On Tuesday evening, I found myself trekking into Westwood, 37 miles away from my house, through the infamous Southern California traffic, to attend a roundtable at UCLA. It was hosted by the deans of the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Was sitting in traffic for an hour and a half worth it? Absolutely.
Judy Olian, Ph.D., is dean of UCLA Anderson School, and Willow Bay is the dean of the USC Annenberg School. Even with their well-known crosstown rivalry, they came together for a noble cause: a roundtable discussion about the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.
Twenty of my fellow businesswomen from Southern California and I sat around a giant conference table and listened to other great women share their stories.
- Jane Wurwand founded and grew the skin-care company Dermalogica, then sold it to Unilever in 2015. Dermalogica sales in 2014 were over $240 million. Jane, a transplant from England, is now “chief visionary” for Dermalogica. She started the first and only skin-care product and service company. Her products are produced in the U.S. and made without any fillers or questionable ingredients. The company now has more than 100,000 trained skin therapists and its products are distributed in 80-plus countries around the world.
- Kelsey Doorey is the CEO and founder of Vow to be Chic, the only designer bridesmaid dress rental site. It’s like Rent the Runway, but for bridesmaid dresses! A bridesmaid dress can cost a lot for something you only wear once. With her company, women can rent the costly dress for one day, just like how men rent their tuxedos.
- Suzy Ryoo is partner and vice president of technology and innovation at Atom Factory and Cross Culture Ventures, where she finds, invests in, and builds alongside entrepreneurs who create next-generation companies. Over the past seven years, Atom Factory and Cross Culture have invested in nearly 100 companies including Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Warby Parker, and Spotify. Suzy also works with Troy Carter in his role as the entertainment adviser to the Prince estate.
To put things in perspective, Suzy is 30, Kelsey is 32, and Jane is 59.
Kelsey and Jane talked about the challenge of explaining their business model and securing investors. Most investors are male, so getting them to understand a business that serves women almost exclusively is a challenge. Suzy educated us on what she looks for when investing, what a “cap table” is, and why she asks how many women are in one.
As I sat at the table, I watched the other 20 women take in the “new world of business talk.” Most of the women sitting with me were older than Jane. Cap tables, VCs, e-commerce marketing, deal sheets, and pitches were not in their lexicon when they started their careers. But they could see right in front of them that the exciting world of business and the world in general are changing. And both are decidedly more female.
I believe it was coincidental that this roundtable was held in March, which is National Women’s Month. And today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.
All I can say is that I was incredibly inspired to hear firsthand from women who are fearless, have a vision for success, and are paying it forward to create the new economy. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, a mother, father, son, or daughter. We need people with fresh ideas, who are disruptive, create jobs, and help ensure the innovative and responsive business environment which will keep the U.S. growing and thriving.
It’s exciting and it’s time.