Tory Burch broke onto the New York City fashion scene in 2004, and became nationally recognised after Oprah Winfrey christened her “the next big thing in fashion” the following year.
Today, Burch is the billionaire chairman, CEO, and lead designer of an award-winning fashion label with 130 boutiques around the world and products in an additional 3,000 stores. Forbes has called her one of the most powerful women in the world.
In a video produced by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Burch said she needed to grow into the leadership role.
The best advice she got when she was starting out came from her friend Jane Rosenthal, the cofounder of the Tribeca Film Festival, who helped her realise that leaders, especially women, should not try to hide their ambition.
In 2004, Rosenthal called to tell her that Burch’s debut in the pages of The New York Times looked good, but there was something that bothered her.
The article portrayed Burch as a Manhattan socialite who shied away from coming across as arrogant: “While reserve prevents her from saying so, Mrs. Burch, 37, a pillar of New York’s young social set, clearly has ambitious plans for her new brand.”
The article concluded: “Is she ambitious? ‘That’s my new word to be annoyed by,’ she says with a delicate look in her eye that asks you to go no further.”
“The article is great,” Rosenthal told Burch at the time, “but you shied away from the word ‘ambition,’ and you should never, ever shy away from that word again.”
“And I think that’s great advice for women,” Burch explained to Stanford. “I think women should be just as ambitious as men, and be proud of it.”
The lesson stuck with Burch. In 2009, she founded the Tory Burch Foundation, dedicated to funding and mentoring women entrepreneurs across the country, stoking within them the ambition that has made her so successful.