Tory Burch was in town Monday evening to the delight of about 40 women who descended upon the dainty King of Prussia boutique — one of 300 worldwide — amid a collection of colorful tote bags, sneakers, and appropriate winter floral prints.
The Tory Burch Foundation invited the women to the store, as well as to stores in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York, to kick off its Embrace Ambition Series, a week of intimate conversations that are live-streamed on the foundation’s website and that are designed to inspire women to live their best entrepreneurial lives.
Monday night’s girl power hours included mini-speeches from female business owners, including a stirring talk by 16-year-old Jacqueline Means, who founded a nonprofit STEM initiative for young girls in Wilmington. But the moment we all waited for was an Oprah-style chat during which Burch interviewed her mom, Reva Robinson, for whom her iconic Reva flat is named.
“People say, ‘What was the inspiration to your company? My mother. Where did come up with your designs? My mother," Burch said in her intro. “Every single thing comes back to my mom.”
When Burch, who grew up in Valley Forge, launched her casual, chic clothing women’s wear line in 2004, the plan, she said, was to start a nonprofit that would give back to the community in some way.
“Back when I was raising money for my company, I was clear that I wanted to build a global business so I could start a foundation,” Burch said. “[The men] were patting me on the back like it was charity work. One person looked at me and said, ‘Don’t ever say business and purpose in the same sentence.’ I knew that I was going to one day come back to him."
Burch launched her foundation in 2009, and the organization did most of its work internally. “We wanted to be very careful about talking about it externally, never be perceived as marketing in any way.”
Two years ago, the foundation launched the Embrace Ambition Series with a PSA that included such celebrities as Kerry Washington and Gwyneth Paltrow to remind women that their ambition should not be seen as negative. This year, the foundation has embarked on a week of events in the days leading up to International Women’s Day on Friday.
Burch is a force in the fashion industry, but she’s usually very reserved. There was something about Robinson that brought out the giggles in her and in all of us Monday night. She was candid, relaxed, and authentic.
Here are some of the things she shared with the audience about her life that may offer a window into how she was able to embrace her ambition. And because she’s the billionaire owner of a multimillion dollar fashion empire, it’s clear she knows what she’s talking about.