennis balls at the Embrace Ambition Summit
Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009, just five years after Tory Burch, the company surprised with its preppy-classic-high-sophistication aesthetic firm.
While many hear Tory Burch’s name and automatically associate it with the affordable luxury brand, the Tory Burch Foundation is a separate entity, although the basic mission of the two is exactly the same: to make women feel empowered and secure.
Related: Tory Burch’s Best Tips for Women Entrepreneurs: Trust Your Instincts
The foundation supports and empowers women entrepreneurs through grants, scholarship programs, access to educational resources, and select events designed to inspire, connect, and advance gender equality and what it really means to be a modern feminist.
Burch’s success with the foundation has proven to be a model for weaving a philanthropic entity into your parent company without it feeling forced: it should feel like a natural extension of what your brand already represents, or it will look un Authentic. .
“The way history has been taught, women have been wiped out for the most part, or have been supporting players. And it’s not the truth,” says Laurie Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation. “I’ve been in non-profit organizations for over 40 years and with the Tory Burch Foundation for the last seven. And I feel like I’ve been able to get more in the last seven years than in any of my previous positions here. there are no barriers to work.Tory and I share some values totally, and she empowers me to do what needs to be done.We have been able to do many things in a very short time, which is not usually the MO for organizations non-profit”.
Part of this work includes the foundation’s coveted and highly competitive scholarship program, in which 50 fellows are selected from a group of thousands of applicants to receive interest-free loans, grants and business education.
The foundation partners with Bank of America in a low-interest loan program, administered through CDFI nationwide, that has given about $ 75 million in loans to women entrepreneurs through the program.
“We are very strategic with the fellows we choose, because right now in the United States, less than 4% of women entrepreneurs will spend a million dollars in income,” Fabiano explains. “So we’re looking for women who we think can help us break the $ 1 million mark, because that means they’ll stay and thrive.”
Burch and Fabiano are both advocates of the power of networking and hope that by connecting fellows and passing them through the foundation’s program as a team, a network will be built.
The network will also include employees of the Tory Burch Company, who serve as mentors for fellows through their employee counseling program. It is a mutual victory where both entrepreneurs and employees can learn from each other and foster an additional sense of community, a way of returning that is washed away.
“I found that having mentors in so many different ways, and not necessarily from the fashion industry, has been very valuable to me,” Burch says. “And that’s something we wanted to establish, that kind of community and networking by nature.”
Burch’s classic simplicity is evident in everything the company does, from her fresh, elegant clothes to the natural way the company’s employees, 80% of whom are women, are able to help each other and inspire each other. This calm attitude is how Burch keeps course in an industry where trends come and go every season, and where the public’s obsession with exaggerated opulence could turn into strict minimalism a few months later.
“One thing I was very careful about when I started the foundation was not talking about it,” Burch says. “I wanted to have a real impact and scale, but I was very concerned that it was perceived as marketing anyway. I think now that we feel like we’re moving the needle in women’s issues, and we have real and very tangible things. To talk about it, it’s more authentic for me to relate it to the dialogue around the company. I’ve always tried to be patient … we’ve been a very patient brand. And in many ways we could have been much bigger, faster, we did different things, we slowed down a lot of different things because [we were] thinking about the long term “.
Part of that has meant accepting the change, which he did when he left his position as CEO of Tory Burch in 2019, taking on the new title of chief executive and creative director.
She handed over the reign to her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, the former president and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group.
“[The change] it allowed me to free myself and, in fact, reinvent myself from a creative point of view, ”he says. [the company as] a work in progress. And being a lifelong learner, I really believe in the concept of reinvention. “
There is a way to flow with the times and change when needed without changing everything. Burch (humbly) argues that his key to success is simply this, in essence: focusing on the macro and fulfilling it on your own terms, keeping you very aware and open to the changes in the world and the industry that are happening around you.
“I’ve always been interested in confidence and the product and how our clothes, handbags or shoes can make women and men feel safe and beautiful,” Burch says. “We are all facing so many difficult things. How can we as a company have a positive impact on humanity? This is something that I think is a constantly evolving state.”
From the success and work of both the brand and the foundation over the past 18 years, it seems that the Tory Burch name is well on its way to achieving that impact with its own vibrant form.
After all, when you start any effort from an internal place of positivity, it radiates to the people you impact. “My parents taught me that negativity is noise,” Burch says. “I’d say you hear that, more than anything.”