1) What made you want to create your own business and how did you get started?
Since 1997, I’ve built, sold, or invested in a half dozen companies, created and hosted CNBC’s first original primetime series focused on entrepreneurs called “American Made,” and became the first entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell in 2011.
After learning about the struggles of other entrepreneurs and personally being told I was never going to be a venture backed company because I didn’t look like, act like or sound like any of the CEOs that investors were used to funding, I knew I had an opportunity to help other entrepreneurs – particularly women who are under-represented in business. It became a personal mission for me, I launched Empowering a Billion Women (EBW) to help women start, grow and scale businesses.
2) What does it mean to Empower a Billion Women?
When you activate women, you activate the economy! Entrepreneurs are the backbone of our global economy, and under representation of women in business is a missed opportunity both socially and economically.
- Women put around 90% of their income back into their communities and families.
- If women and men participate equally as entrepreneurs around the world, the global GDP could see a rise of 3-5%, giving the global economy a boost of $2.5-5 trillion.
- Businesses founded by women produce higher revenue, over 2X more per dollar invested than companies founded by men.
Having experienced the challenges women face in entrepreneurship I’ve had the privilege to create programs that I would’ve loved having access to when starting my own companies. EBW has reached more than 700M women globally, matching them with the resources they need.
3) What is one piece of advice you have been given that has helped guide you in your career?
Through the years I’ve had many mentors – both men and women – the biggest advice they bestowed upon me, and now are key points that I mentor women on are:
- Protect your time. Entrepreneurs wear many hats. It’s easy to get pulled in multiple directions and spend your time and energy in the wrong ways. Over the years I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, take time for myself, and delegate by putting the right team in place to ensure I can focus on my job of running the business.
- Enjoy the process of uncovering your unique talents. We all have preconceived notions of what success looks like based on examples of other successful leaders. My advice – don’t be anything you’re not. Sure, there are times when you have to tailor your communication style to appeal to certain audiences, but don’t risk losing your authentic self in the process as it’s what people will fall in love with about you and want to join you on your journey.
- Mistakes are going to happen. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not innovating. It's part of the process. The key to overcoming mistakes is to address them head on as soon as they arrive, communicate with whomever needs to be in the loop, and develop a strategy to solve the challenge and most importantly learn from it.
- Your business will evolve and you must too. With growth comes change and that change won’t always be comfortable. Sometimes the most amazing people you’ve worked with won’t always be amazing for your business. I’ve had the privilege to work with so many great people over my entrepreneurial journey – people that supported my mission and so therefore I felt indebted to. Going back to the importance of protecting my time, learning to make tough personnel decisions has allowed me to focus my time on what matters to me most – my family, friends, and Empowering a Billion Women.
- Be a student of your craft. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s important to understand both the science and the art of entrepreneurship. When I was the entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, my team and I started a $125M credit fund that was designed for entrepreneurs looking to scale. Shockingly – no women applied for the capital! We learned that it was because they didn’t understand how debt capital worked. My advice – always be a student, continue to read, learn, and understand your options.
4) What are your 3 biggest achievements since starting EBW?
- Reaching 700M+ women entrepreneurs and helping them grow their businesses.
- Pivoting during the pandemic, I launched a new healthcare company – EBW Distributors – to address the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. That business grew to eight figures in less than one year, helped women get back to work and protect their communities.
- The success of my healthcare company allowed EBW to build and launch our new Accelerator – a business education and community platform for women entrepreneurs.
5) Why is being certified important to EBW and how has certification helped your business?
Through certification, we’ve gained access to a vast network of support, including targeted business opportunities for certified women-owned firms. It’s increased our visibility with both corporate and government supply chains, provided us with multiple programs that’s spurring our growth. While I cannot at this time share how EBW is expanding, I can tell you that being WBENC certified has opened up several opportunities for us.
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