Closing The Gap

Tory Burch credits her business savvy to this 8-word piece of advice from her grandmother

Tory Burch, business woman and philanthropist
Source: Tory Burch

Tory Burch credits her business acumen to a piece of advice her grandmother gave her when she was young: "You never learn anything with your mouth open." 

The American businesswoman and philanthropist launched her namesake fashion label in 2004 — and she tells CNBC Make It that she quickly learned the importance of being "a good listener and a great networker" at the start of her career. 

"When I started this company, I had not gone to business or design school, and while I had access to capital, I didn't raise a lot of money," Burch says. "I went around to around 150 friends and family members and told them, 'Invest what you might be OK to lose,' because I was terrified of taking people's money." 

The best antidote to contempt and self-doubt, Burch adds, is "embracing your ambition" and setting a clear vision for your career. "Don't downplay your accomplishments, and think big," she says. "You also have to keep your head down and think of negativity as just noise."

Burch's lifestyle brand is estimated to have sold at least $1 billion of clothing, shoes, accessories and fragrances last year, Forbes reports, but it's not the only venture under her belt. In 2009, the designer created the Tory Burch Foundation with a mission of investing in women-owned small businesses and supporting women's economic empowerment through access to loans, education and mentoring support.

Burch emphasizes the importance of self-confidence in achieving career success, and hopes to help younger female entrepreneurs cultivate this skill. She has previously told CNBC that she got her "fair share of patronizing pats on the back" when she was first starting out. 

"I remember when I was meeting with potential investors — all of whom were men, by the way — I presented my business model, which had our foundation built into it," she recalled. "Purpose-led business was unheard of then, and it was dismissed as 'charity work' … They only made me more determined." 

The Tory Burch Foundation offers a year-long fellowship program, which helps founders of early-stage companies grow and scale through access to capital and a business education grant, among other resources, as well as a biennial summit, which is happening on June 14 and features speakers like Julianne Moore and Mindy Kaling. 

Women still receive a small fraction of venture capital funding — according to recent research from PitchBook, female-founded companies received just 2.1% of venture capital dollars invested in the U.S. last year. 

It's a significant gap that Burch is hoping to help bridge through the fellowship program. "It's quite ironic because women are the best investments," she says. "Research has shown that they're reliable in paying back loans and are innovative business thinkers." 

She continues: "People still don't fully understand the positive impact women can have in all areas of business, whether it's as a CEO or a founder. But women are an essential part of what will help fix our economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and fix our world."

Check out:

The 2 best pieces of advice to have a happier, more successful career, according to these co-CEOs

How the CEO of Planned Parenthood is preparing for a future without Roe v. Wade: 'We've been planning for this moment for years'

Nearly 400,000 women joined the labor force in May—and women of color led the charge

Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter

How this 21-year-old earns and spends $93,000 a year in Chicago
How this 21-year-old earns and spends $93,000 a year in Chicago