Do you have a mentor? A person you can (a) go to for advice, and (b) trust their wisdom enough that you actually take it to heart and allow it to inspire your actions? I’ve been thinking a lot about female mentorships lately, and how important it is to support each other in our unique journeys as women — whether CEO’s, school teachers, mothers, or students, we all face similar challenges and can undoubtedly benefit from the experiences of someone who’s walked in our shoes before.
This month, we’re partnering with Marie Claire and Estee Lauder (a brand founded by one of the most trailblazing women in business history) on the #BeAnInspiration campaign that’s all about dreaming big and inspiring each other along the way. In honor of the collaboration, we interviewed three successful, smart, and incredibly talented women to find out how mentorships have played a major role in their success — whether as mentee, or as a mentor themselves. I loved learning more about the personal journeys of these women who I admire so much, from a gutsy CEO to a pioneering designer to a producer whose mission is to empower girls to change the world. While diverse in their careers, one quality that these women have in common is courage. Not one of them followed a prescribed formula that could guarantee success; instead they took risks, forged new paths, and just went for it with confidence and grace. Click through to learn how they did it.
featured image by belathee
When Ariane Goldman (pictured right), the founder of the HATCH Collection, got pregnant three years ago, she didn’t want to stop shopping. “I scoured the Internet to find clothes that would make me feel beautiful as my body was changing and that would help me celebrate being pregnant,” she says. Enter HATCH, the thoughtfully curated collection of wardrobe essentials that she created for women to wear before, during and after pregnancy. She started HATCH on her own without a business partner and quickly found out how many questions came up along the way as she longed for someone to share ideas with. “Building a business is challenging, and every day new questions and battles come up,” she says. “Having a mentor, someone who has more wisdom and experience than you and who has been there before is so valuable. Driving a business by yourself can be lonely.” She found just the person to fill this mentorship role and more when she met Serena Dugan (pictured left), the founder of Serena & Lily.
How has Serena’s mentorship helped you in your career?
I have always loved Serena & Lily and the world they build for children. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and when we met, it felt like we should have been sisters. She is eight years ahead of me in the creative industry and was quick to say I have been there and done this, let me help you. Having someone I can talk to and bounce things off of is so helpful and inspiring since I was navigating the puzzle alone before that.
What is your advice to people who are currently seeking a mentor?
Put on paper all the brands and people that you admire. Reach out! A lot of people are open and willing to work with other hard working start-up minds who are navigating on their own for the first time. Asking for help or advice is the most difficult part. It’s surprising how willing people are to be there for you. I am now 36 years old and as I go through each day, I do feel wiser, and if I can share that wisdom with someone younger, it is my pleasure.
What’s the best beauty tip you ever learned?
A great moisturizer is the best way to start the day. It makes you look and feel rejuvenated. Happiness is written on your face. I believe in nourishing from the inside first.
How do you stay in touch?
We talk monthly and send each other a lot of emails. Everything in my daughter’s room is Serena & Lily and when I did a pop up shop in NYC, they were my interiors partner, so I look forward to more collaborations.
What’s next for Hatch?
Hatch is an online site right now. We are going brick-and-mortar and will be opening stores in the next 12 months.
Minted, the wildly successful online community for designer stationery, art prints and party decor, isn’t serial entrepreneur Mariam Naficy’s first rodeo. At 28, she started and then sold Eve, the first online beauty retailer. As the head of Minted, she has mentored all of the women she has hired along the way, sharing the most important lesson she has for working women — take risks early in your career.
Who is your mentor?
Actually, most of my mentors are men because I was often in situations where I was working for a man. What I tell a lot of women is that it’s good to have both men and women for mentors. Women mentors can help you foresee and prepare for the person/work life dilemmas that will come up down the line. My first job was in banking, and I worked on the trading floor in 1991. I went from a progressive liberal arts college to being told that I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to work and needed to wear hose and a skirt every day. Times are quite different than they were even 25 years ago, but men still hold most of the power structure in the business world. So in order to get access to top flight information, it’s important to have those relationships. The world is changing and men today are so open minded and progressive and don’t care if you are a man or woman.
photography by elisabeth fall
Who are you currently mentoring?
I have tried to develop all the young women I have hired at Minted over the years, but one of the first people that comes to mind is our President Melissa Kim (left) who I hired out of business school seven years ago. I gave her the co-founder title because I really felt like she had been with me in the trenches the whole time. I also think of Annie Clark (right) who was a designer working in a stationery store. She won a Minted competition and I noticed what an amazing designer she was, so I hired her and she is now the associate creative director of the company.
