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Greta Thunberg and the rise of powerful young female voices

A teenage environmentalist becoming TIME’s Person of the Year is one of the things I loved most about a year that was often difficult to deal with. It’s symptomatic of the rise of powerful young female voices that is defining our times.

I’ll be honest, it puts my own inconsiderate teenage years into a harsh perspective, but while the adult part of me is deeply ashamed of needing young girls like Greta Thunberg to take matters into their hands, it provides vital hope in a time of crisis. Hope that these new strong young female voices that are fighting for the world have inherited not just the chaos previous generations have created, but also the courage to bring the necessary change around.

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

One of the most powerful young female voices today

She may only be a teenager, but Thunberg knows what she wants and won’t stop until she’s made sure people are listening. She has managed to get attention where others have failed to do so; she’s achieved commitment where there was none before, inspired young and not-so young to act and shamed those who continue to fail to do what’s right, no matter who they are or how they may retaliate.

She speaks frankly; she doesn’t do sugarcoating. Greta knows that we’re running out of time to right some of our wrongs before it’s too late. She offers facts and expects them to be enough to scare world leaders into action. To scare people into demanding a change from the politicians in charge.

Unless something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature will continue to rise. According to scientists this will “expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030”.

With a future that’s increasingly bleak and world leaders who don’t seem very interested in doing something about it, it’s no wonder that she’s gone from a muted depression to anger that’s gone viral. Anger that represents thousands.

The face of a youth-led climate movement first heard about climate change at school and tumbled deep into depression triggered by hopelessness and disbelief. How could global warming be a reality if politicians and world leaders were doing nothing about it? How  could adults be so unconcerned by the dreary future being handed down to children? How could they not listen to warnings scientists have given us for years?

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

At first, she went quiet and stopped eating, inspiring her family to make changes in lifestyle like giving up meat, growing their own food and installing solar panels to appease her anxiety. Gradually, she began to find her voice once again. An uncompromising, no-bullshit voice that she’s been using to wake the world up to the urgency of the planet’s current situation.

Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis may have explained why she took her findings on the condition of the planet so hard, but as her father pointed out to TIME, she’s not wrong. While she has been mocked and bullied, her uncompromising passion and straightforward approach has also reached millions.

Her outrage at being forced to begin a climate strike instead of enjoying her childhood made an impression, especially on other young people who share her anger and disappointment. As they should. The demonstrations that have happened worldwide have brought about the kind of pressure that’s hard for leaders to ignore.

Emmanuel Macron told TIME that these weekly demonstrations by young people helped him change, “You cannot remain neutral”.

So, it’s probably a good thing that youths seem so involved. That Greta is not alone in wanting to make things happen where “grown-ups” have failed to succeed, or to even try. According to Al Gore, a Nobel Prize Winner for decades in climate advocacy, “many great morally based movements have gained traction at the very moment when young people decided to make that movement their cause”.

This could be a good sign considering young people, young women, seem to be at the forefront of change. Different, real, flawed, diverse, eloquent, young women who are making big things happen. It’s pretty inspiring.

I often wonder about the kind of woman my niece will grow into as a product of the world she’s been inherited. Of a world that’s fought for great new freedoms and has bred unlikely social champions unwilling to watch it burn. A world that’s at a breaking point that has forced kids out of classrooms to stand up and do what adults can no longer be trusted to do.

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

In recent years, names like Jamie Margolin (climate change), Emma González (gun control), Marley Diaz (diversity representation), Malala Yousafzai (education for women and girls), Mari Copeny (access to drinkable water) and Zoey Luna (trans youth rights) have proved that Greta is not only not alone in her fight to create awareness – she’s in good company. With more young female voices rising above the static as we stumble into the next decade.

I found the women I looked up to making music, or movies or writing stories. It worked for me – their messages were empowering and helped me define who and how I wanted to be in a lot of ways. It felt a little more self-involved on my side though, more limited. More about changing myself than changing the world. It feels like these kids are changing the world.

At sixteen, Greta is the youngest person to take the title given by the magazine every year. She joins Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis in the long list of names who have claimed the cover, which has pleased some and, unsurprisingly, annoyed a few others. The unconventional young hero makes me feel ashamed of myself, but also excited about what she means to girls watching.

