Female Founders: Bianca de la Garza On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Know your why — It is absolutely essential you fully know why you are doing what you are doing. Be it writing a book, launching a brand, shooting a documentary and so on. When things get hard you will need to come back to why you began down this road and what is driving you. Without that clarity it’s easy to get off track and discouraged.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bianca de la Garza.
Bianca is an EMMY nominated, award-winning journalist and the first woman in late night television. A mom and proud Latina, de la Garza’s magazine column and podcast ‘Walking in Heels’ serves up real world advice for females. She is also a wellness and fitness coach. You can read her latest work on biancadelagarza.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you for having me here. I’ve had a few paths over the years, First off I’ve always been a curious person so it makes sense that I move across industries and try new things as my interests are varied. The curiosity that fuels me originally led me to journalism. The idea of meeting different people and telling their stories really excited me. My mom worked for an airline, flying to places was her job. As a result, I’ve always felt the world was a small place. Just hop a plane and you could be in a new country, immersed in a new culture. My dad came to the states as a young boy from Mexico and before that, my ancestors were in Spain. I believe embracing different cultures is in my DNA. I consider myself a storyteller and for more than twenty five years it was a privilege to cover some of the biggest world events and present them on-air for stations across the U.S. At those front lines of major news events I was able to give voices to people who were experiencing them first-hand. Quickly deciphering information then turning it around in a clear and concise manner for a 24 hour news cycle was my life for a very long time. After choosing to widen my producing expertise I launched a late night talk show that aired in twenty million U.S. homes and even beat Saturday Night Live on occasion. I founded a beauty line whose ethos was on inner beauty. That was counterculture to the traditional marketing but it was important to me as a mom and woman. My vegan skincare products were a way to spark a discussion on what I felt was an unhealthy narrative for women today. Many women constantly feeling pressure to live up to society’s unattainable beauty standards. As a mom I feel strongly that young girls are nurtured and supported to love who they are and celebrate their expressions of their unique selves.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Until you start your own venture you don’t truly know how far you can go in life or the endless possibilities that exist. The most interesting story for me is always being in a constant growing stage. When you start operating in different industries and exit a well-defined corporate position you begin to gain knowledge about the world and yourself that you would have never gotten just staying in a 9 to 5 role. It fundamentally changes your outlook and that is, I believe, the most rewarding part of being your own boss. It is a roller coaster ride that forces you to grow in many ways which is both scary and exhilarating.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t think I found it funny at the time but when I look back and recall moving from a role of journalist to overnight wearing every hat of a nationally syndicated tv production — I was in effect the studio head for my company. Overseeing everything from advertising to to publicity to content, to day to day management of staff. At the time raising a young daughter and the sole caregiver for my elderly mom left zero hours to do anything but sleep then work. The lesson I learned was to cultivate a trusted team around you that has your back. This can be a friend or a relative not necessarily employees or staff. We all need a life line when things get too much. I didn’t have that and, in retrospect, it’s funny to think I never planned for that- as if I was a robot. I smart enough now to know i’m only human doing my very best. I welcome help when it’s offered.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You are right we all need help and I have always made sure to offer advice or assist when asked by someone who is just starting out. I’ll never forget my first boss Don Decker who hired me right out of college to report for him in Albany, New York. I graduated Emerson College and days later was on-air working for him. Don took a chance on me, giving me my first big break in my tv career. He was a television pioneer and had put the first woman sport’s reporter in a men’s locker room, created medical reporting by putting doctors on as news contributors and just ahead of his time. I am forever grateful I got to know him and work for him.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Firstly we can not underestimate the effect the pandemic and global shutdown has and is having. When you see successful companies closing or filing for bankruptcy it gives people pause about launching their venture now. Beyond economic uncertainly, I think there are always more road blocks for women in general to follow the path of an entrepreneur. Many women are taking care of their children and sometimes parents onto of working a day job. This lack of time and funds often holds them back. It’s widely known VC funding to women has traditionally scarce. So, couple all these factors together and its clear why there is less of an impetus for females to become founders. However I believe now, more than ever, our world is seeking females to step into leadership roles. Around the globe we are witnessing a pivotal moment where women are being propelled to positions of more influence. We must seize this opportunity and time to push forward a females so we can pave the way not just for our benefit but future generations of women also.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
