Jane Wurwand, FITE: Women Be Fierce with Your Own Reality!

Video interview with Jane Wurwand, Founder FITE & Dermalogica

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Video interview with Jane Wurwand, Founder FITE. Jane is the Founder and Owner of Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute post graduate training centers. In January 2011, through her foundation and in partnership with Kiva.org, Jane launched a global initiative to empower women worldwide called FITE – Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. The first microlending Web site that solely focuses on women entrepreneurs, FITE will help a minimum of 25,000 women to start or grow a business in over 57 countries around the world. You can find FITE on Twitter @joinFITE

Transcript follows & video above.


  • Could you tell me how the idea of FITE came about & how it serves female entrepreneurs?

It’s pronounced ‘fight’ just like fighting for something! The word FITE actually stands for Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. It probably came about because first of all I am a female entrepreneur. I believe strongly in the fact that if women are not financially independent, they really don’t have their full empowerment. I believe it’s critically important. Also because in the professional skin care industry 98% of all skin therapists are women. Our industry puts more women into their own business than any other industry in the world!

Wow that’s brilliant!

I know it’s kind of a huge social & economic powerhouse for women. So we wanted to do a global initiative that would be very authentic to our DNA, if you want. So it would definitely be centered around women. It would be centered around entrepreneurship. Because we have experienced such a lot of success with Dermalogica & we’re in over 86 countries now, we wanted to do something that would help women in other industries, completely potentially unrelated to the skincare industry, also experience that degree of financial success. We wanted to focus on empowering 25,000 women into their own businesses through micro loans. In a nutshell, in a very brief few sentences, that’s what inspired FITE. We partnered with Kiva which is one of the largest micro lending companies in the world, also a non-profit as is FITE, to just put as many women into their own financial independence as we could!

Fantastic, so inspiring. I’ve been a great admirer of Kiva for many years & they’ve done amazing work as well.

  • I have been an avid Dermalogica fan for years & I noted last time I bought some eye cream that I got to contribute to FITE by entering the code online. That was thrilling to see that I didn’t have any extra costs but that looking after myself also contributed to the wellbeing of other women’s businesses. Could you explain how the model works?

Yes basically Dermalogica funded the intial funding for the loans to be granted through Kiva in our partnership with them, on the FITE website. We wanted to make it as simple as possible & also wanted to make it as engaging as possible for the end user, the consumer that uses Dermalogica. So I already said that 98% of skin therapists are women & 92% of all our clients are women. So it’s women that really drive Dermalogica for success. We ear marked 5 of our top selling products including Daily Microfoliant which is our number 1 selling product. We decided that we would sleeve them in a special cardboard sleeve over the carton. It has a perforated edge & when you open it there’s a code number & a story about a female entrepreneur. You the consumer go on to the Join FITE.org website. You enter the code number that is on the product that you’ve already purchased. The loan has been funded by Dermalogica already. All you’re asked to do by entering that code is bascially direct the loan. You are asked who you would like that portion of the loan that is attached to that product. Who would you like to receive it? You choose by area of the world, by country & by the type of industry. For me the coolest thing is that you are sent an email that tells you about your female entrepreneur whoever she might be, what her story is. You’ll watch her loan become fully funded. Then once it’s fully funded you will watch her grow her business.

It’s a brilliant idea, isn’t it?

We’re very excited about it because FITE has actually now become a platform that we’ve invited other companies to join us on, helping them figure out what makes sense for them to do it. How do they want to do it? We’ve done it by coding products. They might do it by deciding a certain percentage of sales in a given month or whatever it might be? We have an open platform on FITE & we have a number of other corporations & individuals who are also coming on board to FITE with us!

That’s great, so it’s spreading virally. That’s wonderful!

  • I have been in different businesses most of my adult life. The first time I encountered how difficult it can be for women to source funding was when my marriage finished about 28 years ago & I tried to get a credit card in Australia. I was considered a bad risk because I had been left with 3 small children & was working for myself. Needless to say I was turned down by the bank. Women certainly can be marginalized as regards funding & there is the other side of things that people have talked about in my interviews, that women don’t like to ask for money. I can identify with this, do you have any suggestions to antidote this issue for us?

I think it’s a common problem & it’s also a misperception because women actually are very good loan risks. We pay back loans. Kiva generally lend well over 83% of their microloans to women & they have a close to 99% repayment rate. So it’s a myth that women are bad credit risks. I think that we do ourselves quite often a disservice in the fact that we don’t establish our own credit history, our own credit record independently especially when we’re married. So my advice to my 2 daughters (I have 2 daughters who are 17 & 12) the advice that my mother gave to myself & my 3 sisters is own your own bank account in your own name & make sure that you are building up a relationship with your financial institution independent of your husband or your partner. So we, my own relationship I’ve been married for 20 years, & my husband & I each have our bank account. We have a joint bank account that we both contribute to & expenses are paid out of that. But own your own bank account, establish your own credit rating, open store credit accounts even if you don’t want to have a credit amount that you pay off. Even if you buy a couple of pairs of tights & you pay them off straight away you are establishing a credit history. Then when you go to apply for a loan or a small business loan for example, you already have a credit score in your own name & that’s critical.

Yes, yes, thank you very much.

  • Also many years ago in Melbourne I participated in a small business course for women. The trainer highlighted how wonderful women can be as business owners. We have all this experience raising families, balancing budgets & juggling so many balls in the air. You are obviously passionate about women being in business. Could you tell me why this is so dear to your heart?

