Gayle King Interviews Successful Women Entrepreneurs

gayle king, laura modi, emma grede and kristin sudeikis

Michele Crowe / CBS / Melissa Schmidt / Icarian Photography / Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for VIOLET GRAY / Lauren Volo

Here’s a jaw-dropping stat: Female-owned businesses generate $ 1.8 trillion a year — and that number is only going to continue to grow. Last year, the number of businesses owned by women increased by nearly 30 percent — proving that, more than ever, female entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with.

But despite these massive numbers, many women still face uphill battles when it comes to running their businesses. For example, just over 2 percent of all venture capital goes to female entrepreneurs.

And the pandemic brought on more challenges. A significant number of female founders are in the hospitality or retail business, which both took a hit over the past few years.

Nonetheless, entrepreneurship is something a large number of women aspire to. One survey of nearly 10,000 people found that 72 percent of women say they’d like to have their own business one day.

To talk about all of this and more, Gayle King sat down with three enterprising and inspiring female business leaders — Emma Grede, the cofounder and CEO of Good American and the cofounder of Safely; Laura Modi, the cofounder and CEO of the formula brand Bobbie; and Kristin Sudeikis, the founder, CEO and creative director of Forward_ _Space.


How to Watch

Come back to this page on June 23 at 8pm EDT to catch the premiere of this roundtable, available exclusively to Oprah Daily Insiders, at the top of this article. Keep reading for a preview of their chat.

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Finding That Big Idea

Here’s what inspired these women to start their companies.

GAYLE: A lot of people think they have good ideas for a business but do not actually do anything about it. Emma, ​​I read that Good American was born out of the feeling that so many women feel left out of the fashion conversation. Talk to me about that.

It costs more money to have someone return from [parental] leave too early, because they are unproductive. It has been very clear to us: When people return [too early], they’m just not ready. —Laura Modi

EMMA: The idea came from years of working in fashion and seeing that a lot of companies weren’t really the sum of their parts. My idea was, Let’s just remove all the labels. I do not think women think about themselves in terms of the size of their backside. My friends come from all different backgrounds, and we’re all different shapes and sizes, and when we shop, we all want to be able to do that together. It was archaic the way that you would get plus-size [clothes] up on the fifth floor of some department store.

GAYLE: Is it true that Good American will only go into retailers who agree to sell the full size range?

EMMA: One hundred percent. The first wholesaler that came to us said, “We’d really love to stock your brand, and we’ll take it from sizes 00 to a 10.” And I was like, “But that’s not the point. That’s not what we’re doing. ” I got told all the time, “We just do not have the customer, Emma.” And I’d be like, “Well, you do have the customer, she’s just buying handbags and shoes because you do not offer her anything.”

GAYLE: Laura, you came up with the idea for Bobbie while working on Airbnb. First, tell us where the name came from.

LAURA: My daughter actually named it. She would call her bottle a bobbie, and I never had the courage to correct her because it was so cute. I was at Airbnb, and I had my first kid while I was there. I was the director of hospitality. I was obsessed with my career. I mean, truly, the idea of ​​leaving technology never crossed my mind. But when you’re faced with a problem as hard as breastfeeding, you just can not shake it.

GAYLE: Why was breastfeeding a problem for you?

LAURA: Nothing about it was natural, at least for me. As an Irish Catholic woman, I probably went into it assuming, This is going to be easy — it’s going to be gorgeous just like the movies. And it was so far from that. I got an infection within two weeks, and I had to turn to an alternative. That alternative left me feeling guilty and embarrassed. It had ingredients I would never feed myself, and I just could not shake the feeling. I went back to work, and I was supplementing with formula and breastfeeding. I realized that to exclusively breastfeed this child, it was going to take me 35 hours a week. That was the birth of Bobbie. Being European, I was looking at the standards back in Europe, and people were proud of their milk, they were proud of their formula, so we have designed our formulation to be the first and only European-style formula that also meets FDA requirements— pasture-raised milk, no corn syrup, no palm oil. And no one wants to run to the store to buy their milk, so we [bring it] to your doorstep.

GAYLE: Kristin, you have spent much of your life as a choreographer. How did the idea for Forward _Space start percolating in your head?

