EVENT REVIEW: STILETTO GAL / The LOS ANGELES BUSINESS JOURNAL
If footwear has been the silent binding theme of the “Power of W” series, then the bright coral rock-stud slingbacks worn by the event’s host, Stiletto Gal founder and Lipstick Sister Member since 2013, Hillary Gadsby should serve as an indicator of the edgiest, most outspoken speaker yet: Jenny Ta. With the shortest last name possible, a black dress over a slight frame and a full head of curls, one could mistake Miss Ta for a delicate fashionista. They would be mistaken.
A titan of business ranging from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, Ta has established herself amongst the upper echelon of male entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Choosing the words “kickass, empowerer, and go-getter” as her three identifiers, Ta has made it her mission to create a platform that encourages (and a fund that enables) the professional growth of other female entrepreneurs. After first introductions, Ta explains to those gathered at the Expert Dojo Santa Monica campus for the series’ third installment how “it pisses [her] off that women are continually being stuck at the door of venture capitalism and funding.” She has plans to change that.
Having started off her career at the age of twenty as an accounts clerk on Wall Street, Ta rapidly excelled beyond the limits of her entry-level position and the late-90’s estimations of what women could accomplish in the world of finance. Before her 28th birthday, she had successfully opened her own brokerage firm and sold it soon after for a hefty reward. This led to a series of other successful entrepreneurial ventures, including her most recent projects: Sqeeqee, a “social networthing” (a term she trademarked) platform that allows users to generate money while building various online followings under one login, and VC Network, an international venture capital firm.
“I have always been in industries that are predominantly male,” says Ta. “First Wall Street, then technology, now venture capitalism. I have learned first, not to take everything so personally (as a female). Secondly, as you journey toward that something that would serve as your equivalent to success – money, wealth, power, etc. – you are inevitably going to come across those that are going to tell you ‘No.’ You gain experience by knowing who will tell you the most truthful and honest ‘No.’ You must learn to differentiate constructive criticism from an empty ‘No,’ whose only aim when spoken is to selfishly hold you back from accomplishing what you are meant to. Brush all those empty ‘No’s’ by, but be prepared, as a woman, to experience more no’s than men do.”
a took a few unconventional stances in her speech, from allowing for the option of filing bankruptcy while building business, to the benefits of a professional woman utilizing a surrogate to carry her children. While these statements earned a mix response from the audience, Ta had a great deal of unique, winning insights to offer. “The most important point for a start-up is to ensure that their innovation is unique, and their ideas are global. Next would be finding a concrete way to turn that global idea into a reality. Third, would be funding.”
She plans to personally help alter the landscape of male-female business dynamics by increasing the number of funded female businesses at the highest level. “I’m coming for Silicon Valley,” she teases. When Gadsby asks Ta how she would define success, her response was communal: she will consider herself successful when she has helped elevate other independent women to join her at the level of venture capitalist. “With my investments, I will choose other female start-ups to create innovation. I would love to see the day when Forbes or Time Magazine writes an article about how the influx of female-founded startups funding other female counterparts is excluding male innovators from the game. Wouldn’t you love to read that article, for once?” To this, the room erupts with applause. I couldn’t help but notice the few men in suits peppering the audience, all wearing amused grins.
Ultimately, Ta emphasizes her genuine belief that women are equally capable of creating something out of nothing. “I grew up on welfare. I used food stamps and wore clothes from thrift stores. Just do what needs to be done – get that credit card, file for bankruptcy if need be – you never know if that $5,000 or $15,000 will turn your bank account into a million dollar balance. If you fail, you start over again. But, so long as you have a truly innovative, global idea and a compelling pitch, the funding will happen.”
When a member of the audience raises the question of personal sacrifice for professional gain, Ta admits to having made certain social sacrifices, including starting a family (so far). To her, the sacrifice was worth having made the headway she has professionally, but she is very clear that each woman needs to decide for herself what her boundaries are. “It is your life. In the end, only you can know what is right for you.”
When it comes time for Gadsby’s signature closing question: “What kind of a shoe are you, and why?” Ta identifies herself back to the rock-stud pumps Gadsby is wearing. “[A pair of Valentino’s] may be expensive, but I work hard, I earned them, and I feel powerful while I’m wearing them.” In the colorful Q & A that follows, Ta alludes to some exciting new shifts on the horizon for her and for American business trends, as a whole. We, for one, are excited to see what she has up her sleeve this time.
For more of Ta’s story, she encourages Twitter interaction via @JennyQTa9. Build your own “social networthing” profile on www.sqeeqee.com or join the conversation by hashtagging #Sqeeqee and #PowerOfW. And stay tuned for next month’s installment of “The Power of W” Speaker Series!