|A bracelet made by the artisans of Threads Worldwide.|
Gordon, a longtime advertising industry executive, started the 3% Conference because only 3% of creative directors in the advertising industry are women. For years this bothered Gordon while she waited for someone to come along and effect change. Finally, Gordon realized she was that someone. "Advertising has not evolved in terms of women in top leadership. And nobody seemed to be addressing that," says Gordon, during an interview from San Francisco as she prepared for the start of her second conference. "I also felt female consumers are not being really well marketed to as a result -- and that the consumer marketplace needed more intelligent advertising." Gordon's two-day conference tackles such things as "Leading Every Step of the Way," "How to Sell Work" and "Blowing Up the Business Rules that Hold You Back." There are also breakout mentoring sessions. The conference is also aimed at the people who make the hiring decisions in the advertising industry, Gordon says. And it's just one way her new 3% Movement, a for-profit business, is tackling the issue of female leadership. She is also doing road shows to visit advertising agencies around the country. "This makes me feel like I'm completely changing my industry and the future for women," says Gordon, whose conference doubled in attendance between last year to this year. The number of women-owned businesses is seeing growth Gordon would envy for her industry: By 2018, female small-business owners will create 5 million to 5.5 million jobs in the U.S., according to the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. Angela Yost, Kara Wiegand and Lindsay Herron a part of that, having founded Threads Worldwide in 2011 to help women here and in developing countries.
The trio has seen firsthand how Threads Worldwide changes the lives of women abroad. "We visited a couple of different artisan whose embroidered belts we sell. We hiked up to their houses and they welcomed us with fresh flowers and we sat down and talked with them about the impact of this work," Herron says of a recent visit to a group of their artists in Peru. "For some, it was as simple as the fact that they are now able to buy eggs instead of rice, so they are adding protein to their diet. Others are sending additional kids to school." Threads Worldwide also offers women in this country opportunities as independent sales consultants that they provide with product, training and support. The company has 34 such consultants.
In its two years of business, Threads Worldwide has made a slim profit. Last year the company made $50,000 in revenue, Wiegand says. It is on track to make $200,000 this year. Lennon and Gordon have also earned profits during their first few years of business. But while all three women admit profits and sustaining themselves financially through their new ventures is critical, it is not their only motivation. "There was a very vivid moment for me when we were discussing this business," Wiegand says. "I remember standing in the kitchen and my 3-year-old daughter looking up at me with her big blue eyes, and I was like 'Oh my god, this is what I want to model for my baby girls.' I want them to do something that creates a better life for other people on a grand scale. This is what I want to do." Adds Yost: "I have never been more passionate about anything in my life. I'm confident in the difference we're making in the world."