The Business Proposals that Build a Billionaire: Tory Burch edition

Let’s add some adjectives to the name “Tory Burch.” She’s a fashion-designing, company-running, charitable foundation-owning, crisis-navigating, twice-divorced, 47-year-old mother of three. She also has a billion dollars in the net worth. And that’s just our first paragraph.

In fact, Tory went from working as a fashion copywriter with companies like Harper’s Bazaar and Ralph Lauren, to being a fashion star, over the course of eight years. That’s why Tory is this month’s billionaire in focus, as part of our “Business Proposals the Built a Billionaire” series. Burch launched her business in New York City’s Upper East Side apartment in 2004.

In less than a decade, Burch has seen rampant success, enlisting the help of another powerful woman early in her business’ infancy, and forming deals and strategic partnerships with retailers and other luxury goods providers to elevate herself to Forbes’ famous list of billionaires.

Here’s a closer look Tory Burch’s rise to billionaire status.

Key business proposal #1: Appearing on Oprah

Tory Burch business proposals that built a billionaireWhen Tory was invited to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005, she had been making her original products, stylish, quasi-Bohemian tunics, for about a year. In an April episode that year, Oprah gave her seal of approval to Burch’s fledgling luxury brand, calling the company “the next big thing in fashion.”

Oprah called it and it happened. Within eight years, Burch’s business would grow beyond the New York City flagship store that she started in 2004 to 49 standalone stores bearing her name across the country, and an online division (www.toryburch.com), as well as the shelves of top-tier retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, alongside more than 400 others; in other words, Tory Burch is everywhere in the United States. The brand is also venturing into places like Japan, where it opened its first store in 2009, at the height of the global economic downturn.

While she was still riding the wave of success following her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Tory created her next most notable product: the Reva line of ballet flats – bearing a $200 price tag. Who hasn’t seen these on the feet of fashionable ladies en masse? The popular and stylish footwear is, like everything else bearing the name “Tory Burch,” everywhere.

Key business proposal #2: Getting divorced

You might think of marriage as a sort of partnership agreement, a business proposal in its own right. Married couples are financially intertwined to a degree that few other relationships ever achieve. Anytime a marriage ends in divorce, there’s a lot of money at stake. But for Tory and Chris Burch, who divorced in 2006, there was a whole lot of money at stake. Tory came out ahead.

After a protracted legal battle, Chris Burch sold all but 15-percent of his stake in the company, making Tory the defacto controlling stakeholder, and solidifying her net worth as being past the billion-dollar mark.

You might say that divorce was the best thing that ever happened to Tory.

Key business proposal #3: A minor stake sold

In 2009, Tory sold a minority stake to a third party, for the first time. A partnership agreement was struck with Mexico City-based Tresalia Capital. With an eye toward global expansion, Burch announced that the decision to sell a portion of her business to Tresalia was based on common entrepreneurial values.

The deal with Tresalia Capital of course happened during the economic crisis, making it one of the few major fashion industry “pluses” to happen for the year.

Key business proposal #4: The Fitbit connection

Most recently, Tory Burch has announced a partnership agreement with Fitbit, a company that makes a variety of wearable devices aimed at the health and wellness niche, and successful in its own right. Through this partnership, Tory Burch fashions will reach a new mass market, on items like the popular Fitbit Flex fitness tracker. Though the standard Fitbit Flex has been a runaway success already, don’t expect Tory Burch’s Midas touch to come cheaply to the existing design; Burch products are priced in the realm of “luxury splurges.”

Key business proposal #5: The Tory Burch Foundation

Proving once more that she has a knack for wreathing a crisis (even a global financial one,) Tory founded the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009. Tory tapped Accion, a non-profit micro-lender to manage the Tory Burch Foundation Fund, which offers capital to low- and medium-income people, with a focus on aiding minorities and women to be able to get started in business, smartly.

In addition to partnering with Accion, the Tory Burch Foundation led to a number of residual partnership agreements, including LaGuardia College, Babson College, and Goldman Sachs. Anytime you see someone playing in the billionaires club, you can expect to see philanthropy to be one place they invest their efforts (and monies); Tory got into the philanthropic spirit particularly early in the life of her company – good on her.

What can you expect from Tory Burch in the future?

Tory Burch is the kind of business person we all strive to become. She’s quite a dynamo. With an apparent finger-on-the-pulse of her target audience, Tory even crossed over into television acting when she appeared on an episode of Gossip Girl in 2009. That year was shockingly good, especially in light of just how bad it really was for many other businesses. Tory attributes her succeeding while so many other businesses were faltering to her ability to operate a lean, hands-on business with little debt, as she told The Wall Street Journal in 2009.

In any case, with her messy divorce clearly behind her, a billion-dollar net worth, and a company valued at an estimated $3 billion, it appears to be all onward and upward for Tory Burch. As you can see, her story proves that every business proposal counts, large and small. From the seemingly too-good-to-be-true Oprah endorsement, to partnering with luxe retailers, Tory has seized every opportunity that has been thrust in front of her.

And that’s the best way to get ahead in business.

Are you making the most of every business proposal opportunity that presents itself to you? Are you laying the right foundation for success in business? Who are the billionaires that inspire you to make your business grow? Please let us know in the comment space below.

Photo: ToryBurch.com

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About

Todd Spear is a freelance blogger and journalist. He's helped media outlets and brands alike connect with their audiences. He's a regular contributor to Anthill Online, the Quote Roller Blog, and Naluda Magazine, among many other sites. You can connect with Todd via his website www.toddspear.net

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