Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

Designer Rebecca Minkoff is no stranger to the challenges of starting and operating a business. Frustrated with the notion that a female-led business is a rarity, Minkoff established the Female Founder Collective (FFC) with the mission to enable and empower female owned and operated businesses, in order to positively impact communities. Since its inception in 2018, the FFC has grown to include 5,000 members spanning a wide range of industries including fashion, food and beverage, technology and many others. It serves as a resource for women to educate each other, resulting in better leadership and impactful changes that help to improve their business and achieve long-term success.

The impact of the FFC doesn’t end there; it also strives to improve communities by empowering the consumer. Minkoff notes that women in particular will support female-run businesses if they know how to do so and the FFC has taken steps to increase awareness and facilitate this change. With the introduction of an FFC seal, products from FFC members are clearly visible to the consumer. This not only benefits FFC participants, but enables consumers to use their purchase power to make a positive impact, supporting female-led business and ultimately influencing the greater retail landscape.

Alexis DeSalva, Senior Retail Analyst at Mintel, sat down with Rebecca Minkoff in a two-part interview to discuss how businesses can get involved with the FFC, how the organization benefits the consumer, and her plans for the future of the collective.

Alexis DeSalva:

We want to talk a little bit about what you’re doing with the Female Founder Collective. I love that it supports female-owned and -led businesses and makes an impact on the community. For those that might not be as familiar with it, can you tell us a little bit about the initiatives that help to make that impact?

Rebecca Minkoff:

Pictured: Rebecca Minkoff and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox  Source: Female Founder Collective

First and foremost, is the use and promotion of the [official FFC] seal on consumer products and our websites and store fronts. Hopefully, at some point reaching critical mass, the way you turn over your products for organic, non-GMO, or paraben-free. Could the customer begin to seek out and recognize the symbol and support female-founded companies? So with Katia’s (Katia Beauchamp, Co-founder of Birchbox) generosity, it’s on every Birchbox. That brings us to over two-and-a-half million products that the seal is now on. Once the Lola tampon boxes hit and my packaging, that’ll take it up to probably three million products. So hopefully that starts to make a dent.

We’re currently building – and long overdue on – a directory. There’ll be one hub for all the companies to live and you can search by type, service or product. And then the backend of that is going to be where our members can connect one-to-one, and help each other with resources, tips, tricks, things to avoid. The website, I’m hoping, should be done by November.

As a founder, you start something with a passion. You don’t necessarily have all the answers. So what we’ve been doing is we have one [FFC Workshop] in New York and one in LA next week that are really about founders teaching founders.

AD: That’s great! So it sounds like a network for knowledge sharing. I feel like that kind of support is so rare and I think a lot of times it’s not necessarily, “I need to know something from someone who runs the same business as me,” but learning from someone who has a different perspective.

RM: Totally. And I think that once the website is up, we’re going to be helping to funnel people, because of the application form, into same-sized companies. And so you’ll be able to connect with someone who’s going through what you’re going through and then you could further drill it down to industry. But the same size company, a lot of people are going through similar things even if they’re different industries.

AD: What types of businesses currently participate? We mentioned Birchbox and Lola, but what are some other examples of different sectors that are members right now?

RM: What’s nice is it’s a wide range of different industries. It’s food and beverage, fashion, technology, service providers. It’s pretty spread out. It’s people that are end-user hardware and software office supplies, subscriptions, artists, brick-and-mortar.

AD: So what if a business wants to join the collective? It sounds like you’ve got quite a demand. What’s the process for looking for more information on trying to participate?

RM: Right now it’s a static web page where you apply and then, I want to say 25-to-35 very specific questions. We actually go make sure that person’s telling the truth. We want you to be 50% female founded. We want you to still be part of your company. You have a board seat, or you’re controlling aspects of the company so you’re not just a figurehead. How big are your employees, revenues, all this stuff. You also have to be post launch, whether you’re a service or a product, and you need to have revenue. So I think we’re trying to get very specific because then we can get very precise with the type of programming and education we want to offer.

It was being asked too often, “What’s it like to be a female founder?” I mean, men never get that question, right? There’s examples all around of male founders. There’s clearly not enough if we’re the polar bear.

AD: So, you’re a female founder. What was your motivation for starting an organization like this? I’m assuming the reasons came from facing some of your own challenges. What’s your experience and how does this collective help other female entrepreneurs manage similar situations?

RM: I think it was born out of a few things. It was being asked too often, “What’s it like to be a female founder?” I mean, men never get that question, right? There’s examples all around of male founders. There’s clearly not enough if we’re the polar bear. I think that as a founder, in general, you just come across situations or things that you could’ve never – you can’t even make this stuff up. You create a community of women who are like, “Oh my gosh! This just happened and how do I do this? Is there a resource guide as part of the member profiles? Here’s my top 10 most helpful things; here’s my tech stack; here’s my my payroll company.” You don’t have to go on Google and just try and figure it out. You have tried-and-true people giving their best recommendations.

AD: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a trusted source. So, what’s the benefit to the consumer? For the participating businesses there are some obvious benefits. But for the consumer? What we see here at Mintel, in our research, is that younger generations are more informed and more aware and they want to make more conscious shopping decisions and just be more informed with how they’re consuming products. So for the consumer, how does what the Female Founder Collective is doing benefit them?

RM: Berlin Cameron did a study and found that 80% of women are more likely to support female founded companies if they knew how. So I think from the consumer side of it, once the seal, again, gets into the zeitgeist, I think she will shop it right. She will support it. She’ll go out of her way to go to the coffee shop instead of Starbucks. I hope. I think the consumer can get involved. And then, by making this directory, it’ll just be a very handy place that she can see everything. We’re looking into software to enable a marketplace. So that won’t just be a link to the other person’s site, but a true marketplace of female founded companies.

AD: Wow, that’s awesome.

RM: That’s a long term goal, but it could be something that we could figure out when we have the resources. Some people do it now, but I think it could be more robust and less precious.

Check out part two of Alexis’ interview with Rebecca Minkoff, where they discuss the presence the organization has within the fashion industry, future plans for the FFC within the greater retail landscape and Rebecca’s hopes for the female entrepreneurs of the future.