This past spring, I was awarded a Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship. It was a dream come true for many reasons, all of which I hope to share with you in this space over the coming months.
But first, a little background. When launching her eponymous fashion brand in 2004, Tory listed as one of her chief goals starting a foundation to empower other women entrepreneurs. As she says on the Foundation website:
One of the reasons I wanted to start a company was to start a foundation that would benefit women and children. Social responsibility is part of our brand DNA. It’s not about charity. It’s about helping to empower women to help themselves. By providing resources and tools, we can level the playing field for women entrepreneurs, and helping them to grow their businesses benefits their families, their communities and, in turn, all of us.
Inspiring, right? And Tory's foundation really is making that difference. All Tory Burch Foundation Fellows receive the same grant: 5 days of workshops and networking with innovative founders and business experts at foundation headquarters in New Jersey, a 1-year fellowship with access to education programs and networking opportunities, and $5,000 to advance your business education.
You'll learn more about how I am spending that grant money here in the near future...let's just say I'm going to be pinching myself when I board that plane in February!
But back to the first, and most unexpected, gift of the Fellowship: the application process. As strange as it might sound, going through the process of applying for the Fellowship was one of the most meaningful experiences I have had as a business owner.
Running a small business means you are responsible for every little detail that needs doing and that translates to never feeling like you can take the time to pause and reflect. Unless you are sidelined for a very specific and important reason. And finishing this in-depth application was that reason. It forced Tricia and me to slow down and look hard at what we had accomplished thus far with Flowers & Bread and what we hoped to do in the future. We had to review our original business plan, our financials, and think hard about where we were finding our joy in the business. Some of the answers we found were consistent with our early goals, and some were totally fresh. The overall lesson was clear and resonates with what we built F&B to do: to create a space in which we can slow down and be intentional about our lives.
When I've submitted applications in the past, I've felt ready for a rest. In this case, I had an updated list of achievements to feel proud of and goals to attend to —I felt supercharged and ready to spring into action. So to all my fellow female entrepreneurs, I can't recommend the fellowship enough. The application process alone is valuable, and, if you win, well, you have a lot to look forward to!
Coming soon...how I'm using the fellowship to further my business knowledge.