As a young female entrepreneur, you partnered with a more senior businessman to launch Gifts for Good. Can you share why you decided to partner and what challenges you might have faced when launching as a young woman in a space typically dominated by men.
Jerry and I both enjoyed working together while we were in business school. Even though we didn’t know each other well we founded Gifts for Good together, we both trusted our gut and felt it would work out. Being opposite sexes from strikingly different generations makes Jerry and I great partners. We each bring our own unique viewpoints and skill sets to the table each day, all while sharing a well-defined set of core values.
As a young female CEO, I encounter both men and women who don’t take me seriously because of either my age or my sex. On several occasions, I’ve had men directly approach Jerry to have important business conversations and leave me completely in the dark. Men are often taken aback when I defend a strong viewpoint, or ask to be included in a meeting my male colleagues would never have to ask to be a part of. I’ve learned that if I’m ever going to be considered a true ‘equal’ and be taken seriously, I need to often be assertive and straightforward and ditch my typical ‘nice girl’ attitude.
Your previous work was focused on next gen millennials who often get a bad rap around some negative stereotypes. As a successful, driven, and mindful millennial, how do you respond to these comments and what unique skills do you think millennials bring to business?
To situate the premise of millennials’ stereotypes as entitled, self-centered, and lazy, let us consider millennials’ unique historic experiences: coming of age in a post- 9/11 America primarily at war; losing confidence in financial and governmental institutions as a result of the Great Recession; witnessing the government’s and the private sector’s reluctance to take decisive action to stymie global climate change. millennials’ socially responsible attitudes are both despite and because of a set of crises they have been witnesses to.
Millennials bring a wealth of unique skills to business that are often underappreciated, but can be leveraged by a forward-thinking leadership team: the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances (due to frequently changing jobs); being tech-savvy, self-sufficient and solution-oriented; and being fiercely determined to meet and exceed their goals. While millennials can often come across as arrogant because they generally believe they possess the knowledge required to get things done, companies should recognize that this stems from a strong desire to perform well and to be part of something that personally matters to them. millennials work hard and feel strongly about wanting their work to be meaningful and socially impactful in ways that older generations do not.
What advice do you have for others with an idea that has the potential to benefit our communities? Looking back to your time at USC when this was just an idea, what do you wish you knew then?
Looking back at my time at USC when this was just an idea, I wish I had taken better advantage of the wealth of resources I had access to as a student. Any student considering starting a business after school should make sure utilize the hundreds of brilliant professors and staff members to gain feedback and insights on their startup venture – accounting, marketing, finance, legal etc.
My advice to anyone considering starting their own social enterprise is tell your idea to as many people as you can and ask for their feedback. If you have faith in your idea after doing customer discovery, just go do it – put your idea into action and learn along the way. I wish I knew that I have everything it takes to be a successful entrepreneur… taking the leap is all about mindset!
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