Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s latest report, The New Next Gen: Women That Are Transitioning Their Careers for a Successful Second Act, celebrates women who have reinvented themselves and their careers after the age of 40. During a Women in Retail Leadership Days session earlier this month, four women featured in that report — Stephanie Stuckey, CEO, Stuckey’s; Susan Feldman, founder, In The Groove; Sheena Franklin, founder and CEO, K’ept Health; and Melisse Shaban, founder and CEO of Virtue Labs — discussed their career journeys, including what other women entrepreneurs might be able to learn from their experiences. Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, expertly guided the discussion.
What Was Your ‘Pivot Moment’?
In The Groove is a lifestyle destination for age-defying women featuring a variety of fashion, beauty, wellness and lifestyle tips and resources. Susan Feldman, the company’s founder, began her career in the fashion apparel business and, at 55, decided she needed to make a change. At 53, she co-founded One Kings Lane, a luxury furniture and home décor company. In the summer of 2018, she decided to launch In the Groove to shine a light on the beauty of age-defying women and create a community in celebration of them. Feldman mentioned her father, who got his MFA at age 80, as an inspiration of hers to stay curious and keep learning. “I think you need to acknowledge your age and be proud of it and own it,” she explained, emphasizing headspace as an important part of making career changes later in life.
Sheena Franklin, founder and CEO of K’ept Health, a holistic and digital dermatology experience focused on personalized, in-depth skincare that’s designed around the individual needs of customers, recalled the “overwhelming sense of fear” she experienced in having little control or autonomy over where she was going in her career. That feeling motivated Franklin to cultivate her interests and create something of her own.
‘What Are the Challenges in Pivoting?’
Franklin explained that because she was older when seeking investors and corporate partners for her company, her level of experience gave her a different perspective. She recalled receiving feedback from higher-ups who told her she was “not coachable,” exposing the tendency of businesspeople to seek more “moldable” employees.
Stephanie Stuckey, the CEO of Stuckey’s, a roadside convenience store chain offering a wide range of branded and non-branded food, candy, and novelty items, acknowledged the value of the emotional maturity that comes with an age advantage. “I don’t stress out like 30-year-old me,” Stuckey explained, noting the bankability of this aspect of being an “older” entrepreneur.
Advice for Women Interested in Pivoting Their Careers
Feldman advised listeners to take inventory of their skills and strengths, and evolve accordingly. “Use what you’ve got and what you’ve built over the last 40 [years] to 50 years,” she said.
Melisse Shaban, founder and CEO of Virtue Labs, a biotech company focused on repairing hair through the use of a transformative protein called Alpha Keratin 60ku™, noted that in many ways, failures and mistakes are even more important than successes. “As you look back, that’s what you take with you,” said Shaban. Furthermore, she explained that because of the experience she’s gained, “I’m not really afraid of anything anymore.”
Franklin says that instead of overthinking, “You just have to start.” No matter how or to what capacity your start begins, “You just have to jump in and do it.”
Stuckey added that women entrepreneurs are not alone. “There’s a whole community of women who want to support other women in business,” she noted. “It’s not about age, it’s about collaboration.”
In recalling the many women mentors who helped her through her early professional experiences, Stuckey noted that there are always other women willing to help.
You can hear more from these women, and many others just like them, by downloading the New Next Gen report. For more info on Women in Retail Leadership Days, visit our website to register for on-demand sessions.