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Fashion designer Tory Burch highlights event celebrating Boston’s entrepreneurial spirit

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 2, 2012 09:32 AM

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Tory Burch speaks.jpgBy Elizabeth Bailey

In honor of Startup America’s one-year anniversary, Startup Massachusetts and Northeastern’s alumni association hosted an event on Tuesday afternoon to promote Boston’s booming entrepreneurship scene. An organization and “a movement by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs” that aims to provide resources and connections to young companies and support regional startup ecosystems, according to their website, Startup America has been rapidly expanding since its founding, said Cory Bolotsky, director of Startup Massachusetts and a Northeastern sophomore.

The event featured several speakers who talked about their experiences working with or running a startup -- including Northeastern President Joseph Aoun and Sen. Karen Spilka, who spoke of innovation within Boston, and at Northeastern specifically -- but the main attraction was a fireside chat with international celebrity designer Tory Burch.

Community-oriented and experienced entrepreneurs, like Burch or many of Boston’s own business community, should be a resource “to listen, to nurture, and to help young entrepreneurs,” said Spilka.

While startup communities can sometimes seem like boys’ clubs, Burch emphasized the important role women play in innovation. “I think women are on to it, and women are banding together,” she said. To help that process along, Burch has started an initiative to pair 100 entrepreneurs with 10 CEOs, pushing mentorship to the next level. “It’s like speed-dating,” she said.

And the makeup of the event’s crowd supported Burch’s statement. Lexi Ross, a Harvard junior, said she was pleased to see so many female entrepreneurs at the conference and that she “thought it was a really interesting event.”

Many startups receive extensive support from their communities to help them survive during their early stages, so it’s only natural they want to give back when they can. To that end, Burch began the Tory Burch Foundation, which provides economic opportunities to women and has offered mentoring to hundreds of business owners. When an audience member asked Burch what she was most proud of, she chuckled and said that, besides her children, she’s most proud of the fact that the Tory Burch Foundation has “created [the company’s] culture.”

entrepreneurship panel Startup America Northeastern.JPGThe event also included an entrepreneurship panel with BzzAgent founder and CEO Dave Balter; MassChallenge founder and CEO John Harthorne; Karen-Michelle Mirko, America Express OPEN’s director of customer advocacy; and Dr. Eric Elenko, a partner at PureTech Ventures to discuss teamwork and hiring.

Contrary to the saying, less is not more in startup culture, according to the panelists. The key to a startup’s success, Balter said, is “over-communicating and being considerate of your teammates.”

About Elizabeth -- I'm just your typical southerner studying in (and constantly starstruck by) the North! As a third year at Northeastern University, I spend my time working to better the community with my sorority and getting to know the Boston startup scene. I can't get enough of innovation, and I have the worst sense of direction you will ever encounter. Follow me on Twitter @EABailes.

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