Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Strippers in Los Angeles are unionizing, Senate Democrats are reintroducing a paid family leave bill, and the founder of LTK says solving her own problem made for great business. Happy Thursday!
-Nothing to lose. Like many entrepreneurs, Amber Venz Box founded her company LTK, last valued at $2 billion, by trying to fix a problem in her own life.
Twelve years ago, the then 23-year-old was working as a personal shopper in Dallas, Texas, earning commission on sales of boutique apparel. To market her services, she posted her styled outfits on her website, complete with product recommendations. But she soon learned that the strategy was essentially giving her services away for free. “I had cut myself out of my own business,” Venz Box, LTK’s cofounder and president, told editor-at-large Michal Lev-Ram at Fortune’s MPW Next Gen on Tuesday.
To reclaim her business, Venz Box’s then-boyfriend (and now-husband), an engineer, developed clickable links to products that she could embed on her blog. When visitors clicked the links and purchased an item, Venz Box earned an affiliate commission.
And so marked the humble beginnings of the influencer marketing platform that would go on to become a unicorn.
“I was my first customer. I was living at home eating my dad’s cereal and I was highly motivated,” Venz Box said. “People always say, ‘oh, did you risk it all?’ I was like, ‘I risked $236.’ That’s what was in my bank account.”
Today, LTK “[helps] creators to monetize their content,” Venz Box said. It works with more than 150,000 creators and partners with more than 5,000 brands. In 2022, it sold more than $3.6 billion worth of goods. The company has 750 team members in 11 offices around the world. After a $300 million investment from SoftBank Vision Fund in November 2021, the company was valued at $2 billion.
Venz Box considers her founding story and close relationship to the purpose of the company key to LTK’s continued success.
“LTK started with a mission that was very personal to me and to our friends, and it’s still very much so is. I think that passion in the soul of our business is so important,” she said. “I tell our team members—all 750 of them—this is not a mission statement that’s on the wall. We’re not secretly running some other business. We only make money when our creators make money.”
And some of those creators—more than 90% of whom are women—are making a lot of money. “We have over 200 women who are now millionaires through the LTK platform,” Venz Box said. “We are putting entrepreneurs in business.”
Kinsey Crowley (she/her)
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MORE FROM MPW NEXT GEN
- Bad press. PR maven Risa Heller, who handled communications crises for Jared Kushner and Anthony Weiner, told the Next Gen audience that a corporation's biggest mistake in responding to a PR crisis is to assume it will blow over. Justine Sacco, chief communications officer at Match Group, added: “When something bad comes out about a company, we should take that moment to look at—institutionally—what is going on at the organization. Ask, 'Does something need to change?' After you fix it internally, you can communicate it externally.” Fortune
- Gen Z myth busters. Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at job site Handshake, said trends like quiet quitting have painted Gen Z as a lazy cohort. That's a myth, she said. Rather, Gen Z is more adamant about work-life balance. Fortune
- Lonely at the top. Kristen Soltis Anderson, founding partner of research institute Echelon Insights, said glorifying leadership for young women may cover up the realities of how difficult it can be. Fellow panelist Shannon-Janean Currie, vice president of Benenson Strategy Group, said that Gen Z will need a bigger support system than previous generations as they move into leadership roles since they lack a sense of community among their peers. Fortune
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Thirty Madison has named Caroline Hofmann as chief business officer. Julie Andreeff Jensen will be the first female CEO within SKDK, which acquired Jasper Advisors, the C-suite advisory firm Jensen founded. Amanda Reierson will be the next CMO at Avant.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- Union tease. Workers at a bar in Los Angeles are set to become the first group of strippers to join a union. The performers will be represented by the Actors’ Equity Association, which includes more than 50,000 employees on Broadway and at Walt Disney World. Performers say unionizing will help them gain protection against sexual harassment and wage theft. Washington Post
- Sixth time's a charm. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is reintroducing a bill for guaranteed paid family leave for the sixth time since she has been in office. Like its past iterations, the bill guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave, with some modern updates; it includes grandparents who want to take time off to help with their grandchild and includes paid time off to deal with the effects of domestic or sexual violence. Axios
- Guaranteed income. A philanthropy-based guaranteed income program for new mothers in New York City is here to stay. The pilot Bridge Project powered by The Monarch Foundation launched in 2021 and gives $1,000 a month for 18 months and $500 a month for the following 18 months. The Monarch Foundation plans to expand the project beyond North Manhattan as it moves from the experimental phase to a permanent social benefit. Bloomberg
ON MY RADAR
Between continents, Emma Prempeh is making a home Vogue
Chase Sui Wonders is on fire Harper's Bazaar
The fraught fight to stop the trans healthcare bans Axios
Why is it still so hard for us to use the word “rape”? Vox
"I found running toward conflict to be a really important way to build resilience."
—Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty
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