Goal: Empower 1 billion women

September 22, 2013

From sustainability to tech to media, there are few industries that Ingrid Vanderveldt has yet to conquer. Vanderveldt, a self-described serial entrepreneur, is an inspiration to aspiring and accomplished businesswomen alike.

Currently the entrepreneur in residence for Dell and founder of the Dell Innovators Credit Fund, she also sits on the United Nation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, is the founder of several businesses, including VH2 Energy Investments and the Global Leadership and Sustainable Success Forum and, to top it all off, is a former CNBC television host for a show she created. The vision driving her frenetic, jam-packed schedule? To empower one billion women by 2020.

As an intern for 1776, I was able to attend a [recent] roundtable discussion led by Vandervelt on [the 1776] campus.

Here are three key takeaways from the discussion:

Stay true to your calling. Trends and buzz-worthy initiatives come and go. What will set you apart in the crowded start-up landscape is commitment and grit. Even in the scariest times, stay true to your calling and stand by your vision. Vandervelt recommended the book, “Overcoming Underearning” by Barbara Stanny, for insight on how to make your finances work for your dreams.

Be confident about your business. When you pitch your company to investors, you’re essentially asking them to believe in your company’s ability to become profitable. That means that you need to have the charisma to talk about your company’s purpose, but you also need to have the confidence to discuss every aspect of your company, especially financials. Potential investors need to feel comfortable that you understand the value of their money, and that you both want to see it grow. Know that when you authentically ask for help, you’re giving the gift of an opportunity to share in success ... Vandervelt’s advice echoes the sentiments in Paul Graham’s essay, “How to Convince Investors,” in which he describes successful entrepreneurs as honest yet “formidable.”

Tap into the network of female entrepreneurs. Our biggest secret weapon as female entrepreneurs is that we are women. We have an amazing spirit to be collaborators and networkers, and that is a huge asset. Leaning on the community of women around you in the entrepreneurial space will help you accomplish your goals. Stories from Vandervelt’s own struggles early in her career made this point especially resonate with me. When she was starting her first company, Vandervelt was forced to live out of her car in order to fund her ideas. When her girlfriends from college discovered her living situation, they invited her to stay with them, free of charge. This gift allowed her find the incredible success she has today, and pass on her gifts to other women around the world. In her words, Vandervelt “lives a life of purpose,” and her passion of working with women is what drives her every day.

This is an excerpt from a blog post for the D.C. start-up incubator, 1776. Kim Horwitz is a junior at George Washington University, studying political science and American studies.

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