The women my niece will look up to are fighting for others. They tear through social convention. They are everywhere. They do everything. And, in a lot of ways, they’re just like her.

Read about the Women’s March that took place in the US

Lisa Wang Levels Playing Field in Investment Capital

Lisa Wang has an unusual background. A former USA National Champion gymnast, she used her ten-years of experience as an elite athlete to build a unique platform to help female entrepreneurs. Enter SheWorx.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Lisa Wang does nothing half-heartedly. The former USA National Champion gymnast, has not only founded SheWorx (a global collective that connects female entrepreneurs to capital, networks, mentors and knowledge) but has also become the host of the Enoughness Podcast and a high-performance leadership coach. She’s on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List of 2018, on the 20 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 and 2018 by CIO Magazine, a Red Bull Hero of The Year, and has been featured in top publications including the Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, USA Today, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and others.  She is a national writer for Forbes and Fortune.

For her leadership in driving gender parity in the entrepreneurial space, we honor Lisa Wang with the 2019 Hall of Fame.

Red Shoe Movement— How does a world-class gymnast end up leveling the playing field in fundraising for women?

Lisa Wang, CEO, SheWorx

Lisa Wang, CEO, SheWorx

Lisa Wang—Gymnastics is a very competitive environment. It’s a zero sum game: There’s only one medal – If I win, you lose. When I was a gymnast, my teammates and best friends were also my competitors. It’s a very toxic competitive environment. As I progressed and retired from gymnastics, I continued to notice these competitive patterns in the workplace there was a sense of scarcity among women who fought to outperform each other rather than collaborating.

When I became an entrepreneur, my fundraising experiences made me realize the unique challenges women face when raising money. I wanted to be around like-minded, ambitious women who could support each other to achieve our goals. But it was very difficult. SheWorx was born as a result of my personal struggle. I wanted to create something for women who needed to raise capital, to have access to the skills and to investors and build meaningful relationships in a collaborative way. Behind every successful woman there is a group of other successful women who have their back. Our motto is: Closing the funding gap by collaborating not competing. Our duty is to support this generation of female leaders and teach people to think from a mindset of abundance. ‘My success is other woman’s success.’

Lisa Wang shares key traits to succeed as an entrepreneur

RSM— What are some key traits you need to succeed as an entrepreneur?

Lisa Wang—The most successful people are the ones who fail and always get back up, over and over again. I had to have a clear North Star as a gymnast. Every time I fell down I had to remember that North Star and get up again. What people see on the outside is the five minutes of the performance on the mat the day of the competition. But there are millions of hours of practice and tears behind those five minutes.

As an entrepreneur, you are inspiring people on stage but they don’t see the hours of pain, tears, and sweat that get you to that point. That’s a lesson everyone needs to learn. Understanding that any kind of journey that leads to success comes with millions of hours of hard work and failure. Only if you’re willing to slog through that and if you have a true North star will you be able to attain the level of impact you want to make.

Also, people don’t ask nearly enough: “What do I want? And Why do I want that?” A lot of people go into entrepreneurship because they want the external glory or the money. But that’s when they burn out. You need to find something you’re really passionate and curious about that will pull you through even the lowest lows.

CEO of SheWorx helps level the playing field by providing access to venture capital to female entrepreneurs

Lisa Wang, founder and CEO of SheWorx helps level the playing field by providing access to venture capital to female entrepreneurs

RSM— You went from hardcore competition to hardcore collaboration. What were some of the hardest lessons you had to learn?

Lisa Wang—The hardest lessons always have to do with people. One of my mistakes is mixing friendship and business and not differentiating intentions. Specially as you become more successful you attract more people to you who come with many layers of intention. Sometimes it is hard to decipher what those intentions are or if they are true. I had to learn the hard way to keep a close group of friends and advisors around me and to be more skeptical. I believe you are the reflection of the people you surround yourself with, so that’s why I’m careful with who I let into my closest circle.

Lisa Wang is leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.

Lisa Wang is leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.

