WPO Member of the Moment: Justine Schafer

Justine Schafer
Creative Director, Cape Cobra

Industry: Handbags and Accessories
WPO Cape Town I Chapter
WPO Member Since: 201745

How has being a WPO member helped your business?
As a young woman in business, I always struggled to connect with friends my age, as our missions were just so different. When I joined the WPO Cape Town I Chapter, I was the youngest person and I was a little worried that I would be out of place. On the contrary, I finally met a group of women who shared my concerns, values, and passion for work and had the same drive and energy to juggle the daily thrills that one’s business brings. Sharing advice and learning from the experiences of my WPO peers has been an incredible help in guiding me through challenges. It’s like having 15 business coaches in one room – and each comes with their own real experience – not just “textbook” advice.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
Even though I work in the fashion industry, a lot of my time is spent in the tanning and farming industry, as we do a lot of research into the sourcing and sustainability of our raw materials. This part of the industry is very chauvinistic and male-dominated – as a woman, one can often feel shut down and ignored.

As the years have passed, I have noticed the need for increased synergy and cohesion across the entire value chain of our industry becoming a main priority.

What inspired you to become a leader in business?
My grandparents started our family business in 1972 in their living room in Cape Town, and we have since grown to over 65 people. After studying fashion design in Cape Town and at Parsons in New York, I joined the team 11 years ago. I have loved learning the intricacies of the business, the handcraft, and the beauty of our leathers – and most of all I have loved working with my team, who are more like family.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?
In general, I would say that I thoroughly enjoy every one of our sessions, as they always inspire me, motivate me, and give me a feeling of belonging. My first ever WPO group experience was the WPO 20th Annual Conference in 2017, and all I can say is “WOW!!!!” I loved how friendly, supportive, encouraging, and approachable everyone was. I was accepted into the “sisterhood” immediately. The energy and positivity were absolutely mind-blowing.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Be confident.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Follow your intuition. Stay true to yourself, and always work with integrity.

How has your business pivoted or changed during COVID-19? Have you started any new initiatives?
Unfortunately, handbags became somewhat “non-essential” during COVID; we started producing non-medical facemasks and are currently expanding our range to home accessories (picture frames, jewelry boxes, desk pads, etc.), as well as developing a leather range of bags at a more competitive price point. We have ventured more into corporate gifting, gifting for donations, and small leather accessories.

Our core business remains handbags – however, we have pivoted and re-invented certain categories to bridge the gap until we can figure out our “new normal.” We are blessed in that we own our own factory, and thus we can easily expand our product range and categories.

We have also launched an initiative whereby we donate a portion of all our sales to a chapter peer’s non-profit organization, ChangeMakersHub. This has been an incredible incentive for our clients to give back to the underprivileged communities of South Africa.

Connect with Justine:
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Racial Injustice Educational Resources

Racial Injustice Educational Resources (3)As the world reckons with racial injustice, the WPO encourages members as business leaders to focus on how entrepreneurs can acknowledge the toxicity of racism – recognize and address it within ourselves, in colleagues and employees, friends and family. Please take the time to consult the resources below, to talk, read, learn, listen, support, and share.



Address Racism in Business:

Read, Listen, and Watch:


Tune In:

If you have additional resources for this list, please contact WPO Communications Assistant Deena Cohen at dcohen@womenpresidentsorg.com.

WPO Member of the Moment: Jennifer D. Collins, CMP

Jennifer D. Collins, CMP
President & CEO, JDC Events
Industry: Events & Hospitality
WPO Greater Baltimore Chapter
WPO Member Since: 2012
Women Presidents’ Educational Organization Board Memberw2w_member of the moment_wbe features (10)

How has being a WPO member helped your business?
The WPO has expanded my network of successful, inspirational and talented women in every industry. When I need resources to assist with our events or in running the business, I tap my WPO sisters. I have also been fortunate to serve as a resource to the organization and other WPO members. It’s definitely a trusted and valued network.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
There have been times over the years, inside and outside of the business, that I have been on the receiving end of behavior that I know would not have been done to a man. It said more about them than me, but I was thankful to recognize this so that those doors could be closed.

