The 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit has been packed with advice to young entrepreneurs. From raising your first million to growing your company to a billion dollars (and beyond), the founders of ThirdLove, Reformation, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and more dished on it all.
Much of this advice came from the most influential women in business and media and was directed specifically to the next generation of powerful women. With that in mind, here’s a selection of some of the most inspiring and useful nuggets of wisdom:
Sophia Bush, actress, investor and cofounder of Detroit Blows, spoke on the importance of putting hard-earned money to work: “You can be paid a good salary and have a lot of money, but it isn’t until you own and have equity in things that you become rich.” And for founders of mission-driven companies, she had this advice: “Bake in your social impact from the beginning so your investors know what you’re about. Money has an energetic value, and we have to treat it as such.”
Bush’s business partner, Detroit native Nia Batts, moved to New York when she was 18 years old. She had a sign in her office that read, “Remember why you started.” Those words are still a guiding light today.
Roni Frank, the cofounder of mental health app Talkspace, told the Under 30 audience about the early days of her company, when she envisioned doing live group therapy sessions online. It didn’t take, so she pivoted to the text-message-based service that has now garnered $110 million in funding. “If you don’t have a good product, you have to admit it,” she said. “You have to make a change to grow your business.”
Actress and investor Olivia Munn talked about investing in ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies when it was a $1.5 billion private company early in its growth. “I like to go towards brands I feel are disruptive or are creating a new space,” she said. “The problem isn’t aiming high and missing, it’s aiming low and hitting. If you keep aiming low you will stay down there. But if you keep aiming high you will eventually get it.”
Artist Ashley Longshore had this to say about using criticism as a business fuel: “They told me I wasn’t marketable–that was the first great thing that happened.” (Another great thing that happened? Longshore recently sold $1.3 million worth of art in under two hours, thanks in part to her popularity on Instagram.)
Jeni Britton Bauer, the founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, spoke candidly about learning from a business’ worst moments: “So this is the weird thing about crisis, is that you don’t wish it on your worst enemy. It is the best thing in that can happen to you. Because it focuses you like nothing else.”
Reformation founder Yael Aflalo has built one of the hottest sustainable fashion brands on the market (the company is forecasting $150 million in revenue this year, and in July private equity firm Permira bought a majority stake). On stage in Detroit, Aflalo admitted to the “pressure to crowd around [and do] the same things” as other retail brands. “If one company is doing something, the strategy and marketing departments are like ‘Oh, we should do that too.’ Then all of a sudden everybody is doing the same stuff,” she said. But, she continued, “You need to fight the very real human urge to fit in and try to not fit in. … Forge your own path.”
Personal finance expert and bestselling author Nicole Lapin spoke on a panel about financial wellness, and told the entrepreneurs in the audience to save money for themselves before their business or taking care of anyone else: “It’s most important to put your mask on first. You know they don’t say it on the plane just to waste time, it’s totally true. You cannot be of service to anyone else if you’re crashing and burning.”
And because it’s only fitting to give the last word to the greatest of all time, here’s what Serena Williams told the packed theatre in Detroit’s Masonic Temple about her approach to business and life: “If I’m the boss, I’m going to give other people opportunities that normally wouldn’t have had opportunities. Because I know what it’s like,” Williams said. “Or the narrative is never going to change.”