RSM— SheWorx focuses on helping female entrepreneurs secure funding in a field that’s mostly male. What are some advantages women have in a fundraising situation? Can you give us concrete examples of seeing them in action?

Lisa Wang—Women are natural leaders when it comes to being team-oriented. We are great operators… we are more realistic about financial projections and what we can do in a certain amount of time. Entrepreneurs tend to think they can do more than they really can. In fundraising, women often get asked different questions as a result of unconscious bias. But in some ways, the fact that we have to prove more means we get tougher, we come in knowing all the data and numbers. We are consistent when it comes to showing progress. One example is Court Buddy, founded by two African American founders (a woman and a man.) She became the 14thever African American female to raise $1M who met their lead investor through SheWorx. Now she just closed her $6 million series A round.

Key negotiation tactics you can't afford to ignore!
Lisa Wang during Tech Week

Lisa Wang during Tech Week

RSM— Your generation is changing the way we think about our current workplaces. What would you say are some of the big changes that it will put into place in the next twenty years?

Lisa Wang—The entire workplace composition and dynamic will be transformed, and is already transforming. We’ll see a change in leadership. More women, more minorities, more diverse sexual orientation. There will be a massive shift in the workplace. The structure we see today of people working 9-5 in big corporations will completely fragment or disappear. People won’t stand for corporations that don’t represent the true makeup of the actual population.

70% of Gen-Z wants to be an entrepreneur. For 1 in 3 their dream job is to be a “YouTube star.” This is the most entrepreneurial generation in history. They are skeptical of big corporations, red tape, and bureaucracy. They care about authenticity, people creating good products for themselves and the environment. They hate being sold to. They are the most socially conscious and connected generation in history. Also, women are changing. Women are the more ambitious and more educated than we’ve ever seen. They are delaying children; there are more women with kids in their 30s than 20s for the first time in history; women are 60% of college students.

Advice to women contemplating entrepreneurship by Lisa Wang

Lisa Wang of SheWorx is changing the face of entrepreneurship

Lisa Wang of SheWorx is changing the face of entrepreneurship

RSM—For a woman contemplating whether she should strike on her own or stay employed, what exercise would you have her do in order to help her make a wise decision?

Lisa Wang—I’m a high-performance leadership and mindset coach and I have people do this exercise. I’d ask you to close your eyes and imagine your ideal day 5 years from now. Imagine it in as much detail as possible. From what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, where you live, who’s on your team. All of those things will help you understand your North Star and what changes you should start to make today. When you start by envisioning your perfect day you can start working backwards. If you care about having an office close by or a flexible day, etc., it will help you create your roadmap to get there.

RSM— In terms of leadership lessons, is there a particular one you’d like to share?

Lisa Wang— Embrace your own unique style of leadership.I learned to embrace my own style of leadership, which is not the same as that of the dominant model of leadership that’s been created by men. The narrative says that the most successful CEOs are the ones who are overconfident, command the team, and are aggressive. And my style is caring, listening, collaborative, individualized, it’s quieter than the aggressive, dominant one, it’s wiser. Over time I realized there was nothing wrong with me but something wrong with the model we were worshipping. There’s something to learn from that model but it’s also important to realize there is not just one type of leader.

Take the leadership style quiz to discover yours!

Cynthia Hudson Moving the Needle Inside the Newsroom

She’s one of the most influential women in Spanish media. Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM CNNE, is all about having a team that matches her diverse audience.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Cynthia Hudson decided very early on in her career that she wanted to make the decisions about what stories got told, by whom and how. She quickly realized that in order to have that kind of power, it wasn’t enough to be in front of a camera. That it was even more important to be behind it. Since those very early days as a journalist she has had an impressive career as an executive in media organizations such as SBS, Mega TV Cosmopolitan Television (a Hearst Entertainment and Syndication Group division) and other influential networks. Hudson has won 8 regional Emmy Awards, been named as one of People en Español‘s most powerful women, as well as one of the most powerful Hispanics in Poder, Hispanic Target and other influential publications.

For her relentless work towards inclusion in the newsroom, we honor Cynthia Hudson with this year’s Hall of Fame.