CHRISTIAN: A similar through-line that I am noticing with all of us is our passion — seeing something that we felt intrinsically, with every part of our being, that we could make better. I know that dance and movement can be medicine for the individual, the community, and the world at large — in that order. We all have known that feeling of dancing — of feeling fully alive and dropping down into the body to feel that sense of freedom and liberation. People would ask me often, “Where can I just go and dance?” I started to create these experiences all over the world, and the demand got higher and higher. It was not just an external calling. It was an internal call to create this hybrid of a moving meditation, athletic conditioning, and dance.

GAYLE: Do you think anyone can show up to one of your classes and do it?

CHRISTIAN: I do — and we have a Virtual Hub for people as well. Yes, we have professional dancers, but we also have people who have never danced but have always wanted to. Dance is analogous to life in many ways.

GAYLE: How so?

CHRISTIAN: In being embodied — being in your body and being present and connected to what’s happening in real time. Like right now, I’m thinking of the three of you — right here, right now — and the rhythm and cadence of this conversation. I’m not trying to think ahead of what the next question is. I’m informed by what I just received. The dance floor is an opportunity to do that, too.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When it comes to partnering with someone to start a business, it’s all about finding the right alignment.

GAYLE: Emma, ​​your cofounders are the Kardashians and Kris Jenner. What makes a good business partner?

EMMA: I often think it’s about complementary skill sets. In the beginning, you do not want a business partner that comes to the table with what you have. It also really becomes about a trust level with one another. What Kris, Kim, and Khloé all have in common is, despite all the success they’ve had, they are the hardest-working people in the room. That is something that I have such immense respect for after so many years working together because I know that whatever happens, they’re going to come to the table, they’re going to work as hard as anybody else. There’s an enormous amount of respect I have for that.

“Black people make up 15 percent of the population of this country, and therefore retailers ought to redirect 15 percent of their buys to Black-owned businesses.” —EMMA GREDE

GAYLE: Laura, how do you work so well with your cofounder, Sarah Hardy? What happens if you disagree?

LAURA: Great question. I wish this question was asked when I was marrying my husband, by the way! We could have reset expectations then. Sarah and I have done a great job having very open conversations around expectations in roles and decision-making structures. By setting those expectations really early on, in what we really refer to as a partnership agreement, it allows us to constantly go back to that and revisit it. I do not know if we look at things as disagreements but more as really healthy debates.


Money Talk

With the shocking stat that female founders receive only 2 percent of all venture capital, find out how these three industry leaders approached raising money for their businesses.

GAYLE: I want to know what it took for each of you to raise the money you needed to make your business a success. Emma, ​​you go first.

EMMA: It’s such a complicated subject, and I’m so glad you started this conversation with those kind of unbelievable facts of how underfinanced women are for their ideas. Those numbers shrink even further when we start to talk about Black women and women of color. I was incredibly lucky because the 15 years leading up to me starting Good American, I had an agency. It was not my first time raising money. I’d actually exited two companies, so I had a track record where I’d made a number of individuals a lot of money. When you’re on your third start-up and you come back for some more — I did not have the same uphill struggle that I know so many other female founders have. I think the most important thing when you’re starting any business is that you really have to go inside yourself and make sure you’re doing something you love and you feel there is a need for, because starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It’s really difficult.

“A through-line that I am noticing with all of us is our passion. I know that dance and movement can be medicine for the individual, the community, and the world at large — in that order.” – KRISTIN SUDEIKIS

CHRISTIAN: What Emma said about it not being for the faint of heart — I have said that so many times. I really appreciate that sentiment being expressed and externalized right now. I have definitely shared that before — especially in terms of going out for the raise. You have to have the inner conviction. It’s that inner conviction, not that external validation, that keeps you going.

GAYLE: Laura, did people take you seriously at first? Or was it harder because you were a woman?

LAURA: I’ll tell you about the first round, which is always the hardest to bring in that capital. I was seven months pregnant with my second child. I pitched 68 investors in two months. Fifty-five of them were men. I used the words boobs and mastitis and talked about hormones and the mental state to a point where I realized that even my own pitch was not landing for the audience I was pitching. When it comes to funding women, you also need female investors on the other side of the table. They’re the ones who are going to see the problem I was talking about. Instead, one investor after another — I was realizing they do not see the problem. But I did it. I raised $ 2.5 million a week before I delivered my child, and it was the proudest money I ever raised, but it was hard. It was very hard.


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