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09.28.13

Empowering One Billion Women

Former TV host and Dell entrepreneur-in-residence Ingrid Vanderveldt talks about her new quest to connect the world's women to mobile technology, and her advice for young businesswomen.

Ingrid Vanderveldt made her mark as a successful entrepreneur. Now, she is using her wealth to empower one billion women by 2020, a mission she describes as her life's calling. Superlatives are inadequate to describe Ingrid’s passion and commitment to the world's women. She is currently the first ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell, and is leveraging business, media and policy to connect women entrepreneurs to the corporations and mentorship they need to be successful. I had a few minutes with her at Mashable’s Social Good Summit, where we chatted about finding a great mentor, connecting with networks of strong women, and having the confidence to go for your dreams.

 

The Daily Beast: What advice do you have for anyone that wants to be an entrepreneur?

Ingrid Vanderveldt: Go out and find yourself a mentor, and don't be looking for just anybody. Envision where you want to go, find the mentor that has done what you want to do, and figure out a way that you can be of service and add value to that person. The great mentors likely are busy, and if you've done your homework with an understanding of "I know what is important to you, and here is what I can do for you to move your vision forward," then that's when you may be able to secure the mentor.

The second thing I would do is join a support network. I'm an older entrepreneur now, but we work through communities like the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network, which you can find in LinkedIn. We have an initiative called "Pay it Forward". For young girls, there is a network through the United Nations, called Girl Up.

To be an entrepreneur, to go out and blaze your own path, is a lot of fun, but at the same time, it will not be easy. There will be really tough times, but in those moments when you feel like you are by yourself and nobody cares if you are successful or not, and you are scared about your own future, just realize that some of the most successful people in the world have gone through that, too—it's part of earning your stripes and becoming a successful entrepreneur. No matter what stage you are at, you will be stepping over boundaries, and the challenges that you face each day are challenges that stop most people.

 

Reflecting back to your own work, and your goal to empower one billion women by 2020, why did you choose this mission? Can you tell us more about your current projects?

I would love to say that I chose this "mission," but it chose me. As the people that I work with know, I am a very spiritual person. I grew up thinking that I would become a missionary, and then as I got older I realized that I knew how to build companies. I focused my attention on creating wealth so that I could invest back into companies that help other young entrepreneurs become successful. Empowering one billion women by 2020 was a calling, and it's my life's purpose.

The idea is to provide women with the tools, technology and resources that they need around the world to see themselves as leaders, but also, as successful entrepreneurs. We do this by focusing on three areas: 1) business; 2) policy; and 3) media.

On the business side, the only company that I wanted to work with to create global leverage for women was Dell; it is the leader in terms of it's support of women around the world, and it continues to invest in us every single day through things like the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network and more.

 

What advice do you have for young women?

I think that confidence is the biggest thing that holds young women back and I totally understand it, because if you look historically at who has been building our companies and our world economically, in large part, factually, it's the guys who have done this. So, for girls and women to step out, many times for the first time in their families and in their communities, blazing trails that they never have before—that's scary for anyone. The way that you build up confidence is to get that mentor, a support network, and to realize that you are on a path that the most successful entrepreneurs have gone through before.

My advice for women comes from a saying that I heard a few years ago: "Realize your power." Oftentimes people—because they've never seen someone that looks, acts, sounds like we do, as women, doing what we do—think that what we do is unexpected, because they have not seen it before. You will have the opportunity to define how you want to be seen in the world, how you want to act in the world, and what you want to create—the opportunity to determine who you want to be.