Red Shoe Movement — You started your career as a news producer and reporter in Univision 23 in Miami and quickly decided that you rather be behind the camera calling the shots. Do you remember how you arrived at that decision?

Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM, CNN en Español

Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM, CNN en Español

Cynthia Hudson—I wanted to have an impact on the story choices and on the ‘gate keeping” process that is part of journalism.  I understood that great shows, news and any form of content is already cooked way before the first camera starts rolling and I wanted to be the master Chef in that kitchen.

RSM— What tools have you developed to deal with a job that constantly faces you with the unexpected, the unpredictable?

CH—I have learned that expecting change is a given in our field and trying to anticipate the impact of change is a much-needed skill for a leader. Sometimes, it is knowing how to react to a news event but in other cases, it is being able to anticipate the huge impact of technology changes, new media and audience habits that really affect the job of a leader.   I am always trying to understand how our audience is engaging with our content and where we need to be to stay connected with our audience.

Cynthia Hudson’s advice on negotiation

RSM— What have been some of your most powerful tools when negotiating budgets or other major issues with your board? 

CH—Although I don’t deal with a board directly at CNN as I have done at other businesses I have managed, I do deal with a complex and layered business units within one of the most important communication businesses today.  I feel that Transparency and being able to see opportunities for growth are important.   Negotiating a budget is asking for the trust of leadership and that means that you need to be able to understand the wider business needs and how your unit needs to deliver to help reach key goals.   Sometimes, it is about growth and sometimes it is about timing and knowing how to maneuver your overall business opportunities.  Being able to manage risks is critical to overall success. I have faced challenges that required my walking away from a project or plan I believed in, but knew that the timing wouldn’t work with the larger business needs.  At that point you simply have to bite the bullet, but doing it with grace is a sign of management maturity.

Cynthia Hudson is an example of how far you can get in your career when you do what you love.

Cynthia Hudson is an example of how far you can get in your career when you do what you love.

RSM— Would you share with us how you navigated one of the many crises your team has faced in the past few years?

CH— In 2017 we had back to back natural disasters with hurricanes and the Mexico earthquake. Our teams were stretched thin trying to give thorough coverage of these important Human catastrophes and they were working day and night to ensure that CNN en Español was leading the coverage in our region.  This was also a big hit on our budgets.    I needed to inspire my teams to persist even when they were all very tired.   I had to evaluate upcoming planned expenses and cut down so as to ensure that the human and financial resources would be prioritized where we needed them most.   That is a constant in the world of news but you can’t be afraid to say NO to the projects that don’t have the big overall impact while pursuing others.

Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM, CNNE, is the winner of many Emmy Awards

Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM, CNNE, is the winner of many Emmy Awards

Ismael Cala's show was a success under Cynthia Hudson's leadership.

RSM— In terms of leadership lessons, what have you learned from your mistakes?

CH—Mistakes are the best university of life.  Unfortunately, many people feel that if they make a mistake they have failed and they give up or pull back and that is when you have to push yourself forward, own it, and move on.   You will learn only if you understand what went wrong and evaluate how you might do it differently next time.  As I have gotten older, I am more aware of the impact that decisions have on all aspects of the business, but you can’t let that damper your sense of risk if the potential reward could positively affect your business.

Cynthia Hudson and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNNE

Cynthia Hudson and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNNE

Leadership legacy: a journey built on details and values

When your leadership legacy is a 130,000-ton cruise-ship that redefines the meaning of luxury, there’s little wiggle room for mistakes.

At the end of a two year journey ideating, designing and building the Edge, Celebrity Cruise’s CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo can be proud that is almost impossible to find any areas that need improvement. Celebrity Edge is so close to perfection that probably only Lisa can detect the deviations from her vision.

So much so that when a guest who was walking out of a Spa shower said: “This doesn’t work,” I asked astonished: “Did you actually find something that is wrong on this ship? Do tell!”

The woman said that there weren’t any hooks to keep the towel handy after you showered. Wow. The ship is missing a few hooks in convenient places. Take a second to digest that. A 130,000-ton ship, with the most innovative technology you have seen anywhere, let alone in a ship, it’s missing a few hooks. I’d say, mission accomplished, Lisa!

