Locals Who Lead: Ingrid Vanderveldt’s Empowering Mission
Serial entrepreneur and all-around “boss babe” Ingrid Vanderveldt is laser-focused on an ambitious goal: empowering a billion women by 2020
Named one of Oprah’s Top 100 SuperSoul Global Leaders, the #Stout Chairman and CEO of Empowering a Billion Women 2020 (EBW2020), MintHER and Vanderveldt Global Investments (and co-founder of The Billionaire Girls Club) is taking girl power to a whole new level.
Biggest Leadership Challenge: I would say my biggest leadership challenge is always going to be myself. On the one hand, I believe that I am my strongest asset; that I’m the businesses strongest asset. But I also know that the only thing that’s getting me in the way of achieving any goal I have is myself. So I start every day in prayers, and I’m constantly looking and evaluating how could I do things better, how can I serve better, where am i holding myself back, where can I create new opportunities? I approach every day as an opportunity for self-improvement.
Biggest Leadership Win: Honestly, I would say my biggest leadership win was the day that I decided to follow my current calling. Let me provide a little context: I grew up thinking I’d be a missionary and as I got older, I realized that I was also an effective capitalist and I could build things and grow things. My job was to be a missionary of a different kind, to help women and girls around the world create businesses and ventures that they love and create abundance and wealth doing it. So I would say my biggest sort of leadership win was the day in 2011 on a dirt road that I 100% committed my life in service to my calling, the day that started down the path to what my destiny is – which is all the work that I do today for empowering a billion women by 2020.
Goals for Making an Impact: If I have helped impact the life of one person in a better way, then I feel good about that. My big, audacious goals are all around my calling, and that is to truly empower a billion women by 2020 by providing them access to the tools, technology and resources that we need to succeed as leaders and entrepreneurs. Our specific focus is doing that through access to mobile, mentors, know-how, and money – financial literacy, plus access to contracts and capital. We do all those things through EBW. We also have a business goal to help a million women get over the million-dollar annual revenue mark because currently less than 3% of women ever do.
A Light That Won’t Be Dimmed
Like many success stories, Vanderveldt credits God and her parents for giving her the ability and permission to thrive. From an early age, she was told that while it would take commitment and hard work, she could be anything that she wanted to be. One of her primary guiding principles is a quote by Marianne Williamson, about allowing ourselves to live out our full potential: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
And Shine She Has
From pioneering the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program at Dell to serving on the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, Vanderveldt has brought her energy, focus and unwavering belief to every passion she has pursued. She is a firm believer in clear goal-setting, and starts each day in prayer. Her formula for setting yourself up for success? A simple, clear vision; specifics like timelines, numbers and deliverables; and accountability to all of those items. It’s a winning formula most of the time, although even such meticulous planning doesn’t always pay off. When things don’t come through as planned, however, Vanderveldt takes it in stride like everything else. “Moments like that are going to happen,” she admits. “You just have to bring yourself and everyone else back to the core mission, vision and goals – and ask, ‘Based on where we are now, how do we get there?'”
“The calling of my life has been very clear . . . it’s not just ’empower a billion women by someday’; it’s empower a billion women by 2020. So I have that great sense of urgency around me.”
Those two little words hold a lot of power for Vanderveldt. “You can just say it as that, or add something after it,” she explains. “But when I really let it sink in, ‘I am, I am’ – you know, those are strong words.” And very fitting for a woman whose main mission to convincing others to believe in themselves.
“If I could change anything in the world,” muses Vanderveldt, “it would be for everyone – especially women – to recognize that they have everything inside of them that they need to achieve. You are more than enough; you have been gifted with every talent you need to make whatever it is that you are called to do happen.”
The Power of Servant-Leadership
When it comes to leadership style, Vanderveldt’s philosophy aligns with another Stout Locals Who Lead, Monica Peraza. Like Peraza, she believes in surrounding herself with people who are smarter than she is, and then “getting out of their way.” Her role, says Vanderveldt, is “to allow them to make things happen, and if they run into challenges or difficulties, then I can be called in to help resolve those.” One of her key role model’s for leadership is a former Dell colleague, Steve Felice. “I worked side by side with him at Dell,” she reveals, “and I love, admire and respect his incredible leadership style, although I have a long way to go.”
Vanderveldt admits that her expectations are high – both from herself and her staff. “My philosophy is this,” she explains. “We may be together for a lifetime, or we will use this as a stepping stone to the next great thing you are called to do. Whichever it is, please give me the best of everything you’ve got, and I will give you the best of everything I’ve got.” She adds, however, that she has challenged herself to slow down a bit, sleeping on a decision and making sure she is clearly communicating with her team. In fact, as time has gone by, she has come to realize that 60% if exceptional leadership and reaching big goals is good communication both externally and internally.
She also has a very clear strategy for dealing with any conflict that arises. “Another former Dell colleague of mine, JJ, always approached conflict with a singular focus of just trying to understand what’s going on,” says Vanderveldt. “So I try very hard to look at if from that perspective.” Her other keys to successfully resolving conflict include handling any issues head on, and trying to get to the bottom of things are quickly as possible. “Things that are unresolved just fester and get bigger – they don’t go away,” she explains. “The best thing to do is go back to the goals and timelines, and make it about facts. Removing emotion from the process makes things easier.”
A Team Built on Trust
When it comes to adding to her team or engaging in strategic partnerships, Vanderveldt is very specific about what she’s looking for. In her view, character and belief system are key. “I ask myself two things,” she says. “First, do their belief system and energy align with EBW and our goals here? Second, are they people of integrity whom I can trust, and will do what they say?”
One of those people is Pam Pike, Vanderveldt’s indispensable assistant, who has been with her for over 6 years, beginning with their time together at Dell. Pam had never taken the start-up pathway before, and Dell was about as secure a position as one could get. But, already sold on Vanderveldt, and then on EBW’s mission, Pam took the #Stout leap in 2016 and didn’t look back.
Take Ingrid’s Self-Check for Success
Vanderveldt’s three keys to success are a trio of questions.
(1) Are you doing what you are called to do?
(2) Do you have a strong moral character, and live a life of integrity?
(3) Are you living the legacy that you will be proud of?
In fact, when things took a tough turn for EBW the next year, it was Pam who reminded Ingrid that the paths that become impassable are often the wrong ones. And between her personal faith and her strong belief in Vanderveldt, Pam stayed by her side as they righted the ship. Vanderveldt does not take that kind of loyalty lightly, and is extremely grateful to Pam and the entire team, who have kept things moving forward, one step at a time, towards achieving their ambitious goal to improve the lives of literally a billion women.
The best measure of her own success?
Vanderveldt believes it is being able to say, “You know, I leveraged my life to make the world a better place”.