Why Tory Burch Was Afraid To Give Her Company Her Name
5:00 pm, April 2nd | by Meredith Lepore
When you hear the words “Tory Burch,” the remarkable power of branding comes to mind. After all, her double T medallion which graces most of her shoes, bags and earrings is recognized internationally. I dare say, it may just be a few years before it is on the same level as the Chanel double C’s. So you would think the woman behind this massive brand would have been Ms. Confident from the beginning. But as I found out last night when Burch spoke at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Graduation ceremony, that was hardly the case.
“I’m a very private person. I didn’t want to call it [the company] my name. I had no background in business, I hadn’t been to business school and I hadn’t been to design school. I just wanted to open a shop downtown and be off the radar.”
Tory initially called the clothing company Tory by TRB. As it got to be more popular everyone said it was confusing and that she should change it but it wasn’t until a profile on Tory and the company came out in The New York Times that she really realized what not calling it Tory meant. A friend told her the article was great but that she never once mentioned the word ambition. “It was such an important lesson for me. Women should have the ability to be just as ambitious as men,” she said. After that, the company became Tory Burch LLC. And the rest is history.
It’s great to see such a powerful and well-known woman saying she was afraid in the beginning too, because she knew she was taking a risk. But boy did it pay off! And if anyone can talk to women about starting a small business, it’s her. Tory started her company at her kitchen table. As she said, she had no formal training but she worked past it, cold-calling people to ask if she could show them her image books. This was not a sketchbook of designs, but rather a book of images she had collected over the years that showed what she thought was missing from fashion and stores. She managed to raise $10 million and soon her staff grew to 16 people. Now she is in charge of 2,000 employees. Her iconic brand is available at 49 free-standing Tory Burch stores across the U.S., 24 international stores and over 1,000 select department and specialty stores worldwide, according to Business Insider.
Now Tory could just relax and reap the major benefits of her major company, but instead she’s giving back. She told investors when she was first starting the company that if it was successful she would launch a foundation to help female entrepreneurs. Investors told her that was ridiculous but in 2009 she established the Tory Burch Foundation to support the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their families in the U.S. through microfinance and mentoring programs.
Tory wrote for Huffington Post:
“Many early-stage entrepreneurs find themselves in this place: you have a great idea and the passion to move it forward but, at a certain point, you hit a wall. What is your strategic plan for growth? When should you hire someone to help you? How do you analyze a P&L statement? And why do you need to do an operational audit?
I know what it’s like to launch a business from your kitchen table with a clear concept and plenty of passion but only a basic knowledge of business. I had a lot of experience in fashion, having worked in the industry for years in marketing and PR, but that, and my degree in art history, weren’t enough to get my company off the ground. I was lucky. I had many friends and colleagues, trusted mentors that I could call on to answer my questions–and, believe me, I did. I benefited enormously from their generosity and patience, learning so much along the way. I also understand that not everyone has that network.”
In 2012 the Foundation began a partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Babson College and LaGuardia Community College to host a business and entrepreneurial education class for TBF early stage entrepreneurs.
“Over the last five years, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women has proven that investing in women around the world is one of the most effective ways to reduce inequality and facilitate economic growth. When women are empowered it leads to healthier, better-educated families, and ultimately more prosperous communities. This is also true domestically, where Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has served over 1,200 American entrepreneurs, nearly 50% of the women,” says Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and the executive in charge of the 10,000 Small Businesses program.
And let me tell you, Tory isn’t just signing papers and putting other people in charge of the Foundation. Last year I was lucky enough to attend one of the TBF workshops, where she was very hands-on and involved with the women in the program. At the event last night where she watched 18 female small business owners graduate, she said, “It’s a dream to see tonight. For me, the entrepreneurs are the inspiration.”