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The Social Construction of the “Chick” Entrepreneur

Sara Blakely

[The text below is a transcript of this video segment of CNBC’s Small Business Town Hall (2012). Please allow a few seconds for the ad to play to hear the entire conversation, which lasts about one minute.]

Kevin O’Leary: 

I don’t know where we got lost, and we’re all singing Kumbaya these days. But let me tell you how it works. Business is war. You get up in the morning and you figure out how do I KILL my competitor, how do I pour boiling oil on him. That’s how you do it. That’s what made, that’s what made America great, competing, fighting, competing, winning.

Sara Blakely:

 I completely disagree. When I first cut the feet out of my pantyhose, I was at a cocktail party, three men came up to me and said, “You know, Sara, business is war.” And I went home that night and sat on the floor of my apartment and I was like, “I don’t want to go to war. Why does it have to be war?” I have not taken that approach, and I’ve done it very differently. I have not been obsessed and focused on the competition, annihilating the competition, I have only been focused on my own quality, what can I offer that’s the best and give value. (CNBC, 2012)

The world of business has historically been considered male, “and not only male, but lean, hungry, predatory and hostile” (Gupta, Turban, Wasti, & Sikdar, 2009, p. 400).  Kevin O’Leary’s assertion (above) that “business is war” seems completely congruent with that notion. However, there was very little Kevin O’Leary could say when Sara Blakely countered that she completely disagreed that “business is war.” Blakely, founder of Spanx, is the youngest women to make the Fortune billionaires list at age 41, and she owns 100% of her company, never having taken a dollar of investor money (O’Connor, 2012).  Sara Blakely represents one of many successful entrepreneurial women who are attempting to create a new identity for business and entrepreneurial leadership. Twelve years and billions of dollars into a non-warlike business approach, even the most warmongering entrepreneurial advocate can’t deny that Blakely is onto something with her alternative approach. (more…)

Textual Analysis Project Topic

I intend to explore the organizing of women-owned startups through a textual analysis of the gender-based narrative surrounding strategic business development of “passion-based” businesses. In the last decade, a gender-specific narrative has developed around the “feminine approach” to starting a business. Specifically, I will focus on MarieForleo.com, a business coaching organization built on the use of non-traditional marketing language and video, targeting women with the core brand message “Rich, Hot, and Happy.” I will do an ideological analysis through the lens of feminist criticism of Forleo’s written and visual “texts” used in marketing of business services that focuses on the story of women-owned business.