‘How do we as a company make a positive impact on humanity?’

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When Tory Burch takes the stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center on a cozy warm night in June to cap off a day of conversation, networking, and empowerment talks by some of the most influential female entrepreneurs and change-makers in recent history, she finds some Introduction is not required.


Erica Schroeder

Erica Schroeder

Birch is the reason why there are about 1,200 (mostly) women in attendance here, not to mention those tuning in from virtually all over the world. All of them have applied to earn a coveted seat in the annual Embrace Ambition Summit Hosted by Burch’s nonprofit, the Tory Burch Foundation,

Here, women from across all industries and fields gather to grow, learn, and network under the leadership of Burch and her lineup of experts, which this year included tennis icon and activist Billie Jean King and actress and author Mindy Kaling. some names.

Although the summit only covers one day, it is a concrete example of what Birch’s mission in the business world has always been.

“The belief that we’re helping women establish themselves is something I’m extremely passionate about — their ambition is to own up to it,” Burch says. “And when I say so, they can be whatever they choose their path to be. They can be a stay-at-home mom or a CEO. But that’s something I had to fight, that The negative stereotypes that are associated with women and ambition. It’s been a challenge, and I’ve learned to embrace it and embrace it and really believe in it.”

Like most women, Birch wears many hats.

She is, of course, the founder of the womenswear company Tory Burch, which rake in a Estimated Revenue of $1.5 billion in 2021 alone.

She is also a mother, tennis maven, board member of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and philanthropist.

Taking it forward has always been the fashion industry titan’s final play. When she started her company, she knew she wanted to eventually have a philanthropic hand to serve women and children, and she knew she had firsthand experience of the challenges women in business face. does.

“The reason I wanted to start a company was to start a foundation,” Burch told me point-blank. “Back in 2004, which didn’t seem like that long ago, it was a different world and attitude towards it and it was part of my business plan. When I went to raise money, I was told by many people that business and purpose were kept separate. Clearly today, there is a big change in that, which is really gratifying to see.”

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Tory Burch and Billie Jean King Hit the Tennis Balls at the Embrace Ambition Summit

Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009, just five years after Tory Burch made the company a splash with its signature preppy-classic-meets-elevated-sophistication aesthetic.

Although many people hear the name Tory Burch and automatically associate it with a powerhouse affordable luxury brand, the Tory Burch Foundation is a separate entity, though the two have exactly the same main mission: to make women feel empowered and confident.

RELATED: Tory Burch’s top advice for women entrepreneurs: Trust your instincts

The Foundation provides women entrepreneurs with grants, fellowship programs, access to educational resources, and access to educational resources to inspire, connect, and move the needle on gender equality and what it means to be a modern feminist.

The success with Burch’s foundation has proven to be a model for weaving a philanthropic entity into your core company without feeling compelled—it already has to feel like a natural extension to your brand, or it as inauthentic. Will come to the fore

Lauri Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation, says, “Most of the way history has been taught, women have been wiped out, or they are supporting players. And that’s not true.” “I’ve been in nonprofits for over 40 years and have been with the Tory Burch Foundation for the past seven years. And I feel like I’ve been able to achieve more in the last seven years than in any of my previous positions That there are no barriers to work here. Tori and I totally share values, and she gives me the power to do what needs to be done. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time, Which is usually not the case for nonprofits MO.”

Part of this work includes the foundation’s prestigious and highly competitive fellowship program, in which 50 fellows are selected from a pool of thousands of applicants to receive interest-free loans, grants and vocational education.

The Foundation partners with Bank of America on a low-interest loan program, administered through CDFIs nationwide, which has given an estimated $75 million in loans to women entrepreneurs through the program.

“We are very strategic about the peers we choose, because right now in the United States, less than 4% of female entrepreneurs will pass a million dollars in revenue,” Fabiano explains. “So we’re looking for women who we think can help us cross that million-dollar mark, because that means they’re going to sustain and grow.”

Both Burch and Fabiano are supporters of the power of networking and hope that by connecting peers and letting them go through the foundation’s program as a team, a network will build itself.

The network will also include employees of the company Tory Burch, who serve as mentors to peers through its Employee Mentoring Program. It is a mutual win-win where both entrepreneurs and employees can learn from each other and foster an added sense of community – a way of giving back that pays itself forward.

“I found that being mentored in many different ways — and not necessarily from the fashion industry — has been invaluable to me,” Burch says. “And that’s something we want to establish, this kind of community and networking just by nature.”

Classic birch spontaneity is evident in everything the company does, from its flashy, chic clothing to the natural way the company’s employees, 80% of whom are women, able to help and inspire one another. This easygoing attitude is how Birch stays the course in an industry where trends come and go every season, and where the public’s obsession with opulent opulence can turn into strict minimalism a few months later.

“One thing I was very careful about when starting foundation was not actually talking about it,” Burch says. “I wanted real impact and scale, but I was too concerned about it being seen as marketing in any way. I think now that we think we’re moving the needle on women’s issues, and We have real, very concrete things to talk about, it’s more authentic for me to tie it to the company’s dialogue. I’ve always tried to be patient… We’ve been a very patient brand. And in many ways we’re very, very big. Could have been faster, did different things. We put a hold on a lot of different things because [we were] Thinking about the long term.”

Part of this means embracing change, something she did when she stepped down from her position as CEO of Tory Burch in 2019 to take on the new title of executive chairman and chief creative cfficer.

She handed over governance to her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, former chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group.

,[The change] allowed me to free myself and really reinvent myself from a creative perspective,” she says. “I see [the company as] work in progress. And being a lifelong learner, I really believe in the concept of reinvestment.”

There is a way to flow with the times and make changes when needed without changing everything. Burch (politely) says the key to success is just that – focus on the macro, and get it done on your own terms, while remaining fully aware and open to changes in the world and the industry around you.

“I’ve always been interested in confidence and product and how our clothing, handbags or shoes can make women and men feel confident and beautiful,” says Burch. “We are all facing a lot of difficult things. How do we as a company make a positive impact on humanity? It’s something that I think is an ever-evolving situation.”

Based on the success and work of both the brand and the foundation over the past 18 years, it looks like the Tory Burch name is well on its way to making that impact in its own signature vibrant way.

After all, when you start an effort from an inner space of positivity, it spreads to the people you influence. “My parents taught me that negativity is noise,” Burch says. “I would say listen, more than anything.”