Women definitely need to be helping each other out now. We can’t wait for the government or society to enact change. So if you have had some success pay it forward. Create a way to help assist other women to get where they are going. Hiring qualified females or creating internships are meaningful steps that business owners can make. It’s vital woman get involved in groups or organizations where they can tap into knowledge that will put them at the forefront of where changes and opportunities are being created. This can be done by researching professional groups that are making headway in your field or even an opposite field that complements yours. As a classically trained journalist I am always of the belief knowledge is power.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women by nature are nurturing. That trait means we are able to create cultures in a workplace that foster real collaboration and allow employees to feel free and safe to try new things. Also, female founders know they are already a minority so we will work even harder to succeed. The relentless quest to win can be our secret sauce ladies. Often we don’t want to let our children or families down so we will do what it takes to get to the finish line. I think our propensity to persevere is winning trait that will not only get women into the C-Suite but keep us there.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The myth that if you have an idea you have a product. An idea needs a lot more than funding and a press release to become something tangible and generate revenue. There are so many factors in business that come up that can stop the progress, some expected and some unexpected. There is always that unknown you face when bringing something to market so the founder can believe in their mission and thru no fault their own fail. It’s really critical to understand that and not let it deter you.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
You have to be ok with some level of risk, be able to tolerate uncertainty and prepared to fail. Sounds strange as you want to succeed but you must realize that with an startup it can be a long road where what looks like overnight success is a 20 year effort. I would never deter someone from going after their passion but I would caution you should understand what it will mean if you go down the path. Traits I have found to be common in the founder world are people who look for solutions in every turn. A willingness to work 24–7 is key because everything falls on you. You must have the energy to get up everyday and push forward to make things happen. A “regular job” could suit someone who wants structure and stability. I don’t think theres is anything wrong with that choice either. We all get to be the architect of our life so knowing what you want and doing what makes you happy is nothing to be ashamed of.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Know your why
It is absolutely essential you fully know why you are doing what you are doing. Be it writing a book, launching a brand, shooting a documentary and so on. When things get hard you will need to come back to why you began down this road and what is driving you. Without that clarity it’s easy to get off track and discouraged.
There is a high probability to succeed you will be calling a lot of people, knocking on a lot of doors, pitching a lot of investors, finding solutions to complex problems and relying on your intuition on how to proceed. Tenacity will keep you going even when adversity strikes. I liken this to ‘not taking no’ for an answer. When I was a reporter I was told by a boss don’t come back without the story. I kept on until I got what I needed to tell all sides and the same applies in business. The work is constant for those at the top and those building to get there. Don’t forget when you get to the top you’re also working to stay there.
3) The right female network
My dear friend and Author J. Kelly Hoey who is a networking expert shared this wisdom with me. Her research finds successful woman have a core group of females who are like-minded but not necessarily in their same industry to rely on. This means having people from different circles and on even opposite paths be a call away when you get stuck. You want to avoid getting advice from the same people who are asking you for advice. There needs to be some fresh information flow to allow new ideas to flourish. I’ve taken her advice and it works.
4) Prioritizing health
You can not neglect your health and be a good leader. You have to rest so you can recharge and be ready to handle the company you are building. This means prioritizing diet, exercise and keeping your yearly check up’s. Running yourself into the ground will doom your dream. Better to keep up a pace that allows you to perform at your optimum. Know your body and listen to it. This is a non-negotiable and anyone at the top of their game knows it. For my health I never skimp on sleep and am vigilant on eating well and taking supplements. It’s not about looking good it about feeling good and that will take care of the rest. Yes some days we all fake it till we make it with less sleep than we wanted or a hectic call before our big presentation but overall you need to be making daily choices that lead to long-term health. I talk a lot about this on my website , social channels to share what I do.
Not everyone will be your fan or champion. You can’t take anything personal. Success can actually breed contempt. I hate that ugly truth as I’ve always been an optimist and look for the good in people. The reality is there is something about putting yourself out there that also puts a target on your back. The titans in industry forge on and don’t allow the detractors to effect their goals. They have a thick skin, tenacity, good close circle, feel healthy and balanced and know their why.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
During my decades in journalism I’ve tried to give a voice to those who haven’t had one. From putting the spotlight on a subject that enacts change or highlighting abuse or corruption that puts it to an end.
I think those who have a platform where they can reach many should be compelled to use it for the greater good. This could mean starting a conversation about a topic that is close to your heart or including new voices to include in meaningful dialogue.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’ve thought a lot about what influence means in a culture where influence is revered and monetized. I think, if I could start a movement, it would be about looking inward rather than outward. I’m more enriched when I’m connecting with one person to change the way that they feel about themselves as women, parents or entrepreneurs. I think that’s what our culture is craving.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to highlight someone perhaps you don’t know and I don’t either but, I’d like to meet her. The founder of ‘No More Tears’ charity Somy Aly is working to stop human trafficking. Since starting No More Tears in 2007 they have provided resources for housing, legal counsel, therapy and medical support more than 30,000 women, children and men. It’s a 100% volunteer-run organization and no one, not even Somy, takes a salary. I have just recently learned of her tremendous work and would love your readers to know of her.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.