Who runs the world? #girls
Happy International Women's Day!
Let's face it: women face a lot more barriers than men. In the startup world, *successful* female entrepreneurs are few and far in between. Not for lack of skill or hard work, but for lack of the right kind of support.
Don't believe me?
- Less than 7% of venture capital funds women-led ventures.
- Less than 19% of business news mention ventures led by women.
- Only 18% of all US-based startups even have a woman on their team.*
Yet, women-led startups have consistently higher valuations (anywhere from 49-64%), have higher performance rates, and women entrepreneurs report being 3x happier than women who aren't entrepreneurs (happiness matters!).
Luckily, I've been able to surround myself with some amazing women who seriously kick butt. I think one of the biggest misconceptions around #girlbosses is this notion of competition. As if, this innate "girl hate" exists simply when another girl is successful, and you're not. I hate girl hate.
It's true: we rise by lifting others.
Which is why, despite the excitingness happening today with Wear Your Label, I also wanted to take some time to celebrate another female entrepreneur's story. Elana Reinholtz is both an inspiration, and a change maker in the fashion world. I met Elana through instagram & immediately fell in love with her brand, Bird + Stone.
Bird + Stone is a socially conscious jewelry brand that funds microloans for female entrpereneurs in Kenya. Love.
They also empower locally by creating all pieces in the USA, and sharing their #dreambuilding mission on social media. So, in the spirit of celebrating #girlswhoruntheworld, here's a little Q&A with Elana on building her brand and more:
K: Bird and Stone has a really interesting story - how did the brand develop? Where did it all start?
E: It started completely by accident - I was working in finance after college and was disillusioned with the work. So, I decided to travel to Kenya to leverage my financial skills for good and volunteered with a group of widowed women part of the Sisi Fund ("we" in Swahili). In order to fundraise for the trip, I made and sold beaded jewelry - walking around my office. People quickly bought upwards of 3 bracelets at a time and I hit my goal quickly. Once in Kenya - I experienced extreme poverty for the first time. Coming face to face with women like me, but, because of their lack of access to education and resources, they had less opportunities than I had growing up in the US. In that moment, I decided to dedicate my life to levelling the playing field for women - helping them to lift themselves out of poverty through economic empowerment programs. The collaborative we support in Kenya provides loans and education for women to start business. With that $200 loan - the results are transformational. They are able to increase their income by 4x, send their children to school, and start savings accounts.
K: I think there's a lot of meaning behind a name. Why did you choose Bird and Stone?
E: There are two reasons. First, "two birds with one stone" - because we are jewelry with a conscience. The act of buying fashion jewelry is very common among women (about 3-4x a year) - and we believe it can make extraordinary impact. Secondly, the images of stone and birds have a duality. We believe we need to both be grounded and idealistic to be successful. I also recently learned that the words in our namesake have a lot of meaning in dream interpretations. Stones are common symbols for stability and birds represent freedom, release and creativity.
K: Have you had an "aha" moment when you realized this was exactly what you needed to be doing?
E: When I was running Bird + Stone part-time for about a year and a half while I was still working at Bloomberg - it consumed all of my time. From reading emails on the escalator to relegating my boyfriend to one evening a week (ah!) - I did everything possible but it wasn't enough time. It's true, when you work on something you love - you'll work harder on it than anything else. And, I find this company as my true calling. A year ago, I quit my corporate job to run the business full-time and I haven't looked back.
K: As a female entrepreneur - in fashion - what have been your biggest barriers? (Or is it a stereotype that women have a harder go at start-ups?)
E: In fashion, not so much - it's full of women in NYC. But, the e-commerce and tech scene is heavily dominated by men. And personal networks become investor networks. Male investors aren't always passionate about female empowerment and jewelry -- so that creates a barrier - but not a permanent roadblock. I've learned that our authentic story comes through and when people trust you, they refer you to their contacts. I've learned to stay confident and take every experience as a building block.
K: What inspires the designs? Which is your favorite?
E: The women we work with in Kenya! We recently launched our Dreambuilder cuff! It gives $5 to a female entrepreneur to start a business and acts as a daily reminder of your own dreams while building those of women halfway around the world. It comes with a "My Dream Is..." card so you can share your dream on Instagram with us and tap into our digital dream collective.
K: What's next? What are you looking forward to in 2016 for Bird and Stone?
E: We are looking to continue our mission-aligned products that show the impact instead of just tell. Branding-wise, we hope to use our products as megaphones for issues that need support and partner with companies that have a socially conscious customer base. Lastly, we are building out our team so if you know anyone based in NYC that wants to intern for us - let me know.