Pumps in Power

Stiletto Network has been so inspiring for me personally, and my intention in telling this story has been not only to identify, but also to catalyze this powerful nationwide movement. So I’m thrilled to report that since the book was published in May, I’ve received hundreds of emails from women across the country who either have their own Stiletto Networks or want to start one.

I’ve found these groups among women in all industries and age groups — from CEOs to aspiring Millennials to moms launching businesses in their basements. This proves that you don’t need to be famous or fabulous to create a Stiletto Network, and you need not begin with major connections. Anyone can do this.

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Need more evidence? Channel 7 WSPA recently aired a fantastic segment showcasing Stiletto Networks in South Carolina — groups like “Women Mean Business” in Greenville and “Sparkle” in Spartanburg. These are local female entrepreneurs, women merging business and friendship and helping each other grow.

To quote Laura Thomas, WSPA anchor/reporter: “It’s a community of women with high heels, and even higher hopes.”

Women like Laura Skelton, owner of River Falls Spa; Duffy Baehr, owner of Baehr Feet; Anne Anderson, owner of Herb & Renewal; Brooke Shugart of Studio B for Pilates and Barre; Brandy Gutierrez of iRecycle; and Sara Riddle, who is opening a maternity and nursing store called Haute Mama.

“We have many roles,” says Shugart. “We’re mothers and wives and business owners, and I just feel like it’s very important for us to encourage each other.”

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Make a Connection, Make a Career: Blip

The night Dina Kaplan met two geeks in a bar on the Bowery, she wasn’t looking to switch careers. She was working as a local TV reporter and these guys seemed like ragtag kids. She might never have talked to them, but The Remote Lounge had cameras and telephone handsets at every table to encourage patrons to interact. You could be at Table 4 and think, “I want to see the girls at Table 25.” You could send out feelers without really risking rejection.

Blip

So when the geeks dared her to venture upstairs, Kaplan took a chance. Hey, it was the year 2000. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll come up and say hi.”

Mike Hudack had dropped out of high school to work for a start-up and his buddy Charles Hope, sporting a nostril pierce and dreadlocks flopping halfway down his chest, was an odd candidate to write software tracking ingredients for a kosher certification company. But it paid the bills. The group talked late into the evening, and Hudack struck Kaplan as some sort of boy genius.

Fast-forward five years and Kaplan was still in touch. By then Hudack and Hope had partnered with two other techies they met at a group called “New York City Geeks,” and the guys spent nights and weekends hacking away on an information management program they’d developed, thinking it could form the back-end of a larger company – like a platform for TV shows on the Internet. The hackers knew Kaplan was smart and personable, and they wanted her to be the face of their operation. She could talk to people, help raise funds or bring in partners, maybe turn their project into a business.

Kaplan, who had worked for MTV for four years and been a television reporter for five, could see how Web video might be interesting. “I trust my instinct on big things,” Kaplan says. “I remember the date, time, and moment I had my first Starbucks coffee and thinking, ‘This company is going to do really well.’ I remember the first time I had a Snapple, what I was wearing, and I thought, ‘This company is going to do really well.’”

Kaplan felt the same about Hudack. Though her friends started staging interventions – did she really want to work with these guys? – she was ready to gamble. “If I ever know anyone who’s going to be the next Bill Gates, it’s this guy,” she remembers thinking. “If he starts a company, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go work for him.” (more…)

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I’ve been so lucky, I want to give back to everyone, young and old. I want to spread the good will. I’m grateful for the women who’ve come before me. They’ve made it so I can feel this way. But we are the new guard. We have networks that are both male and female, and we’re going to help our peers. We’re out there creating a meritocracy and we are going to change the world.”

Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO, LearnVest

Stiletto Network (Page 95)