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Rebecca Minkoff: Pandemic provides an ‘incredible opportunity’ for women to start their own business

Ali Wyatt, Co-Founder of Female Founder Collective and Rebecca Minkoff, Co-Founder & Creative Director of Female Founder Collective, joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Kristin Myers to discuss the company’s mission to increase opportunities for women-owned businesses.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back. We've talked a lot here at Yahoo Finance about the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women, especially women of color. There is an event this week, though, that is lending some support. The Female Founder Collective is a network of businesses led by and supported by women, and they're holding their annual Female Founder's Day this week. Joining us now are the co-founders, Rebecca Minkoff and Allison Wyatt. Thanks to you both for being with us. Rebecca, I'm going to start with you. Tell us briefly what is Female Founder's Day. And I know there's some money at stake here, $10,000 for the winner.

REBECCA MINKOFF: Yeah, so Female Founder's Day is an event that we launched two years ago to really celebrate the female founders that can give their much earned, I will say, experience to other women, other entrepreneurs that are just starting up. So we do have a partnership with Klarna. It's going to be the perfect pitch competition. And so a founder will walk away with not only incredible opportunities to get mentored and supported by other female founders, but $10,000 for their business.

KRISTIN MYERS: And Ali, we talk a lot about how to best support women, you know, to be successful. And we hear a lot about more resources, being dedicated to fix this issue. But is it just a problem of resources?

ALI WYATT: You know, that's a great question and something that we found are the sort of key gaps are, obviously, the funding gap. We've all seen the real discrepancies for female founders versus male founders in getting access to venture capital. We've seen that networking. And the way that women use networking is very different from how men do in the sense that they don't tend to sort of leverage each other enough in the resources and experiences that they have in order to help collectively move forward. And so that's what we're trying to step in and accomplish.

And then, tools-- there aren't quite as many tools available to women, or they don't really know necessarily where to access them. So we're trying to sort of be that hub and spoke, if you will, where we're connecting women to other founders that are perhaps in a similar stage, in a similar part of their business or a similar industry, so that they can help sort of see around corners and over hurdles and help one another advance forward.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, when you look at these stats, they're not encouraging, ladies. I'm going to-- Rebecca, this one's for you. I read that since the start of the pandemic, more than two million women have left the labor force, much more than men. And there's a question as to whether or not they're going to be coming back to the labor force in a meaningful way. What would your advice be to some of those women? And how are you working with others to try to get them back into the fold?

REBECCA MINKOFF: So here's the silver lining in all of this. And I think we're only looking at the amount of women that have left the workforce. But what people aren't talking about is the 2,000 plus women a day that are starting new businesses. So we're seeing that they might be leaving corporate America, but now here is an opportunity that they've seen and they're going to identify and attack and get that they can launch as a solo entrepreneur or as a small business. And we want to be that foundation that gives them those education resources, that gives them those tools if they're just starting a business for the first time.

So, we look at it as an incredible opportunity. There's always an explosive amount of growth that we've seen in the past after a recession or after previous pandemics. And we want to be that true layer and foundation for all these women as they start their own businesses and get the tools that they need to succeed.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now Ali, you were speaking just a moment ago about networking and the importance of networks. I want to dive into that just a little bit more, because we see often that a lot of founders, especially female founders, and particularly female founders of color, are not necessarily plugged into those networks of other business leaders or folks who hold the purse strings and can provide capital. How do we fix that problem to really make sure that we are bringing women into the fold, including them at these business meetings, at these funding meetings to make sure that long-term, we are able to solve this problem?

ALI WYATT: You know, it's a great question. And I don't think we have the exact answer, but I think a starting point is that you're seeing a lot of female fund managers emerge that have dedicated funds that have sort of numbers specifically for women or underrepresented founders, diverse founders. And I think that's the start. You have to sort of put a line in the sand to say, I'm going to allocate 30%, 50% of my fund towards founders that I haven't necessarily funded in the past in order to change the landscape as well as change overall how much gets allocated.

I think the other piece is, like you said, plugging these women into the places where they need to be. So, giving them access to a number of different funds and even angel investors as well is a good start. And so, in these sort of pitch programs that we're doing, we're also inviting investors to the table so that they're sitting on the other side and they're getting deal flow in real-time and watching these people pitch.

But then also, beyond that, part of what we're going to be doing as Female Founder Collective is actually sending to various investment funds interesting opportunities and deals that they might want to back that have female funders-- female founders at the helm, rather.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Rebecca, I want to talk about your day job being a very successful fashion designer for a moment because you did not let this global pandemic stop you from showing off your spring and summer collection recently in New York City. I know you had a few guests at the Fashion Week show, so kudos to you for being able to pull that off. How has it been running your business during this pandemic? And what's business like right now?

REBECCA MINKOFF: So it goes without saying, it's been the hardest, most stressful time as an entrepreneur and co-founder. But it's also been some of the most rewarding. I think as a business, we had to pivot overnight when 70% of our business evaporated as we were primarily in the wholesale space. And we've really turned the company around and really positioned it as a direct-to-consumer brand. We, of course, have wholesale partners.

But I think our focus is that direct relationship we have with our customer. We've had two successful pandemic fashion shows. The sales were up 10% over last year, so despite working harder and longer hours, my team included, we've shown that if you can be smart, be nimble, be quick, it is often the key to success, especially during hard times.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, we're going to leave it there. Best of luck to you, Rebecca Minkoff, Ali Wyatt. They are co-founders of Female Founder Collective. Good to have you with us today.