What inspired you to start your business?
I started my business planning family reunions. What I most enjoyed was the end – not because it was over – but seeing the overwhelming expressions of connectedness, enjoyment and bonding that occurred. I simply loved creating those memorable moments that touched hearts. That led me to continue creating events that spark change in people’s lives with a shift in focus to the business sector.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?
I absolutely love the WPO Annual Conference. It’s oxygen for me and one of my favorite events of the year. It’s a time to recharge, connect and drink in the inspiration of powerful, tough, resilient and fearless women. Being around so many stories of success, loss, triumph and overcoming gives me everything I need to keep going another day.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Many years ago, when I was overly focused on company revenues, one of my business advisors said to me that “top line is vanity and bottom line is sanity.” What he meant is that there are many companies who might say they have what’s considered to be “impressive” revenues. But when you look ‘under the hood,’ you’ll often find they aren’t profitable. So that’s why I now focus on profitability rather than revenues.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with people who can help make you better. Those who demonstrate they are “all in” and invested in helping you carry out your vision are invaluable. Even if you have to spend a little more to bring these individuals into your company, it’ll be well worth the investment.

Connect with Jennifer:
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3 must-have traits for courageous leadership in a post-pandemic workplace

By Merilee A. Kern, Fast Company

A wide-ranging cohort of CEOs and executives weigh in on what courageous leadership really means.

While some contest, or outright refute, whether or not former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts,” it has power and is rather prophetic amid the wildly unforeseen fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It speaks to prosperity not being taken for granted and the notion that failure in and of itself isn’t a death knell. Relative to business, specifically, it also evokes many questions about the very nature of courage—a concept oft characterized by the demonstration of “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

Of course, it’s presumed that successful leaders can and should inherently be courageous, but in what exact regard is courage a mission-critical managerial quality? To what extent should a leader exude courageousness versus humility? What actions, or results, exemplify how courageous–or not–a leader is? Can a wholly well-intentioned show of courageousness backfire and end up doing more harm than good?

Read more – including input from Women Presidents’ Organization CEO Camille Burns – here.

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A call to action: What boards must do to help companies and CEOs cope with the Covid-19 crisis

By Deb Kemper and Kathryn Swintek, Managing Partners, Golden Seeds Funds

Editor’s note: As businesses grapple with massive change, two of the Managing Partners of our Funds – experienced investors and board members of both public and private companies – shared their advice on the new and expanded role that boards must play.

Anyone serving on a board today knows it’s anything but “business as usual” in a world transformed by the pandemic. Companies of all types and sizes must adapt to survive and function effectively. In this environment, the role of the board of directors has become even more critical as they’re called upon to help companies and CEOs deal with extreme challenges.

Many CEOs may find themselves struggling to manage unprecedented and stressful situations, and they need a sounding board to help them absorb news, assess needs and assign priorities — and it’s often up to board members to step in and help during this critical time. Board members often serve as trusted advisors and coaches who can brainstorm with CEOs about problems and solutions, enabling them to project an air of calm leadership.

This partnership is vital at a time when rapid change is the norm, feedback loops are accelerated and urgent decisions must be made quickly. Many boards are holding meetings much more frequently – and sometimes less formally – to review pressing matters such as financial forecasts, funding needs and succession planning for business continuity.

Here’s a look at how four essential board responsibilities have expanded or changed during the current crisis.

Read more here.


Responding to a crisis: The outlook for the COVID-19 economy

By Lizzie Lowe, Sheila Kulik, Caroline Bligh, and Julia O’Brien, Prudential

In their Q2 2020 market outlooks, PGIM’s asset managers detail their expectations for an unprecedented recession.

The precipitous and devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left no doubt that global economies have entered an unprecedented recession. Investors are now left to ponder what’s next and to contemplate how deep the contraction might be, and how quickly markets can recover.