I love the expression, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, that women can be quite wonderful in business. It’s kind of condenscending, as if ‘Wow, quite smart for a girl!’ My favorite question I’ll get asked sometimes when I do a panel for example, ‘Do I think that business does enough to accomodate women?’ which is my favorite thing, as if we are some kind of liability that needs to be accommodated? I think a critical issue for all women in business & it comes back to something that we spoke about a couple of minutes ago when you talked about women not liking to ask for money. I like to rephrase it as far as ‘money’ & call it ‘funding’ because I think funding immediately takes it onto a business platform.

Yes it takes away the emotion, that’s very good.

I think money if it feels hard for us, whether you’re a man or a woman, call it funding. Because you will quite often find that men call it funding rather than money.

That’s a really good point, thank you.

I think that as far as operating & owning a business, the benchmark for me about having women included, why is it excluded? It doesn’t make sense to exclude about 50% of your talent pool in any business, in any country or on any planet if you own a company. I’m a company employer of 1,600 people & I would say about 70% of the workforce at Dermalogica Corporate are women. But in any regard it doesn’t make sense to exclude 50% of the talent pool which is what women are on the planet. And to have women included at a conversation around the table as well as men, you have a much more balanced approach to business. It’s critically important. When I see a business table or a conference table with only men around the table, it’s not diverse & it’s not balanced. If I see it with just women around the table, it’s also not diverse or balanced. We need both voices.

Yes, exactly.

  • Obviously Dermalogica is an extremely successful international business. Do you have any stories about the early days & how you overcame challenges that might inspire other female entrepreneurs?

Oh my gosh, sure. Dermalogica is 25 years old this year in 2011. So certainly there were a lot of challenges, especially in the early days. I think for me as an entrepreneur & it’s probably different if one works for a corporation, but I think as an entrepreneur & as a woman the critical thing is to look at your industry & look at a business that you’re pretty savvy about the area that you’re going to start your business in. I was very savvy in professional skin care. It’s all I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine starting a business in an industry that I knew nothing about. Because sometimes people will say to me do I think it’s a good opportunity in hotels, in guest houses. I don’t know anything about it. So I say to them I’ve stayed in them but I don’t know anything about that industry. 1) Be savvy about your industry. 2) Be passionate & committed to what you are going to persue. Because in the early days, we didn’t draw any salaries out of Dermalogica for 3 years. I started Dermalogica with my then boyfriend, who is now my husband. He had a job as a sales rep. We lived on $1,000 a month in a 1 bedroom apartment. We put everything else from Dermalogica, from The International Dermal Institute which was our training business for 3 years & we lived very frugally. So be prepared to live frugally & if you can’t do that after month 5 you’re probably not going to see the best of your endeavor. Stay focused on what your game plan is. Don’t get distracted by the next new fun idea. Stay focused on what you’re meant to be doing & be determined to drive it home.

Very good, that’s really great advice.

  • I have had feedback that some of the issues that hold female entrepreneurs back from success is that some of us don’t have confidence in ourselves & don’t take enough risks & don’t shoot for a big enough vision. Do you have any feedback about what you have observed & any tips that would support us in changing some of these challenges?

Yes I think one of the biggest myths (& I think it’s changing now with younger women now coming into industry) but one of the greatest myths is that in order for a woman to be successful a woman had to behave more like a man. It’s a complete mistake because in order to be successful you have to be at your most, what I call ‘fierce with your own reality’. You have to be completely authentic to who you are! The minute we start thinking I can be successful if I’m more like this person, you’re already second best because you’re never going to be that person. Oscar Wilde had an expression ‘Be yourself, because everybody else is taken.’

Yes you’ve got to love the Irish.

Your authenticity as a woman is that you are a woman. Make no apologies for it. Take no prisoners for it. Don’t try & behave in a way that is more obviously going to make you successful. Be yourself! If you have a feeling, I call it operating on intuition. I make no apologies when I do that because it’s a very powerful tool for me. Men may have that same level of intuition yes but I don’t believe that they act on it. We act on it. So be authentic, be yourself, be who you are. And don’t think that you have to operate as someone else in order to be successful.

It’s simple but I totally agree with you. Thank you so much. Thank you again for your time today. I really, really do appreciate it. Fantastic points that you’ve raised. I really think that that could help a lot of us. Thank you so much again, Jane.

Thank you so much for the opportunity Pemo.

Written by
Pemo Theodore

Pemo Theodore is a Media Publisher and a great people connector. She was Founder Silicon Valley TV which served the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years! She has produced Silicon Valley Events for Investors & Startups for 10 years. Pemo loves to video interview venture capitalists & founders to engage the human behind the success stories.. She has been Executive Producer of FinTech Silicon Valley for 6 years, organizing twice monthly FinTech talks & panels in San Francisco & Palo Alto and audio podcasts. She believes in learning through a great discussion with experts in the domains. Pemo has a talent to bring the right people together and is an incredible networker. Pemo's events have been seen as supporting Venture Capitalists & Angels in sourcing great deal flow from startups who attend her events. Many founders have received funding through meeting investors at her events. Her favored medium is audio & visual media and she has built up a great body of work of videos of panels & interviews and podcasts in Silicon Valley startup ecosystem. She has lived & worked in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, London, Northern Ireland & Silicon Valley. Bio https://pemo.one

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Written by Pemo Theodore