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Building a memorable leadership legacy

I was invited by Lisa herself to join the inaugural sail of Celebrity Edge. And to describe my experience on the ship is to minimize it right away. Because some things are hard to put into words. After a few minutes on board, the Wows and OMGs don’t do justice to what you’re feeling.

For starters you should know that I’m not a frequent cruiser by any stretch of the imagination. If you ask me to choose, I’ll arrive to my destination by plane and walk once I arrive to my destination. But Celebrity Edge completely changed my mind. When you step into this self-contained universe, you quickly realize not all ships are created equal.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's leadership legacy.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo’s leadership legacy.

When she took the reigns of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, or LLP, as she’s known to her team, had a powerful vision. She wanted to revolutionize the cruise industry and particularly redefine the luxury category. She got started right away. One of her first decisions was to increase diversity and inclusion on the bridge and at the executive level in the organization. (We talked to her about this in her Hall of Fame interview.)  That step spoke volumes about her commitment to affecting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

But pushing boundaries is never easy, whether it is gender stereotypes or established ideas of what a luxury experience should be. And here, LLP’s inability to hear “no” is without a doubt one of her strongest assets to push forward. She threw away the book and invited her team to think as if the sky were truly the limit. And she did it with a level of care and intentionality so all associates could take her at her word and be at their best proposing innovative solutions and totally out of the box ideas.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym's equipment.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym’s equipment.

The cave: The secret place were a legacy is built

When I visited Royal Caribbean’s offices in Miami for our “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas with Celebrity Cruises,” a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality global initiative, I saw The Cave. The secret place to which only a selected group of Celebrity executives and designers with special “clearance” had access.  They got together with their counterparts in other parts of the world and used virtual reality to ideate and design the Edge. Every detail of the ship from the cabins to the chairs, from the circular theater to the incredible art pieces was created in this space.

An unimaginable number of hours and sharp attention to detail went into this process. The result is pure magic. It’s a magic you feel in the smile and polite “hello” of every crew member you meet; in the ocean-facing lounge chairs; in the way the infinite veranda in the staterooms brings the sea indoors, and in the three story Eden— the garden-like bar where actors are in a seamless interaction with the guests. One of Lisa’s most remarkable legacies might be the sense of awe that this ship inspires at every turn, a hard task if there ever was one. At a time when sensory overload seems to have dulled our senses, you feel them come alive on Edge.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

Highlight of my trip

One of my most memorable experiences on the ship was dinner at Le Petit Chef— an unassuming restaurant with just a small, one-page menu. The dinner was arranged for a group of six and as we sat at the table, we noticed each plate was lit up from above. We would soon find out why.

As the lights in the restaurant were dimmed, a projection over each plate and seating area began. It was the animated, brilliantly illustrated story of a competition between four chefs. While all of us stared in utter joy, laughing like five year-olds the little characters walked across our plates in an endless back and forth preparing a specific dish. Once the dish was finished and the image of it projected on our plate, waiters would simultaneously place the real food— which looked exactly like the illustration— on everyone’s plates. Voilà.

The food tasted delicious but the immersive experience was incomparable to anything I had seen before. And that’s the point. The constant surprise, the lasting feeling of having been through a unique moment, the relentless upending of assumptions. And underneath it all, a warm sensation akin to… love? Yes, you feel the love with which each detail has been planned. The love that every person involved with any part of this ship, has put into it. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Building a leadership legacy that redefines what can and can’t be done on a ship

When LLP and her team set out to redefine luxury, it’s not only the luxury segment of the cruise industry that they ended up redefining. In the end, they are part of a larger industry: Travel and leisure. You feel it in your bones when you step into the Spa, my second top highlight of the trip. A 22,000 square feet area that has nothing to envy the best ones in the world. And very likely as close to walking into paradise as you and I are ever going to get. The kinds of treatments that they offer hail from all over the world. You can tell that they’ve researched the most innovative, effective and pleasurable treatments out there to bring onboard not only the best, but also the least well-known.

I lay down on a warm waterbed while I got rubbed down with a special brush that activated my metabolism and then got covered in a seaweed paste. Wrapped in foil like a human taco, the music in my headphones was helping synchronize the right and left side of my brain while my feet were being massaged. By engaging all my senses I was transported to a different dimension.

