One Question For Tory Burch / by Anne Kreamer

Tory Burch began her business in 2004 with a small boutique in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, and since then the brand has grown into a global business with more than 100 freestanding stores, and a presence in more than 1,000 department and specialty stores. She's been recognized with numerous awards, including the CFDA for Accessory Designer of the Year, Glamour’s Women of the Year, Forbes’s Most Powerful Women in the World and Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List. A dedicated philanthropist, Tory launched the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to support the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their families in the U.S. Through loans, mentorship and entrepreneurial education, the foundation invests in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses.

Q: What’s the most significant risk you’ve taken professionally?

The biggest professional risk I’ve ever taken was starting a business. The concept was for beautifully designed, well-made pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. I had worked in the fashion industry for many years in marketing and PR, but I had never been a designer or a CEO. I had to learn on the job.

I was 36 years old and was taking some time off to be with my three young boys. I began putting together image books—sketches and photographs of my parents whose effortless elegance embodied the concept. I started working out of my apartment with a small team and traveled often to Hong Kong, where we set up a sourcing and production office.

When we needed to raise capital to get the company off the ground, I approached family and friends. It was exciting and stressful at the same time. I told people I only wanted them to invest if they were prepared to lose their money. I was willing to bet on myself but bringing in other people raised the stakes and I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed.

With the capital we raised and a personal investment, we were able to open a retail store and launch our ecommerce site. There were many naysayers, and I didn’t take what they said to heart. It was a challenge but I didn’t second-guess myself. The experience made me realize I was an ambitious person and with that was a willingness to take risks.