Each panelist had a wealth of information and advice to offer, but each emphasized a different aspect of what a start-up is all about. For R29's Gelardi, she noted that timing is key. "When we started Refinery29 in 2005, the independent spirit was really the zeitgeist of the time." But for Lauren, her success was rooted in seeing the bigger picture, offering her customers both a product (yummy candy!) and an experience (American nostalgia).
For Rocha, developing her own brand was all about "being first." Rocha cited being the first model on Instagram, and one of the first models on Twitter. Her social-media power plays (and we suppose her good looks and charming personality) have been a driving factor behind her success. Alternatively, Iman found that her success as an executive resulted from completely divorcing herself from any associations to the modeling industry; she wanted her peers to see her as a businesswoman, not as a pretty face. "I stopped reading Vogue and started reading the Census Bureau. You know how boring that is?"
Something all panelists could agree on was knowing your rights when it comes to your business. "It's okay to write your own contracts," says Rocha, who stresses the importance of sticking to your guns about the things you really believe in. It's also important to remember that these start-ups not only empower women, but they also employ women. As Cutler notes, "SoulCycle now has almost 600 employees" — the majority of which are female.
The panel was among one of the most inspiring events we've seen in a long time, and reminded the audience that confidence is key. As Iman says, "You have to believe in yourself. They smell it on you when you don't."
Photos: Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage