Together, Women Are Changing the World

Founder of FFC Rebecca Minkoff talks about the power of women-owned businesses

Breaking into a cutthroat industry is no small feat. But after developing an affinity for design while in her high school drama club’s costume department, Rebecca Minkoff moved to New York City at 18 years old to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. Today, Rebecca leads a global fashion brand and recently established the Female Founder Collective, dedicated to bringing women business owners together to enact positive change. Recently, we sat down with Rebecca as part of her collaboration with Capital One, to expand upon the incredible role women founders play in the business sphere.

Tell us a little bit about the Female Founder Collective.

Female Founder Collective (FFC) is a network of businesses led by women, in support of women. Our mission is to invest in women’s financial power across the socio-economic spectrum by enabling and empowering female-owned businesses.

FFC was built upon the idea that there weren’t enough female founders, women in leadership or access to networks of women. The network both advocates for women and encourages them to help each other out. According to 2018 research from Berlin Cameron, women said they would be more likely to support female-founded companies if they only knew how. Thus, the idea for FFC and the FFC seal was born, which women-owned businesses can use to identify themselves.

I truly believe that, collectively, women have the power to change the world. From our purchasing decisions as consumers to the leadership and employment opportunities we offer as business owners, women are an incredible and undeniable force. More than 11.6 million companies are owned by women, which translates into 9 million jobs and $1.7 trillion in sales. 

By increasing the wealth and opportunities for women and their businesses, we can significantly impact our communities for the better.

You’ve connected with hundreds of women business owners — what are some of the common challenges they face?

Starting and growing a business can be both incredibly rewarding and daunting. For women especially, the lack of access or understanding of capital funding and how to grow in scale is a challenge. Education is a challenge too. When someone starts a business, it’s usually founded upon a unique passion and/or the need to solve a problem. But, what people often don’t realize is the critical need for determining things like a legal structure, marketing plan or even the type of company (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC). A big area of focus for us at Female Founder Collective is a workshop dedicated to educating women in these areas and walking them through pain points.

What about some of the specific challenges women face that men may take for granted? 

Women feel more empowered now than they ever have before. We’ve come a long way, especially in the business arena. 

As I mentioned before, funding still seems to be one of the biggest area of difficulty (according to Visa’s 2019 State of Entrepreneurship report, surveying 650 female small-business owners). 

Although most of the women surveyed believe business challenges are equally difficult for men and women, 34 percent believe raising funding is more difficult.

Women entrepreneurs also said assembling a good team (37 percent), finding the right business management tools (36 percent), keeping up with industry changes and trends (24 percent), building a support network (23 percent), and making tech decisions (20 percent) are all more difficult for them.

And, I won’t speak for all women on this last point, but I believe women who have chosen to have a family deal with innate burdens men simply do not. 

Is securing outside funding the golden ticket for a growing business, or is that over-emphasized as proof of having "made it," and not without its own downsides?

Yes and no. Funding is incredibly important. But, there’s this trend that companies think they have to grow to a billion dollars in revenue or they’re nothing. Which is so untrue! Folks need to figure out what kind of company they want and build a business out of the capital they’ve actually earned versus going into debt or selling off portions of the company for it to succeed. 

There are tons of tips and resources out there for how to earn capital. One resource I’ve used and found helpful is a crowdfunding platform called I Fund Women. I Fund Women is the only crowdfunding ecosystem designed specifically for early-stage, female entrepreneurs, and it’s designed to provide easy access to capital through expert coaching and connections critical to helping women launch and grow their ideas.

Can you share some of your own challenges in starting your business?

When I first launched my brand, I couldn’t get a loan to save my life. Heck, I couldn’t even get a lease. After designing my first handbag, which I dubbed the “Morning After Bag,” my career ignited. Challenges shifted. Business was growing so fast that we couldn’t afford to keep up with production, which could have stunted growth if we weren’t smart. 

What are your plans for 2020 and beyond?

The Female Founder Collective member portal and ambassador program will launch this year! Designed to bring together women across industries, it’s comprised of 6,000 women — from fashion designers to chefs. And, it’s aimed at building awareness, supporting growth, and sharing resources and best practices around operating efficiently. What’s super exciting about this is, folks who aren’t in a major city will still have access to the workshops and materials in the program. 

I’m also proud to continue my Superwomen Podcast, which highlights women from all walks of life, showing us what life is like without the pretty filters. These women have shared so many life lessons with me — from what it means to be vulnerable, to how loss can make you stronger, and other ways to make your inner superwoman shine. 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women as they look to pursue their passions?

This may sound old-fashioned, but we’re living in a time where anything and everything you want is at the click of a button. Achieving your career dreams won’t be that easy. Women need to educate themselves, invest, work their butts off (even when it’s really freaking hard), take calculated risks, be pursuant and patient. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to lasting success. 

Rebecca Minkoff

An industry leader in accessible luxury handbags, accessories, footwear and apparel, Rebecca Minkoff’s playful and subtly edgy designs can be spotted around the world on young women and celebrities alike. After developing an affinity for design while in the costume department in high school, Rebecca Minkoff moved to New York City at only 18 years old to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. In 2001, Rebecca designed a version of the “I Love New York” t-shirt as part of a five-piece capsule collection, which appeared on The Tonight Show and became an overnight sensation. In 2005, Rebecca designed her first handbag, which she soon dubbed the “Morning After Bag,” a.k.a. the “M.A.B.” This iconic bag ignited Rebecca’s career as a handbag designer and inspired her edgy, feminine creations in the years to come. Rebecca’s success was further enhanced by the support of her brother and the company’s CEO and co-founder, Uri Minkoff, who helped usher in and pioneer the company’s industry-leading social media efforts. After four years of designing statement-making handbags and accessories with her trademark leathers, studs and hardware, Rebecca returned to her roots of apparel design and introduced her first ready-to-wear collection in 2009. Today, Rebecca Minkoff is a global brand with a wide range of apparel, handbags, footwear, jewelry and accessories (including tech) as well as men’s accessories under the label Uri Minkoff. In the spring of 2017, Rebecca Minkoff Watches was launched, reimagining the category through their decidedly downtown, Rock and Roll aesthetic. Uri Minkoff also introduced its own distinct line of menswear timepieces. The brand has four domestic retail stores, eight international locations, and is distributed in over 900 stores worldwide. In 2011, Rebecca won industry recognition when she was awarded the Breakthrough Designer Award from the Accessories Council. She is an active member of the CFDA and supports multiple philanthropies including Jessica Seinfeld’s non-profit, Baby Buggy. In August of 2017, she was announced as a member of the first-ever New York State Council on Women and Girls, in the company of other female industry leaders including Refinery29 founder Christene Barberich, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan and Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert. Rebecca is dedicated to bringing women together to enact positive change. In September of 2018, she established the Female Founder Collective, a network of businesses led by women that invests in women’s financial power across the socio-economic spectrum by enabling and empowering female-owned businesses. Rebecca is married to actor and director Gavin Bellour and they reside in Brooklyn with their three children.