By Joy A. Kennelly
After wrapping up work for a national professional women's organization where I spoke to hundreds of women in all industries, in all levels of their profession, in all areas around the country on a daily basis; attended numerous amazing conferences and special events with panels of female tech founders, entertainment professionals and executives at all levels of their business over the past six months; and read about women who have achieved major success in their fields, I have discovered the following observations to be true about women in business:
1. Those who are majorly successful are part of numerous organizations that enhance, support and provide networking within their chosen field, not only with women, but also men. In addition, they volunteer, sit on boards, and are extremely philanthropic overall whether in support of their own non-profit endeavors, or those they choose to support financially, or with their time.
2. They generally are extremely well-educated with many holding numerous degrees and/or certifications, especially African American women.
3. Many started out in a completely unrelated field and fell into their current profession where they discovered a passion, skill and expertise they developed over time, becoming more successful as they grew in knowledge and experience.
4. All are passionate, driven, ambitious, hard working and believe in their career choices regardless at what level, what industry or what area of the country they reside in.
5. As women overall, we all struggle with finding balance between work and personal life, whether that means single, married, or otherwise involved.
6. Many women rose to the top of their careers only to discover how unsatisfying, soul-draining and unhealthy a lifestyle it was and completely changed careers to find satisfaction doing something completely different where they once again became successful, but in a more balanced manner.
7. Almost all credited their spouse, or a mentor, in helping them achieve their success.
8. Almost all wanted to achieve and develop their careers when asked future plans, but those who didn't, generally only had a high school education, didn't value advancing themselves professionally on any level, and were very satisfied with status quo and/or ready for retirement.
9. Women in sales or real estate, were more savvy with negotiation than those who weren't and often asked for, and received, the better price as a result. Many upper-level professionals sniffed out the dishonest business dealings of the company I was working for and declined the offering immediately which was a relief to know not all women are as gullible as might be believed.
10. Most women's default when they didn't want to do something was to say they needed to check with their husband, but when the price point became more comfortable, they suddenly became more autonomous in their decision making process.
It's been a fascinating sociology study starting with the first panel of all female executives I heard during a conference on the Santa Monica Pier all the way up until now.
I took the time to follow up with Susan Paley, ex-CEO of Beats by Dr. Dre because she was most interesting to me during TechWeekLA (next one coming up this November fyi.)
I'm always interested to learn how someone builds their brand into a global success, how they gain the partnerships, publicity and name recognition, and how they achieved their own personal level of success.
Our conversation was enlightening, interesting and answered all these questions and more.
She had met Dr. Dre before, connected again at a CES conference, they went to dinner with a bunch of other people he worked with, he saw her passion and business savvy, got her on board and provided "access at a level that was insane."
She was part of the branding relationships with artists and connected the headphones to athletes during the World Cup who wore them incessantly creating a natural phenomenon unheard of without paying for product placement.
Here's some examples of the headphones and relationships she helped cultivate during her time as CEO.
Susan said they had to be careful of who they partnered with to avoid bastardizing the brand like OP did in the 80's because then it became valueless. When Roxy approached them there was "authentic core-synergies in how each brand approached the market."
As far as reasons companies become successful, she said it's important to start off with a great product, a compelling value proposition fulfilling a consumer need and a simple idea.
It was nice to hear her validate PR as a huge piece in brand building and also to hear her validate that social media works hand-in-hand with overall marketing efforts. So many people still don't understand that fact for some reason.
Part of their success with Beats by Dr. Dre she attributed to giving away product to influencers, and as Jimmy Iovine, his partner, said tongue in cheek, "I know a lot of people." (He may wish he didn't know the Monsters CEO now that there's a huge lawsuit going on between them. Susan left the company years prior fyi and is now working in the car industry integrating music branding still.)
The main takeaway from our conversation and from other marketing gurus I've heard speak since, is the benefits of co-branding since it creates so much more access and opens up distribution channels an entrepreneur, startup, nonprofit or brand may not otherwise achieve on their own.
This leads directly into the cool Scion MotivaTOUR event I recently attended at Smashbox Studios where CoolHaus Co-Founder, Natasha Cole and Ludlow's Cocktails Co-Founder, Freya Estreller, really impressed me, although all the speakers had something of value to say.
Again, they developed both their businesses through strategic partnerships and Freya's entire talk was on what they use to determine whether or not to partner and how their current partnerships have benefited them. (Please excuse the quality of this pic, it's more to showcase one such partnership. I was actually working for The Hollywood Reporter at the time and enjoyed the benefits of this marketing drive.:)
It was interesting to learn the criteria, depth and breadth of what other companies were willing to provide if they believed in their offerings. They have PR and distribution through key partnerships that leverage their brands into markets they want by simply sharing equity.
Freya and Scion Event Organizer
I was extremely impressed with both of them because I remember being pitched CoolHaus as a product years ago and it's awesome to see the success they're having now. I'm hoping to have a one-on-one interview with them soon to pick their brains more and learn more about developing partnerships.