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

This is what legacy looks like

One evening, Adora English Avalos, LLP’s PR person, and the woman behind a lot of great things that happened on the Edge’s inaugural trip, shared a very revealing story with a group of us. We were ending a wonderful evening together and we headed to the rooftop bar. After a round of stories about the ship and how we each had met Lisa, Adora said: “You know, I was with her on the bridge when the Edge came into Port Everglades for the first time. She stood there, leaning forward, hands on deck, staring ahead and I could clearly see that she owned the moment. She was probably thinking, ‘Yes, this is it. This is my legacy.’ It was beautiful to see.”

What does it take to get to that point of sheer satisfaction with your work? Knowing that you brought to life your vision, that you steered your team in the right direction? What does it take to fully own that accomplishment so you can build on it?

It takes a solid, humble leader who knows that the most important legacy you can leave is a set of unbreakable values that outlive you. Values like passion, a sense of fairness, and real love for those around you. Values that point North regardless of where the winds blow from. That keep your hand firmly on the steering wheel looking forward, always leaving the future behind.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.

 

Shoe Entrepreneurs: Interview to a Successful Shoe Industry CEO

Gitte Sandquist, one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, founder and CEO of Lola Ramona, the Danish shoe brand, is the perfect blend of a rocker and a girly girl. How has she managed to marry these two seemingly opposite styles into a beloved brand? Read on!

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

With over 25 years of experience in the fashion business Gitte was not new to the industry when she launched Lola Ramona in her native Copenhagen, Denmark. Before she became one of the edgiest shoe entrepreneurs in the world, she started her career with Scandinavian giants Bestseller and H&M and with American giant Levi´s. She went on to become an independent agent representing several international brands such as: Pepe Jeans, Lacoste, Paul Smith, Caterpillar, and Paul Frank.

During the eight years she spent as an independent agent, Gitte always felt there was a gap in the market of women shoes. Shoes that were beautiful and comfortable that women could wear every day, and not just for parties. So, she decided to become a shoe entrepreneur and started Lola Ramona.  While still selling these international brands during the day, Gitte planned her new company at night sleeping only a few hours, usually at the office.

A few years ago, we stumbled upon her stunning brand and when we discovered the company’s founder was a one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, we approached her to be a Red Shoe Movement partner. She loved our mission, we loved her shoes, and the rest is history. We had a very successful event at her Copenhagen store and plan to continue doing bigger and more exciting things together. We talked to her about what it means to be a shoe entrepreneur, what’s the hardest thing to give up as a CEO of a small business and what’s up with the Spanish-sounding name of her company.

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona's store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona’s store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

First steps for shoe entrepreneurs: Naming the business

Red Shoe Movement — Your company is Danish, and your business has a Spanish sounding name. Where does the name Lola Ramona come from?

Gitte Sandquist— Well …I did not really think about the name as being Spanish when I invented it. I wanted a first & last name for the brand, so that people would see Lola Ramona as a person and identify themselves with that girl. I chose Lola, because not matter which language you speak, everybody knows that Lola is a female.  Ramona was the more Rock´n´roll part of me 🙂 I love The Ramones and at the same time I thought that Ramona sounded like a beautiful flower.

RSM—You yourself are a mix between a girly-girl and a rocker. Have you always defied stereotypes? What is it like to be a shoe entrepreneur as someone who defies stereotypes?

GS— I guess it’s just my nature. I have always had the urge to express myself on my own terms. Not dictated by fashion, music, culture or sub-culture, but by my own feelings and where I wanted to go. I like the fact that I can be the girly girl one day and the rocker the next.  I am attracted to all kinds of types/stereotypes. My only wish for everyone is that they feel comfortable being the type they are. I like the fact that people respect me for being “in-between.”  My friends often tell me that I collect souls not types. Being in fashion and having that attitude, I can sometimes put people off. Other times it attracts people. I do not see it as a big challenge. I am sure Vivienne Westwood or Betsy Johnson must feel the same way. Yes! It divides groups, but the ones who understand and respect that attitude, get you more than they get much of other fashion.

