In March, we announced our partnership with Ladies Who Launch, a nonprofit organization with a mission to celebrate and empower women and non-binary entrepreneurs to grow the businesses of their dreams. The collaboration is a natural fit. “As a brand that has served women for over 35 years through style for all aspects of life, White House Black Market is committed to helping women succeed,” said Kimberly Grabel, SVP of Marketing, Chico’s FAS, Inc. With a shared mission and vision, we are delighted to be partnering with Ladies Who Launch to support the success of business owners across the country.
According to a 2019 study, women-owned businesses are growing two times as fast as all businesses nationwide, but lack access to the networks, resources, education, and capital to grow. It was this truth that ignited the founding of Ladies Who Launch. To reduce these barriers, Ladies Who Launch created the Launch Program, a grant program to support and assist women and non-binary entrepreneurs. The 2021 cohort of launchers includes owners of various companies from nude shoes that match all skin tones to size-inclusive activewear, to a natural, whole food granola and snack business.
And so, we thought it’s only fitting to create a series centering on the women of LWL on Style + Work + Life. We will be featuring the owners of the companies currently working with LWL to explore their insights, tips, and tricks to starting and running a business. From the biggest obstacles to overcome, what to wear on an interview, and who inspires them, we think their story will inspire and maybe spark bravery in your own career. To begin this series, we chatted with Jennifer Warren, Ladies Who Launch’s Executive Director.
- What is the most important tip for anyone interested in starting a business?
Be sure to do a landscape analysis and develop a comprehensive business plan. In the absence of a plan, without clear goals, objectives, and tasks — you’ll never know if you’ve achieved what you set out to, nor will you know how impactful you were or could have been.
- What is your advice for anyone going on an interview?
Interviewing is as much about you learning about the business and its people as it is about them learning about you. Ultimately, they need to choose you, but you also need to choose them. A job isn’t just about skills or experience; it’s also about the environment and relationships.
- What women inspire you?
There are so many women who inspire me, and as I get older, the list evolves and grows. I grew up with a mother who would head to Washington D.C. for women’s rights marches. I saw her use her voice and take action to foster equity and inclusion. My high school guidance counselor, Norma Greenberg, has inspired me in so many ways, from advocating for all of her students to meet their unique needs to starting her own college counseling business. She sees the best in people and helps them see it too. My dear friend and small-business owner, Leigh Landreth, turned her love for retail into a reality, co-opening her own small business in San Antonio, Texas, called LeeLee. Her strength, willingness to take risks, and her constant energy to reinvent herself are inspiring and energizing. Outside of my day-to-day life, Madeline Albright and Samantha Power have been two women I’ve long looked up to and am in awe of. I’m grateful for their leadership and example, and strive to achieve even a small amount of the impact they have to help the world be a better, safer, happier place for all.
- How has being a mentor helped you?
Being a mentor is an earned responsibility and privilege. You build a relationship, and over time you develop trust and foster honesty and openness. As a result of this work, you’ve created a safe space to share feedback, to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow. I’ve learned two critical lessons from this process. One is that the most effective leaders earn respect, and with respect comes opportunity and the potential for growth and impact. The second is that every person has their own unique strengths, needs, dreams, and fears, and as a mentor and boss, it’s my responsibility to continuously learn, adapt, and evolve to best support my mentees (including staff) to achieve their full potential.
- What is your go-to work outfit?
A blazer with pants, a pair of heels, and my “Sisu” necklace. My paternal grandmother was a first-generation American, and her parents were Finnish. She and my dad often talked about “Sisu,” a Finnish concept that represents determination, purpose, grit, and resilience. It doesn’t translate exactly, but it reminds me to be strong and steadfast, while also reminding me that they are always with me.