On a more personal level, it was also very encouraging to hear my "fellow" female tech founder friends share their personal stories (Nanxi Liu, Enplug, Founder, and Espree Devora, WeAreLATech, Founder) at the amazing Digital Women event at Cross Campus Pasadena because even though I've known them for years, I hadn't heard certain aspects before.
Digital LA Producer, Kevin Winston, always pulls together a great bunch of panelists and this conference was no exception. (Register here for his upcoming Silicon Beach Fest June 24-27, 2015 asap because it always sells out.)
I may have complained about the lack of professional women at conference panels in the past, but apparently people are listening because now it's not just me singing the praises of the tech scene in Silicon Beach for women, but also another female VC Investor I recently heard speak at the Digital Hollywood event this past month.
But I digress.
What I enjoyed about the sharing Nanxi, Espree and also Elvina Beck, PodShare, Founder, gave was how personal their stories were. I learned how Nanxi approaches networking and pursuing her goals and how she has accomplished the success her company has had.
Starting out in an apartment where they all lived and worked together to now traveling the world speaking, fundraising and developing strategic relationships while running a very successful company. (I've written about her before here and she's on my advisory board.)
I learned how much influence Espree's father had in her development as a business person because he never allowed her gender to be a hindrance and always encouraged her to go for it. I think that's why she's the dynamic entrepreneur she is today. Her mother's influence is also seen in her willingness to speak and help those just starting out, and even those of us a little further along the food chain who also need help.
I recently was drowning with everything I had going on and reached out to both of them for advice and was very happy to receive the support I needed after being so vulnerable and admitting I didn't have it all together and needed help.
That's what our Silicon Beach startup community cultivates, what it's best at doing, and why I like living back in LA. It's just a different vibe and intent which is encouraging and supportive of all, not just a few, like other places I've lived.
It was nice to hear more female investors speak during the Digital Women event too because so often there is a token female VC, but as Alyse Killeen, Investor at March Capital Partners agrees, there's so much more we can do to support all women, not just those who look like us. Alyse is big on being inclusive to African Americans and Hispanics too which I admire seeing as she's lily white herself.:)
I do believe the more women speak up for themselves, the more we raise awareness of issues that are happening, the more men will see the value of what we're saying and make changes necessary since it benefits the entire eco-culture, not just women.
I especially enjoyed attending the DGA's Women's Steering Committee Presents: WSC 35th Anniversary: Celebrating the Pioneering Women Directors of the DGA because I've been involved in entertainment longer than technology and know many female directors, including my good friend, Martha Cotton seen here with another friend, Pina de Rosa.
It was so inspiring to hear the founding "mothers" so to speak of the whole female directors movement in Hollywood because so many younger women take for granted the privileges and opportunities those who fight for our rights from years ago earned for them.
First the original group of women who made the changes spoke, then they honored female directors who carried on the torch and are making a difference today. It was fascinating to hear their stories, relate to their struggles, hear the humor and the hardship involved with pursuing your dreams and goals.
Very inspiring on so many levels. Entertainment is another sector that is a boy's club and very difficult to break into, but we're making headway slowly, but surely.
Seeing how many female professional groups Victor Harwood has included in Digital Hollywood was also very encouraging. I've known of him and his conference for many years and saw friends I always see at such events and have known for years too like Linda Sherman, and enjoyed hearing new people speak too.
I especially enjoyed hearing a panel entitled, Living the Life: Women Entrepreneurs, Lifestyle Innovators and Disrupters with these accomplished women: Anne-Marie Roussel, Venture Partner, Illuminate; Nina Simosko, Chief Product Officer, NTTi3; Devery Holmes, President & CEO, Spark Marketing; Melissa Palazzo, President, Ant Farm; Miss Kris Turner; Jen Mojo, founder, Paper Dolls; and Lisa Kraynak, Founding partner, Propelle partners, Moderator.
It was phenomenal to hear women at these levels speak and not on topics that didn't mean anything to the audience like child raising, although it was touched upon, however, the main focus was on business and it was so refreshing because it was so high-level and honest!
I finally felt like I was amongst my peers and those I could learn from because they've been in the trenches a while and have overcome their own personal, as well as, professional struggles to achieve the success they have now.
It was truly inspiring.
Plus, the Ritz Carlton MDR venue was so lovely it also was inspirational. Don't you agree?
Overall, it's been great to be back in LA and in our tech and entertainment scene although I've been taking time off from the majority of events to focus on building my own business since there's only so many hours in the day.
Time waits for no man (or woman) and you have to put first things first.
This won't be the end of the evolution of women's involvement in the tech or entertainment sphere and I hope to continue reporting, living, changing and experiencing it firsthand for many years to come. If all goes well, I will have an even more to share from the entertainment perspective soon too. I'm ready to get back to the creatives.:)