5 Pieces of Advice for Female Entrepreneurs From Gloria Steinem, Rebecca Minkoff & More: Exclusive

Becki Smith of Smith House Photo
Create & Cultivate NYC Conference in Flushing, New York.

On Saturday, more than 600 women from across the country gathered in Flushing, New York, for the annual Create & Cultivate conference, a day full of panels, discussions and mentor "power hours" with female entrepreneurs, thought leaders, influencers and business owners. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but being a female entrepreneur is even harder. Whether you're an emerging artist about to collaborate with a producer, a style or beauty influencer feeling down about all those negative comments on Instagram or an indie exec about to start her own label, we compiled the five best pieces of advice we heard from throughout the day, as told by everyone from Rebecca Minkoff to Gloria Steinem.

Turn Poison Into Medicine

The best way to grow as a brand or business and increase your following (social or otherwise) is by listening, really listening, to your detractors and then coming up with an action plan afterward. “Every week, we have a team meeting where we print out all the negative comments from the previous week and focus solely on what the detractors are saying,” Jennifer Spector of Zola, a platform for newly engaged and married couples, said. Farryn Weiner, VP, marketing & brand innovation at Sweetgreen, agrees. “You need to read social media -- that’s your consumer telling you exactly what they want you to know -- and listen with an open mind,” Weiner says. “Our most engaged customers are the ones that feel listened to and have been a part of our evolution.”

Take Micro-Actions

Halfway through the day, C&C organized mentor power hours, where thought leaders and businesswomen gave advice to individual circles of around 20 women. Feminist empowerment author Maxie McCoy has a powerful, open presence that can be felt from across the room, and lucky for us, she was one of our mentors. “When we feel depressed and overwhelmed, the best thing we can do to build our confidence and ourselves is to take tiny actions,” McCoy says. “Come up with a worst-case scenario and detail the shit out of it. Write it all down. Then take a step back and the question is: ‘If I can handle the change, then what’s stopping me?’”

When It Comes to Collaborations, You Have A Lot of Creative Control

Whether you’re an influencer working with a brand or an artist collaborating with another musician, the key to a successful collaboration is knowing you have a lot of creative control. “If you go to somewhere like The Met and you look at a Van Gogh, you say, ‘Wow, that’s an amazing work of art,’ you don’t say, ‘Oh, that was commissioned by someone,'” says Mary Orton founder and editor of Memorandum, a blog and lifestyle site for working women. “All of the great works of art were commissioned, and that doesn’t mean you can’t be genuine and authentic.” In other words, remember: The brand or producer came to you, the artist, for a reason, so use that reason as leverage.

Invest in People, Not Things

Entrepreneurs Rebecca Minkoff and Kendra Scott both started their businesses because they were wanting something they couldn’t find (Minkoff, a well-made bag that, when purchasing it, could still allow her to pay rent; and Scott, well-made jewelry that was reasonably priced), and they both started when they were down to the last of their savings with nothing more to lose. They also have another aspect in common: their “splurges.” “I put an ad in the paper for a president, and this badass industry veteran comes to the apartment to interview,” Minkoff says of her longtime business partner. “Immediately afterward, I told my brother, Uri, that we needed him. He said, ‘We can’t afford him,’ and I said, ‘We can’t not afford him.’ So for the next few years, I made a salary fo $23,000 a year because I knew he was that important. And he was.”

The Means Become the Ends

The keynote speaker for the day was none other than feminist icon and distinguished author Gloria Steinem, and among her many truisms relating to female empowerment, pay equity and eternal optimism, Steinem suggested that the ends do not always justify the means, in business or in life. “In the end, the who you are is much more important than the what you are,” Steinem says. “And as beings who need social interaction to survive, the value in who you are while getting to where you’re going is everything. The means will always become the ends.”

Create & Cultivate is an online platform and conference for women looking to create and cultivate the career of their dreams. Create & Cultivate New York kicked off the conference’s media partnership with Refinery29 and included presenting sponsor Laura Mercier alongside other prominent sponsors like Chase, Tinder, Kopari Beauty, Volvo, Amazon Fashion, Saks OFF 5TH and more.