A short commentary on the awesome and shitty things female entrepreneurs are dealing with …
Cardi B, nee Belcalis Almanzar, made music history a couple weeks ago when her song, “Bodak Yellow” reached Billboard’s #1, besting well-known artists like Taylor Swift. According to Billboard, “To date, the song has sold nearly 500,000 digital downloads in the U.S. and has been streamed more than 440 million times.”
Why it matters? Rising to popularity on VH1’s reality show Love & Hip Hop New York, Cardi B used the platform as a place to showcase her music and grow a fan-base. She became known for funny catchphrases, her tell-it-like-it-is persona and communicating openly with her followers on social media. She now has inked a worldwide publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
She isn’t the first woman to go from reality TV to bonafide entrepreneur and star. Other women like Nene Leakes, Bethenney Frankel and Gretchen Rossi have turned their TV time into prime time marketing opportunities. Cardi B is the latest example of stepping outside of industry norms. By side-stepping the traditional rise to music stardom, she’s shown that building a brand and having the ability to sell directly to your audience, puts the power in your court.
Shame on any residents blasting Dave’s Soda and Pet City owner Dave Ratner. According to the recent interview he did on Bax & O’Brien, for the last 10 years, as a member of the National Retail Federation (NRF), he has been lobbying in Washington for small businesses to be able to purchase health insurance for employees at the same rates that large companies do.
He said he received a call from the NRF saying that the White House was finally going to overturn that provision and asking would he like to go to the signing. Ratner heads to D.C. and he said it turns out President Trump uses the photo opp as a chance to announce his plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Flick. A photo is taken and it looks like Ratner, and guests, are there in support of Trump’s unraveling of the ACA rather than the reason he was summoned there in the first place — health insurance.
Now some residents are threatening boycotts of his business, Dave’s Soda and Pet City. The man has been a long-time western Massachusetts business owner for nearly 50 years, gives to local nonprofits and schools, supports city initiatives and he’s apologized numerous times.
Here’s the thing, anyone in the public eye knows that photo opps can be misleading. In fact, just a couple weeks ago our CEO here at Lioness, Dawn, had to call a local media outlet because our photo was running with an article we had absolutely nothing to do with, but the image gave the impression that we were involved somehow.
So I’m sorry that Ratner and others were potentially used as pawns for political purposes. It’s a reminder to all business owners how closely politics and business are aligned, but I hope it is NOT a deterrent to entrepreneurs who need to go to Washington to fight for what they and their employees need.
Here’s all I’m going to say about the Harvey Weinstein thing for now … To all those celebrities who are feigning surprise that hideous things like this are (and did) happen, please, please shut thee hell up.
I’m not even an actress and I’ve heard about the “casting couch” tactics and child abuse that takes place in Hollywood. The glitz and glamour of movie stars has always been shadowed by horrible stories, the likes that are often later told in biographies on bookshelves, on the silver screen or in docu-series’s on channels like E! or VH1.
The gross and horrific things that happened to these women are inexcusable and other industries are not immune to this behavior. Our sisters in entrepreneurship are dealing with similar issues. Many women have come forward about the sexual harassment and assault they’ve experienced. Earlier this year in a New York Times piece, entrepreneur Lindsay Meyer said a venture capitalist groped and kissed her. “I felt like I had to tolerate it because this is the cost of being a nonwhite female founder,” she said.
I encourage women to share their voices and while hashtags like #Metoo draw topics into the spotlight, let’s do some work in the workplace. Band together and fight back. Going forward, let’s follow airport protocol. If you see something, say something. Create a safe space for your fellow women colleagues to come to you if they’ve been hurt so we can help one another confront and dismantle any person(s) and systems that are hurting us. Because, there is strength in numbers.
New firm, The Helm, plans to invest in only women-led startups. According to recode, they join a seed fund called XFactor Ventures that similarly promises to invest only in female-led startups and Rivet Ventures who is specifically targeting women-led markets for investment, even if not solely for female founders.
We at Lioness believe we need more women to become venture capitalists and angel investors in order to level the playing field in startup land. With more of our peers in the driver seats of distributing capital, we have a better chance at the wealth being spread around and perhaps more of us will have a shot at funding. Female entrepreneurs only received about 2 percent of VC funding in 2016. Bravo to these lionesses for putting their money where their mouth is.
All opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author.