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#LADYBOSS, Business, Fashion, Tech

#LADYBOSS: Rebecca Minkoff Is An Ambassador For Women In Tech, Values Honesty Over Politeness & Knows The Power Of The Squad

May 13, 2016
Rebecca Minkoff with her son Luca at home

When it comes to female entrepreneurship and women in tech, Rebecca Minkoff is must-follow mama. Minkoff has built her fashion line on technology and is a MAJOR supporter of women in tech. While known for her cool fashion and accessories line, one of her latest projects includes a partnership with Intel for a female-only tech conference, which encourages women studying tech, science, engineering, and mathematics to pursue careers in those respective fields. Can you say #GIRLPOWER? Read on to learn more about Rebecca’s use of technology in fashion and all the kick-ass things she’s doing to help other female entrepreneurs.

Can you tell me more about this Intel conference? How did you become involved?

I’ve partnered with Intel for a series of conferences discussing women in tech. The conference consists of about 400 women in the Bay Area from UC Berkely and Los Angeles who are interested in technology, and myself, along with other professionals such as Julie Wainwright from The RealReal, Hillary Kerr from WHO WHAT WEAR , Jess Lee from Polyvore, Leura Fine from Laurel and Wolf, Diana Skaar of Google, and Brit Morin of Brit+Co discussing the importance of sticking with technology, and all the opportunities that may be available to them. The technology playing field needs to have more women in it. For example, there should be women who are able to design my wearables and a personal goal is to show women in tech, even those that are engineers and scientists that there are a lot of opportunities out there for them that don’t involve working in a lab, that there are so many fun and cool applications for their work.

Intel announced a very large commitment promoting females staying with their tech studies last year. After that happened, I reached out saying I wanted to help, so I’ve become an ambassador of some sort and involved in organizing the conferences.

Rebecca Minkoff and her family

…..there should be women who are able to design my wearables and a personal goal is to show women in tech, even those that are engineers and scientists that there are a lot of opportunities out there for them that don’t involve working in a lab, that there are so many fun and cool applications for their work.

 

Why do you think women are dropping out of technology and science related fields? Why is it important for women to be in these fields? 

As a female in tech, you know you’re going into a field that has more men in it, and is dominated by men. Maybe women think they can’t get a career in anything other than being in a lab, and I am trying to say no, there are more industries for you to get into. There is a whole need and desire for females in the tech space in pretty much every industry including fashion. You can have a really exciting and diverse career if you stick with it.

Biggest challenge working at the intersection of fashion and technology?

Today it is a new pioneering space, so being willing to be the guinea pig and accepting that we may come out with a wearable that is a little too big and bulky since the tech isn’t there for it to be smaller, is the key. You have to be willing to take risks while the technology is still evolving. You don’t want to be the company that waits for the microchip to be small enough and then end up losing out on the experience of testing.

I’m also interested in getting more women to be a part of the conversation. There was conversation that I had with a producer on one of our wearables, that reminds me of this, he said that the wearable couldn’t be metal and that it had to be plastic. And I was there saying, no woman is going to want to wear a gold plastic bracelet. A woman probably would’ve known not to suggest a plastic one in the first place – we have this sort of intuition on what will work in fashion that men lack. Another example would be the first iteration of Apple’s health tracker; it didn’t have a menstrual cycle tracker, something that would seem an obvious essential to a woman talking about health.  Maybe it would’ve appealed more to women if it had that.

In the past few years as business has grown and changed and there is so much focus on social media, do you still make a point to connect with your customers in person?

Part of every trip I do; I still do trunk shows and we have a ton of events at our stores, most of which I am a part of. Consumer engagement is important. I’m at a conference right now and we did a pop-up shop at the event so we could still engage on that level. I also just think the conversation is important on and offline. Online it’s through YouTube and Instagram, where they can connect on a more friend-based level.

Rebecca Minkoff and her family

You’ve been out there on social since there beginning. Whacky and most successful thing you’ve done on social for Rebecca Minkoff?

Whacky– at the time when Hilary Rhoda, Leandra Medine from The ManRepeller and I were getting ready for CFDA and no one was using video back then, we were really raw with it. (watch here)

Successful– we’ve done scavenger hunts with people around NYC, using social media. Also, our April Fool’s joke back in 2012 led to the creation of the men’s line. We had men wear Rebecca Minkoff and took fake photos around the city, but then men actually wanted bags.

We like to experiment with it, and play around.

Do you feel that your interaction with customers has had a big impact on your brand?

Totally! I feel that that’s why the consumer has embraced the brand. There is an accessibility factor that not a lot of designers are willing to have. At Rebecca Minkoff we engage in authentic, honest dialogue with our customers. I think they appreciate that it is accessible and that I am listening to them.

..we engage in authentic, honest dialogue with our customers. I think they appreciate that it is accessible and that I am listening to them.

In business we often get feedback that’s not to our liking – how do you handle that?

It never gets better. You learn to grow thick skin. Now, when I’m in a meeting, I’ll say “be honest I can handle it,” because I rather have them tell me than me hear it from someone else. If we can’t get to that place of honesty, I can’t change what I’m doing or do a good job. It’s being direct and circumventing people’s politeness.

Rebecca Minkoff and her son

 I’ll say “be honest I can handle it,” because I rather have them tell me than me hear it from someone else. If we can’t get to that place of honesty, I can’t change what I’m doing or do a good job. It’s being direct and circumventing people’s politeness.

How does community play a role in your life?

Community is a huge part of being able to grow and succeed and females especially get a leg up. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my good friend, when I was starting out. At the time she dragged me to all these fashion parties, she had nothing to gain doing that and she did it and that’s how I started meeting people. The ability to surround yourself with your squad is really important.

Community is a huge part of being able to grow and succeed and females especially get a leg up…..The ability to surround yourself with your squad is really important.

What does being a good boss mean to you? What do you feel is one of your strongest qualities as a businesswoman?

Knowing boundaries. Empowering others to be their own entrepreneurs within their jobs, being a good listener. I also try to make it about working as partners and not so much employees and a boss. I try to make it collaborative 99% of the time.

On being a good boss…..”Empowering others to be their own entrepreneurs within their jobs, being a good listener.”

I’m an excellent negotiator. I’ve learned a lot from our president who is an incredible negotiator who pushes people to boundaries– I can’t believe some of the questions she asks. If you keep asking all that can happen is people say no, so there is no harm in AT LEAST asking.

How has being a mom impacted you as a businesswoman? Has is changed the way you run your business at all?

I think the ability to multitask became a skill and time management, and again knowing your boundaries so you know where you no line is versus the yes line. I used to work all the time, and now if I want to see my kids I need to delegate and empower others and not micromanage. There are only so many bricks one person can lay.

You and you husband both travel a lot for you work, do you guys have any tricks for making two busy schedules work?

Gavin and I try to call each other during the day to plan out our schedules, that’s the only time we don’t really have anyone pulling on us. But really after the kids go to bed– that’s our time to connect. I’m not saying it works for everybody but we have made one of us being home with the kids a priority right now.

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