There is a certain formula all big tech companies follow when putting on a Summit or show, and part of that formula involves pulling in A-list celebs and rock bands to draw the crowds. Sage has been no different at its 2016 Summit in Chicago, US.
Yesterday the 15,000 strong audience hung on the entrepreneurial words of wisdom from Richard Branson, while tonight’s evening entertainment will see The Killers perform for the thousands who have made the trip to the windy city.
But today, on the second day of the Sage Summit, Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and fellow actress Zooey Deschanel have taken centre stage on a keynote panel. However, if the audience was expecting insightful comments and opinion on cloud-based accounting software from the two actresses, they were to be disappointed.
Zooey and Gwyneth were brought in to tell the Sage audience about their experiences launching and running their websites Goop and HelloGiggles. Although it was ignored that Deschanel and Paltrow are not your typical startup founders – deep pockets, valuable contacts and a PR machine which comes as standard for those in Hollywood – they did offer insights about small business success.
Reporting from the event in Chicago, CBR brings you the best of what was said from the A-listers.
1. Running a business is awesome
Gwyneth Paltrow told the crowd how she paused her career after having children, taking 3 years out to think about what she actually wanted to do. In that time she conceived Goop, stating it was a slow organic build and took a number of years to figure out how to monetise it. Although admitting that acting was in her DNA, she said:
“The challenges I encounter every day running a business and operating a business are incredibly fulfilling, and totally terrifying and really awesome. So its been an amazing journey.”
Explaining Goop, Paltrow said: "Goop is an ecommerce and content platform, and we say that we are devoted to making every choice count. We like to push boundaries, we like to move the needle, and we are not afraid to create some controversy once in a while. We want to become the first truly modern lifestyle brand built on a digital platform and everything that encompasses."
2. Empowering millennial women
Explaining the HelloGiggles website, Zooey Deschanel said: "Hello giggle is a positive online community. When I first started the business there were very few places you could go where you could write an article or opinion piece and there wouldn’t be an incredibly vicious comment section.
"We are largely focused on empowering millennial women. When we first started we had three or four teen bloggers and we couldn’t have horrible mean people saying terrible things to an eleven year old, so we put a lot of checks and balances in place to make sure it was positive. It's a safe and positive place to be.
3. There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know
Paltrow talked about the early days of Goop, saying that it was mostly her alone in her kitchen at the beginning stages of the business, wasting her own money.
"Post modernisation I think is where the challenge really is, I think for me personally because I was making a conscious career change and really accepting the responsibilities which came along with it. I did a crash course on being a founder, running a business, giving myself permission to take a seat at the table as the founder and what that meant. There are so many challenges, just in terms of everything that had to learn and everything I didn’t know – there was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know."
4. My dream is that one day no one will remember that I had anything to do with it
Both actresses were asked how they seperate their business personas from their high-profile acting careers, with Paltrow saying to some surpise from the audience:
"In order to build the brand I want to build, its scalability is limited if I connect it to the brand. So I always think how can I grow the brand, how can I separate myself from the brand and I think its going to be more its own brand. More and more I would like it to be its own brand – my dream is that one day no one will remember that I had anything to do with it."
5. Only as good as the people you work with
Deschanel highlighted the importance of having a strong and supportive network, saying that "having amazing people around you just makes you better." Paltrow echoed this sentiment, also pointing to the benefits that partnerships can bring a small business. She said: "To be in a partnership is really to have a safety net and a good partnership will protect you and and also push you to grow. so its really fundamental to us that partnership aspect."