Last night, a group of influential men and women gathered for the 15th annual National Association of Women Business Owners Enterprising Women of Excellence Award dinner.
After a sparkling reception and sit-down dinner, serial entrepreneur and author Sandy Lerner took the stage. Lerner cofounded the networking equipment multinational corporation Cisco Systems in 1984. She then went on to found cosmetics company Urban Decay in 1995, then sell it toMoët-Hennessy-Louis Vuitton in 2000. She now runs Ayrshire Farm in Upperville — this farm includes the first humane-certified restaurant, the first humane-certified butcher shop and it's the first farm in Virginia to be both certified humane and certified organic. She’s also invested in restoring the manor house owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Chawton House, and making it into a center for the study of English women’s writing; and she has recently published Second Impressions, a sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Her talk focused on lessons she learned during her career that she wanted to share with women entrepreneurs. Here are a few I took to heart:
— "If they won’t pay you to do what you want to do, do what they’ll pay you to do, then do what you want to do.” This is the philosophy that led Lerner to start Cisco.
— “You are not the company. … You need to keep yourself separate, even if you own the company. There needs to be a part of you left at the end of the day. It’s important to not let it become you and for you not to become it.”
— “It is possible that all of the world is crazy, but it’s still not a good bet.” When you are thinking of starting a business, there are a few questions to ask yourself: “Is the product needed? Is there enough of a marketplace for your product to make it a business? And, if nobody’s done it, why not? It may be really stupid.” She said that while Cisco and Urban Decay may sound quite different, she asked herself these questions when starting both and found success.
— “Life is too short to watch other people have fun.”
After the speech, the awards were presented. Congratulations to the night’s winners:
Entrepreneur of the Year: Ryann Lofchie Wayne of The Frontier Project
Rising Star: Laura Condrey and Laurie Blakey of Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe
Community Leader: Jo Eloise White of Richmond Guardian Angels
Student Entrepreneur of the Year: Annie Ward Love of LoveLines Art