QMA’s Global Multi-Asset Solutions team believes that a global recession is unavoidable:

“The big question now is whether it will be a sharp, but short, recession lasting two or three quarters or a more long-lasting economic downturn. The response from global policy makers will also play a critical role in determining whether collateral damage can be minimized. The  pandemic itself will worsen before it gets better, and no one can say with certainty when the crisis will abate. For now, QMA remains cautious with portfolio positioning across all risky assets and will continue to closely monitor for downside risk and signs of economic contagion that could push us toward a more adverse economic scenario.”

Read more here.


WPO Member of the Moment: Neely Powell

Neely Powell
Founder & CEO, Charleston Shoe Company
Industry: Fashion, retail, and accessories
WPO Member-at-Large
WPO Member Since: 2017Neely Powell Member of the Moment

How has being a WPO member helped your business?
Being a WPO Member has connected me with some of the smartest, most thoughtful and generous women. It’s such an incredible community of knowledge sharing, and the ability to bounce ideas off other women with the same goals has been one of the best parts about being a member.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is trusting that people love the business as much as I do. When you spend so much time building a business, it’s hard to remember that others’ level of dedication and passion may not be the same as mine.

That’s another reason I love being a part of the WPO – because these women are working through everything that I am with as much passion.

What inspired you to start your business?
I knew that I wanted something bigger – something greater in and for my life and the life of my family.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?
The Annual Conference is by far my favorite event! Not only do I get the opportunity to be amongst the WPO community and listen to their ideas, but I get to sell shoes and share my business with them at the same time! There’s nothing I love more than being on the front lines of my business, and the Conference is such a great opportunity to do that!

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Get a good lawyer and an even better accountant!

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Always continue to push yourself to reinvent the wheel. No matter what our company is, there is always a way to grow and do something totally new and unexpected.

Have you or your business won any awards?
Our stores have won quite a few local accolades which are voted on by our customers. To me, these are the most important awards because it shows the personal relationship that we have with the women that shop with us!

How has Charleston Shoe Company addressed COVID-19-related issues?
Given today’s uncertainty, we believe more than ever in the importance of spreading positivity, love and support to those around us (one of the many reasons we joined this group of amazing women!). As part of this, we launched a Buy One, Give One Campaign dedicated to helping the incredible women working in our healthcare industry. Since the inception of the program in April, we have donated over 1,600 pairs and counting to 23 different hospitals, in nine different states. We’ve received such incredible feedback from the women who are receiving the shoes that we really want to spread this positive impact far and wide to give us more opportunity to donate.

Connect with Neely:
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Margery Kraus: “As a leader, every action you take is amplified”

By Phil LaDuke, Thrive Global

I wish someone told me how difficult it is to raise money as a woman, even with a successful business. When I first tried to move forward on my management buyout, the investment banker involved was so condescending that aside from the negative remarks he made, he never took my interest or bid seriously. He also didn’t bother to read my contract — figuring I wasn’t that important to his work, instead of trying to be helpful. In the end the bank got fired when I stopped the deal they put forward because I had blocking rights in my contract, a fact he would have known if he took me seriously. That was a decade ago but I was reminded of the unpleasant experience when I went out to raise new capital and recapitalize my company just a couple of years ago, when only one of the dozen bankers that showed up had a women on the team. And just six months ago, exploring banking relationships, one of the big banks that has just made a big deal out of supporting women owned businesses, asked me for a personal guarantee on a loan for the business, requiring my husband’s pledge as well — even after 35 years of successful operation and never missing a payment.

Read more here.

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Sales Leadership During and After the Crisis

By Frank Cespedes, Top Sales Magazine

Even in good times, life in a sales organization is filled with short-­term deadlines and pressures: sales per quarter, sales per rep, did she or didn’t she meet quota. As a sales manager once said to me, “In this job, if you don’t survive the short term, you don’t need to worry about the long term.”

So, it’s not surprising that, in the current crisis, sales managers daily receive advice about the short term: “3 Steps to Survive the Downturn . . . 4 Ways to Embrace Your Customer . . . 5 Ways to Do Online Events,” and so on. These suggestions are relevant: survival is at stake for many businesses. But eventually the pandemic will abate, and you must live with the resource decisions you make now.

Read more here.