Learn about the meaning of red shoes for the Red Shoe Movement!
RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

The life of shoe entrepreneurs

RSM— Give us a flavor of what a week in the life of a shoe entrepreneur is like

GS— I never get out of bed before 8.00 AM, and I always stay up until after 2 AM. There is always something going on inside my head. A song, something I am planning, a small discussion or a shopping list. My whole day is filled with shoes: Decisions about shoes, shoe designs, communication concerning shoes. Meetings about how to make and sell shoes and how to market them in the best way. 🙂 I work in a wonderful environment with my dedicated and skilled staff in Copenhagen. In the evening I hang out with my husband and very often I go out with him and friends. I have a lot of input to offer every single day and I like to stay open to as much as possible. I also travel a lot and I love it.

RSM— What’s the hardest thing to let go when you’re the CEO of a successful small business?

GS— Micro management… OMG! I keep disciplining myself. It’s annoying both for the staff and for me.  🙂 Sometimes I do miss specific tasks that I was normally in charge of doing in the past.

But all in all… I feel blessed that I am so incredible lucky to have a successful, small business, and a great staff. And I do not often think that I have to let things go. I try to focus more on how much I am winning and getting.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

RSM—Humor plays an important part in your brand, something that distinguishes you from other shoe entrepreneurs. How do you imbue humor into your business while building a serious business?

GS—I love a good joke and my staff does too. We often try to do something silly/funny on one of the shoes. Like attaching a moustache or making the design so that it looks like the shoe is laughing at you. Of course we take the business seriously. This is our career and where we earn our money and this is what we are passionate about. But we are aware that these are shoes!  We are not doing life-saving medicine.  If you’re not able to do this work with a smile on your face, I do not think you should be a shoe entrepreneur. When you are able to make people laugh, both in the office and on the streets, I think you have given them space to breathe and in the end you make them stronger.

RSM—How do you stay inspired to come up with new, exciting designs?

GS—Really easy! We flirt with all past decades and add some new features or mix them all. For instance, the 2018 winter collection is both 60ies fashion and 80ies glam, with some sports features.

RSM—You recently launched the LolaRamona hack. How did this idea come about? What were some of the most fun ideas people shared?

GS—IKEA had a campaign which got really close to the Lola Ramona sign off. So I decided to #IKEAhack them which is a really common thing, and again with a touch of humor. We had a lot of fun and success with it, and even IKEA thought it was fun. And since we were working with the #IKEAhack I launched our own #LOLAhack too. We had so many good hacks, but I think the best hack we got was a Christmas decoration with candles and all, made out of one of our stilettos.

#LOLAhack stilettos

#LOLAhack stilettos

RSM— You are half owner of your factory in China and your partner is a woman. We find this most interesting given that the industry continues to be male-dominated and there are few female shoe entrepreneurs who own their factories. Does it make a difference in your final product to have a woman designer and a woman as a head of manufacturing?

GS—There is ONLY differences! Communication is different, the way we see business and interaction is different. We speak so much more the same language when it comes to quality and finish of a product. How we choose to treat the staff, and the list goes on and on. We share the Red Shoe Movement principles that we should aid and help other women to achieve their goals, not just worry about “what’s in it for me.”

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Don't miss the story of this Nigerian shoemaker!

Making mistakes, at the core of most successful shoe entrepreneurs

RSM—Can you share one of the worst mistakes you made and how you fixed it or got over it?

GS—Hmmm… I have made thousands of mistakes! Selling the company (I bought it back, though.) Letting friends down, not listening carefully enough, doubting myself, doubting others, and so on. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to not make mistakes. You learn more from making mistakes than from most other things in life. Afterwards you just have to be able to say I’m sorry. And off course not consciously hurt other people.

RSM—Which one of Lola Ramona shoes would you say best reflects your inner red shoe?

GS—Without a doubt: It has always been Angie Hero!

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

RSM—What do you value about the partnership with the Red Shoe Movement?

GS— The enthusiastic approach you are always met with. The network that stretches all over the world. The beautiful, strong women who aim to empower other women. It’s a beautiful concept and it sits very well with me.

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