Meghan Asha, wearing the Tory Burch Foundation’s Embrace Ambition T-shirt and Tory’s iris-print coat and Cameron pant, photographed by Melissa Nemec at the FounderMade offices in New York

Initially launched as a dinner series, FounderMade has morphed into a startup giant: a consumer trade show helping entrepreneurs build their businesses. As its founder, Meghan Asha gets an up-close, insider look at what makes a successful company tick. Here, she shares her tips.

#EmbraceAmbition means…
To me, ambition is a deep sense of knowing who you are and being fearless in what you go after.

The woman who inspires me to #EmbraceAmbition most…
My 90-year-old self. When things get hard, I think about what are the things that are going to matter on my deathbed. My 90-year-old self is much wiser; she’s worked really hard at becoming better every day and becoming a good person.

My top three tips to would-be entrepreneurs…
1. Don’t be intimidated. Everything that’s ever been created starts from an idea, so don’t be intimidated by getting started and starting small. I began with a dinner series next to a basement gym — and it turned into a real company. Also, don’t be intimidated to fundraise. I’ve been on both sides of the table and, on the investor side, when people say no to funding, it may not have anything to do with you. It’s like dating — you have to find the right fit.
2. Take everything that happens as a learning experience. I have this quote: “Winning and learning, never losing.” Fail forward. Part of being a good entrepreneur and building a business is learning by failing. Take every hiccup as learning, not losing.
3. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stay positive, and surround yourself with very, very positive people because being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like a solo journey, like you’re alone.

The inspiration behind FounderMade
A combination of things, really. First — my dad, who came from India with nothing more than a backpack and went on to start a technology company. Since I was two years old, I’ve watched him build his company, watched him struggle and work his butt off. He’s part of the reason I’m doing FounderMade — I deeply believe that entrepreneurs need support and connection, and we take the best businesses and highlight them.
The other thing was, after business school, I worked at a venture capital firm and as a consultant for startups but didn’t feel I was getting the meaning I wanted to out of work. I asked myself: When you’re 90, what will make you happy? So I started doing a dinner series — that’s how FounderMade began. I brought in entrepreneurs I knew from my previous jobs as well as investors and retailers. It started very organically — it was just a side thing that I liked doing and ended up turning into a business.

Most exciting part about owning your own business…
Getting to listen to our customers and the people whose businesses we want to help. Figuring out what their pain points are — that’s the fastest way to learn and rework the business to fit people’s needs. Build a product to spec. Helping to drive value and being creative about how we drive value.

And the most challenging part…
There are 100 opportunities and there will always be 100 opportunities. As an entrepreneur, you want to make sure you’re super-focused on your core, i.e. what you can do that no one else can. Ten years ago, the first time I was an entrepreneur — I had a digital media company — the biggest challenge was that I thought I should be everything to everyone. I thought I was supposed to be good at everything. But the best leaders know what their strengths are — they fill in gaps and are honest about what they’re not good at. Everyone needs help; no company is built by one person.

My pro tip when hiring…
We have this term we coined in our organization: WHO, which is Winners who Hustle and take Ownership. That’s how we hire.

What’s next for me…
We have our Consumer Discovery Show in June, at Spring Studios in New York. We have the top 100 brands in food, wellness and beauty, and a slew of really awesome founders speaking. We’re also launching a full media arm so… lots going on.

Follow FounderMade on Instagram.

We at Tory Daily are inspired by smart, passionate women who #EmbraceAmbition and find ways to make their communities stronger. For information on the Tory Burch Foundation, which empowers women entrepreneurs to #EmbraceAmbition, click here.

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