Tory Burch didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to be in the fashion business but she always knew she wanted to help people.
“Ever since I was little my mom ... thought I would go to the Peace Corps and I actually really considered it.” Burch told Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of the “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.
Burch credits her parents for her philanthropic spirit, adding, “My parents had a revolving door of helping people. People coming in and out of our house, people down on their luck … would come for a few nights and stay for six years.”
So when Burch launched her namesake brand in 2004, it’s not surprising that giving back became a core value for the company.
“Part of my business plan was to start a foundation for women and that was why I wanted to start the company,” Burch said.
Burch said she knew that she had to build a successful company first but that the idea for a foundation was always a part of the internal company dialogue. As her company grew, she said she learned more and more about the obstacles facing many female entrepreneurs, specifically around funding, balancing work and family, and finding a support network. To help with these issues and more, she launched the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009.
The mission of the foundation is to empower female entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, education and resources to grow their businesses. And while the idea of business for purpose has become more popular, Burch was advised against it at the time of her company's launch.
“Back then I was told very concretely never to say the words business and social responsibility in the same sentence,” Burch recalled.
Today the foundation has helped thousands of female entrepreneurs and has recently announced its first-ever Embrace Ambition Summit coming up April 24, which is a free event bringing together male and female leaders on the theme of “Confronting Stereotypes and Creating New Norms.”
When it comes to business for purpose, Burch said it is essential.
“I think actually every business has to think about purpose or else it's not going to be relevant.... And I'm not saying to do that from the beginning, but I think it should be part of the thought process and do it in a way that's authentic and what means something to you.”
As for the investor who told Burch not to mix business and social responsibility, he recently changed his mind.
“I called him this December actually and I said … 'You know I remember our conversation so well and I just came from a conference … saying that doing good is good for business and I just want you to know that this is 14 years old. We've been talking about women's issues for 14 years.' And he sent a very large check to our foundation.”