What It Means to Be a Female Founder With Rebecca Minkoff

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You may be familiar with the fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, known for luxury handbags and apparel. But are you familiar with Rebecca Minkoff, the entrepreneur behind the brand?

Yes, she launched her own global business. Just last year, she also launched a network to empower other female entrepreneurs and leaders to start more women-owned businesses. 

Here are some takeaways from Rebecca Minkoff’s Talks at GS appearance, moderated by Goldman Sachs’ Dina Powell. This made for an interesting discussion since Dina Powell helped establish the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Business initiatives. 

A founder’s story: creating something from nothing

Minkoff's parents had what would be traditionally considered good-paying careers: her father was a doctor and her mom was a nurse. Growing up, her parents seemed to have good-paying careers. But that’s certainly not how she remembers it.

“We were raised as if we had nothing. I thought to be a doctor meant that was like a poor career because my parents really made us work for everything we wanted. So, I always thought we had no money and that's why we had to go this route,” Minkoff said.

This really came to light when she was about eight years old and wanted a dress. “My mom was like, I'm not going to buy that dress for you. I'll teach you how to sew. And I was really resentful… just buy me the dress. It's so easy.”

Despite resenting her parent’s mentality as a child, she now says her upbringing taught her invaluable life skills. “You know that you can create something from nothing and that no one's going to give you a handout.”

You can probably guess where the story of the dress goes. Minkoff learned how to sew, which ignited her passion for creating clothing.  

Ten years later, she moved to New York City to follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. In 2005, at only 26 years old, she launched her company and released her first handbag. Today, Rebecca Minkoff’s line is distributed worldwide in over 900 stores.

Encouraging women-owned businesses by empowering female founders

A few years ago, Minkoff noticed she was getting asked a lot about what it was like to be a female founder and lead a women-owned business. “I think that to get asked that question so much, you realize that there's just not enough of us,” Minkoff said.

She thought about this reality – along with the stats around the gender pay gap and funding for women-owned businesses – and wondered how she could use her platform to inspire change.

Her response? Create something, of course.

In 2018, she launched the Female Founder Collective, whose mission, according to their website, is to “enable and empower female owned and led businesses to positively impact our communities, both socially and economically.”

Today, the Collective has more than 5,000 businesses.

She is also thinking about ways to galvanize consumers to spend their money at women-owned businesses. For example, “could we get you to say, I'm going to go one block out of my way to get coffee because it's her store or buy from this female designer,” Minkoff said.

And how impactful could this approach be? In her mind, this has the potential to be really impactful.

“Rather than have 50 women at Fortune 50 companies all making $20 million. How about 12 million women-owned businesses all getting support from the consumer and really making a true example of the gender pay gap being closed.”

For more interesting tidbits on Minkoff's life, career and where her brand is going, watch the whole video.

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