Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Fashion mogul Tory Burch’s mission is to help women in the business world accomplish their goals and reach their potential.
Over the past 13 years, the founder and CEO of designer line Tory Burch has grown the company from a small shop in New York City to 200 stores, with locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. The brand has nine ecommerce sites and its wares can be found in more than 3,000 department and specialty stores all over the globe.
In 2009, Burch launched the Tory Burch Foundation to help women entrepreneurs get their start, by providing resources, mentorship, networking opportunities and access to capital. This spring saw the selection of it’s second fellowship class. The 10 fellows received $10,000 business education grant and later this spring, they will particpate in a pitch competition for a $100,000 grant as well.
Burch also recently rolled out the foundation’s #EmbraceAmbition campaign in an effort to help women in all industries feel proud of pursuing their goals, rather than feel stigmatized by it.
The designer, who was awarded Accessory Designer of the Year by the CFDA in 2008 and has been included on Forbes’s Most Powerful Women in the World list is also the bestselling author of Tory Burch In Color.
We caught up with Burch and asked her 20 Questions to see what makes her tick.
1. How do you start your day?
I check the news. Keeping up on current events is essential, because we have a global business.
2. How do you end your day?
I take a hot bath and read a good book -- even if it’s just a few pages.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
Angela Duckworth’s Grit. It didn’t change my mind so much as it reinforced my thinking about the importance of hard work and perseverance.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, because every sentence is extraordinary.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
I work out most mornings, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. It keeps me energized throughout the day.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? A professional tennis player. I really thought I could be Chrissy Evert.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
There’s something to be learned from every boss, good or bad. I was the assistant to a Yugoslavian designer named Zoran right after college. He was a real eccentric. He told me not to wear makeup and to cut my hair short -- to look as androgynous as possible. I had to draw the line.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My parents. They were dreamers. They had a powerful sense of optimism and an insatiable curiosity. They raised me and my brothers to embrace differences in people and ideas.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
Rudyard Kipling was onto something when he said Myanmar is “quite unlike any land you know about.” My boys and I went a few years ago and it was extraordinary -- floating down the Irrawaddy River, seeing the ancient city of Bagan, sweeping the floors at Shwedagon Pagoda, a Buddhist tradition that ensures good luck. It was also amazing to meet Aung San Suu Kyi. She had recently won a seat in parliament after spending 15 years under house arrest. Her courage and determination are inspiring.
10. What inspires you?
The entrepreneurs we support through our foundation -- their courage, tenacity and ingenuity is incredible.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
In 2002, while I was taking time off to be with my boys, I noticed a void in my closet for beautiful pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. I thought about reviving Jax, an American sportswear brand from the 1960s. My mother wore a lot of Jax, and the clean, sporty lines still felt modern. I cold-called the owner, Sally Hanson. She passed on the idea, so I started from scratch [with my own brand].
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
One summer I worked on a fish cannery in Kodiak Island, Alaska with a few friends. In addition to crossing that off my list of potential careers, I learned the importance of stepping out -- way out -- of my comfort zone.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
To embrace ambition. In my first interview with The New York Times in 2004, the reporter mentioned the word “ambitious,” and I said it annoyed me. A friend of mine called me after the story published and told me never to shy away from that word. She was right. I realized that I had bought into the stigma that women shouldn’t be ambitious -- that it was unattractive. That experience inspired our foundation’s global campaign to #EmbraceAmbition, which aims to help erase the stigma associated with ambition in women.
14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
I started our company because I wanted to start a foundation; it was the business plan from the beginning. While fundraising, I was told never to mention the words “social responsibility” and “business” in the same sentence. This only made me more determined.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Multitasking. It’s about setting priorities and being flexible. I often go from working with our design team, to a budget meeting, to a phone call with one of my boys, to a foundation event.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I know it sounds old-school, but I still love crossing something off a to-do list.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
It’s my greatest challenge, and something I work on every day. My boys come first no matter what.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
Spending time with my three teenage boys. They always manage to make me laugh, and I think there is something to be said for that.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Brainstorming with my team. We are a diverse, curious group with a broad range of interests. We are always looking at art, architecture, film, technology, nature -- and the way those fields interact with fashion and design. It’s inspiring.
20. What are you learning now?
I am by nature a curious person. I am constantly learning and evolving, whether that means experimenting with new fabrics or design techniques, reaching our customers in new ways or exploring new markets. It’s about asking hard questions and pushing our team, business and the product further. More and more I’m thinking about the concept of “less is more” and the importance of authenticity.