Here at GTHQ we are ALL about female entrepreneurs and promoting role models that aren’t necessarily given the same kind of headline treatment you see in all other mainstream media. One of the philosophies we live by is the mantra that women are better when we collaborate not compete, which is certainly not the message we get when we see certain types of reality shows or look at the way women are portrayed in entertainment. It’s as if society gets hard at the the thought of Nicki Minaj throwing shade to Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.
Despite the fact that there is speculation that incident was a well-orchestrated publicity stunt, it still gets more attention than celebrities working together and promoting empowering messages for women. Why is that? And how do we break this awful trend? One of the powerful ways we are seeing the female feud trend being chipped away bit by bit is when everyday women turn to each other, support one another where we are at, and choose to lift each other up instead of looking to the way the media teaches girls and women to act.
This is why mentorship and networking is such a counter-culture force that we highly encourage all women to tap into. It can be hard to find role models and girlbosses amongst all the noise and celebrities that dominate pop culture. But that’s why we exist: to introduce you to women and organizations that are breaking the mold and setting a generation of women on a path to succeed together, not in spite of each other.
One woman who has dedicated her life and career to this is New York-based entrepreneur Billee Howard, whose new book ‘We-Commerce’ launched today. In celebration of this, we had the chance to ask Billee a few questions and delve into the mind of a woman who has been described as a visionary, innovator, trailblazer, trend-forecaster, and business expert. ‘We-Commerce’ is more than just a book, it is the latest creative installment in her movement which harnesses the power of community, turns traditional notions of doing successful business into an art form and in the process revolutionizes the way an entrepreneur approaches innovation.
A little bit about Billee’s background, aside from being the author of ‘We-Commerce’, she is also the founder and chief engagement officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting-edge consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative, and passionate dialogues with target communities, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success.
She began her career at age 22 as press secretary for the president of the Philippines, and for many years worked at the world’s largest PR firm, Weber Shandwick. Billee has dedicated her life to studying the rising intersection of culture and commerce, and identifying the trends that are defining our future.
Dropping truth bombs like “stay small but include all”, “profit with purpose” and “embrace disruption”, we were excited to talk to Billee about how we can all harness the power of ‘We-Commerce’.
Tell us about your background and how you became an entrepreneur?
I started my PR career in 1994 serving as the U.S. Press Secretary for the Government of the Philippines fresh out of college.. My job was to showcase the democracy that had just arrived in the country in the top tier business press and position the Philippines as an excellent home for overseas U.S investment dollars. I got my first taste for global business there and then went on to create the Global Strategic Media Group at Weber Shandwick, specializing in developing corporate narratives for the world’s leading companies and executives.
When the landscape began to dramatically change due to technology and its democratizing power, I realized that there was never a greater opportunity to innovate in the realm of communications given that brands could and should now become the studios and content generators of tomorrow. Consequently, I started my own firm focused on branded content and digital storytelling. I also decided to write a book about modern day entrepreneurship and the critical role stories play both in communications and business today overall.
You are the founder of Brandthropologie, tell us what that is and what you do?
Brandthropologie Media is an artist collective focused on creating innovations in the communications realm that sit at the epicenter of the collision of art + commerce. The company has a consultancy that I lead which focuses on advising C-suite executives on how to transform the communication function into a profit generating innovative entity, a production studio which focuses on creating branded content that straddles the worlds of business and entertainment, a culture hub dedicated to curating the ideas and trends driving our world forward, and a content engine that produces ongoing content for the WE-commerce brand.
You also created a female entrepreneur group called ELEVEN, which is growing around the country, can you talk us through the mission behind it and the type of women who are members?
Eleven is built upon the idea that being a maverick and leaning out to find success is preferable to leaning in to a circle that has traditionally excluded us. Who wants to fit into that circle anyway? At Eleven, we are creating our own circle to stand out and find our own definition of success together. Our mantra is “United we rise, united we stand”. Our membership spans all industries and includes women from both the private and public sectors.
Your new book is called ‘We Commerce’. What is the mission behind this idea and what can readers expect?
WE-Commerce is about the idea of identifying and highlighting the one critical thing driving us all forward today- – profiting for the we instead of the me. Our world hit a massive reset button after the 2008 global financial meltdown, and in the aftermath, a whole new world has flourished with levels of transformative innovation that we haven’t seen since the industrial Revolution. My book offers business people everywhere the insight and advice that they need to navigate this entirely new business terrain and realize a new definition of success for the many, not just for the few.
Also, I see the current economy as a realization of Andy Warhols initial vision of business artistry. So my book introduces the idea of a new age dominated by“artists of business” who are driving disruption and innovation today and into the future.
What or who inspired you to become an entrepreneur and businesswoman?
I was always an athlete and loved nothing more than being the captain of a team and finding the best strategies and collaborative efforts that would define victory. I think perhaps my greatest defining moment when I knew I wanted to lead was when I was 19 and became General of Color War at the sleep away camp I attended from the time I was 11-19. Being given half of an entire camp to lead for a week in ways that generated excitement, rallied the collective spirit, operated effectively across multiple fronts and ultimately attained victory was something that changed my life and ignited passion for business.
I was also fortunate enough to have a few very impressive female role models along the way, ranging from my first boss who helped bring democracy to the Philippines, to my second boss who was one of the first female stockbrokers at Smith Barney, to representing pioneering businesswomen such as Muriel Siebert and Faith Popcorn. Having those inspirations early on and throughout my career made my determination steadfast and buoyed my confidence in attaining my dreams.
In your opinion, why is mentorship and finding role models important?
To me, the Madeline Albright quote “there is a place in hell for women who don’t help other women” rings very true. As I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by great female role models who imparted greatness and wisdom upon me, I have always made it my mission to pay it forward and do the same for other women wherever and whenever I can.
Too often today, women are more competitive than they are helpful to one another and for that reason, mentorship is so important, particularly at a time in history when females have never been more empowered or lucky enough to have nothing but blue sky opportunity ahead of them.
We love talking to women who are at the top of their game and are using their platform to inspire other females. Why is this important to you?
Mentorship teaches women not only what it takes to be successful, but also in its purest form, teaches women how to be a best in class version of success. That is what is most important to me. Making the generations after us stronger, bolder, brighter, faster, better and redefining what we mean by success. For too long, men have set that bar. Now it’s our turn.
If you had one piece of advice for young women out in the world who want to follow in your footsteps, or who have big dreams but don’t know where to start, what would you say?
I think what’s most important is understanding that opportunities don’t just come to you. The ones who succeed and lead are not the lucky ones. They are the ones that had the courage to imagine what it is they want and go out and get it.
My advice is: write your own story. Then go live it. But do not forget that success is earned through hard work, over time and from paying your dues. Somehow the notion of paying dues has been lost along the way and I think that is important not because I believe in hierarchy, but rather because I believe that the core fundamentals of business must be learned from the bottom up for any type of success, and that comes as much from being at the top as it does from being willing to start and learn at the very bottom.
Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?
Power to me is knowledge. If you know your field or subject matter inside and out, become a master of your craft, and persevere relentlessly, then power is yours for the taking.