What did you see in Melissa early on that made you want to hire her?
She was incredibly smart but also very humble. Melissa is always open to listening and learning. And, she always puts others before herself. Everyone loves and respects her and from early on, I could see her thinking about things from a CEO perspective.
Minted donates a portion of all art sales to Every Mother Counts. Why is it important to you to give back?
I have always been interested in women’s basic civil rights everywhere and know how important women are to the fabric of a country. I met Christy Turlington Burns (pictured) at a conference and learned more about Every Mother Counts and their mission when I saw her film, “No Woman, No Cry.” I knew I wanted to get involved in their advocacy and mobilization campaign that works to increase education and support for maternal mortality reduction. Talented female designers are the lifeblood of Minted’s community, and we are proud to support EMC as an organization that respects mothers as much as we do.
What’s your advice for how to find the right mentor and to cultivate that relationship?
Think about topics that are interesting to you and that you are passionate about, and find people equally interested in them. Find a point of connection. Look upwards to the people that have been out there longer. Find all the people you can learn from, and then go to coffee. Then, let the relationship develop naturally.
What’s the best beauty tip you ever received?
I still believe nothing gives your hair more volume than turning it upside down during a blow dry and a little bit of white eye pencil under your eye is the only thing that will make you look more awake.
What’s next for Minted?
We are introducing textiles and more home decor products will be unveiled soon!
Meredith Walker’s parents always told her the same thing — “Don’t get to middle age and regret that you didn’t try something.” So with her family’s words of wisdom echoing in her mind, she wrote a letter to Linda Ellerbee (celebrated journalist of NBC News and Nick News, among others). “To this day, I have no idea of what I really said in my letter, but she must have seen something in it because I was asked to come to New York for an interview,” she says. “The next thing I knew, I was working as an intern and learning everything I could from Linda.”
What do you admire about Linda Ellerbee and what have learned from her?
Linda is a person who writes with intelligence and is willing to do the hard work of finding the truth of a story instead of the fluff and gossip that so often passes now for journalism. Like me, she’s from Texas, we love the same queso and she’s the real deal. I admire her for all those things. And, I love her for giving me a chance.
She taught me to be honest and authentic. She has a highly refined sense of what is surface and bogus. She showed me how to tell a story using video as a specific storytelling skill. I know how to write because of the things she drew out of me. She taught me the skill of producing, which is the very definition of herding cats. Linda became my friend and has remained that for me until now. Life has not always been a day at the beach, and Linda has always been someone I could count on when life was fun and when it knocked me down.
Meredith worked her way up to a senior segment producer for Nick News and went on to be the head of the Talent Department at Saturday Night Live where she met her best friend, Amy Poehler. Together, they co-created “Amy’s Smart Girls at the Party,” a web series and online community all about empowering young women. But, it all began with Linda taking a chance on her.
photography by wynn myers
Why do you think finding a mentor is important?
Having a mentor is more than having a teacher as important as teaching is. A mentor takes you in and takes you on for the long haul. You learn from them by how they are and how they act and not just by what they tell you about a job or a skill or a subject. They take the personal responsibility of showing you the way. That is what Linda did for me. I’m not sure if I found her or if she found me. I’m just lucky that she read my letter.
What’s your advice for how to find a mentor?
Before you can find the right mentor, you need to pay really close attention to the things that grab your time and attention. You need to start figuring out what really interests you. I know this sounds simple, but then you watch for someone who does that thing well. Look for somebody who knows what they are doing; someone you could watch and learn from, take advice from. You need someone who will care enough about you to tell you when you are screwing up, but will keep with you so that you learn from failures as much as successes. And then you write them a letter. I’m not sure that works all the time, but it is a start.
Meredith pays it forward by mentoring girls like this student from St. Edward’s University.
What’s the best beauty tip you have ever received?
I wish somebody had convinced me a long time ago that one of the most important things anyone can do to look great and feel even better is sunscreen. Did somebody tell me not to just lie there and bake? They probably did, but I just didn’t listen. But, cut me some slack; I grew up on the Gulf Coast and we all believed that the sun was supposed to make us look “healthy.” Well, now we know better. So, take this advice even if I didn’t — use sunscreen and plenty of it. All the time.
What’s next for Smart Girls?
We are working on a Smart Girl Camp, all new videos for our web channel, and we are finding more and more ways to recruit and engage young ladies to be a part of our Smart Girl Army!