When I was asked to name a woman that I admire for the Alexandria Stylebook’s Instagram page, there are any number of women, but I chose Tory Burch. She was the first person that came to my mind because I’ve been obsessed with her ever since listening to this podcast where she reveals that she started her company with the end goal to create a foundation that empowers other female entrepreneurs. Only a servant leader does that. I always said that if I ever won the lottery, I would start a foundation. She didn’t win the lottery, instead she worked her ass off to get where she is and, she made it happen while living a mostly private life (compared to celebrity standards) and raising three children (primarily as a single mother). Her foundation’s theme is #embraceambition, and I’m 100 percent here for that.
This isn’t a Tory Burch fan club moment – though I am a fan – in reality, it is a moment to talk about ambition and why we as women shrink from it. Or rather, why I have shrunk from it but won’t anymore. My dad was an Air Force officer and a fighter pilot. He retired as a Lieutenant General, which for those of you not in the military means 3-stars. As a Lieutenant General at the Pentagon, you don’t have to wear your name on your uniform because there are so few of them that you should know them when you see them. (Their pictures hang in the Pentagon for reference, of course) I don’t tell just anyone that. Why? Because that would be bragging, and we don’t do that. Our family doesn’t talk about our accomplishments and we don’t take the credit. We keep our heads down, work hard, and assume people will notice it and reward us accordingly. It was something my mother taught us. So, I’ve gone my whole life working hard, not saying anything, and hoping people would notice. Well, they do if you’re a white man, but they don’t if you’re a woman, particularly a woman of color. Instead, they underestimate you.
After years of therapy, I have decided I don’t want to be underestimated anymore. Did you know that only 4.2 percent of all female-owned businesses have revenues of $1 million or more? In the Forbes Global 500 list of 2020, there were only 36 female CEOs, none of whom are Black and only three of whom are Women of Color. It’s 2021 and we have our first female Vice President. I’m grateful for all of that but it’s not good enough. We have to continue to press for change and that starts with each of us embracing our own power. Our own ambition! Now, let’s be clear, I’m not trying to shame you or suggesting any of you run out and build a global business or even start a small one. What I’m encouraging you to do is believe that you could if you wanted to. To embrace whatever your personal ambition is and not let anyone stop you. Don’t be ashamed of it. Be proud of your successes no matter the size, and share them with anyone who will listen. And to amplify each other so that the world can see ambitious women making the world a better place.
For me, I intend to go for what I want and not be embarrassed by wanting more. When I started Red Barn Mercantile, I did it to show my son and daughter that a woman could be a leader. That she could build something for herself. I’m proud of the fact that I’m in the 4.2 percent of women who have revenues of $1 million or more. I’m even prouder of the fact that when my son was writing his essay for his Eagle Merit Badge, he wrote that one day he wants to start his own business just like his mom. One boy has seen what women can do, and that feels like a shift in the universe.
This Women’s History Month, support women-owned businesses and join us for the Powered by Women event. After you fill out your passports, turn them in for your free tote bag full of goodies, pour yourself a cup of ambition, and raise your head high!
Red Barn Mercantile opened its doors in September 2007 with a single vision in mind: providing old and new to offer our customers signature whole-room designs at great prices.
We’re more than a furniture boutique and provide more personalized service than a big box retailer. We work hard to bring you the highest quality furniture and gifts, the most unique conversation starters, wall hangings and accent pieces, whether they come from off-the-beaten-track flea markets, or the latest designers.
1117 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314