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EQ IMPACT: "Never learn anything with your mouth open!"

You may have seen me share my journey about being part of the Tory Burch Foundation Program. It was a program I did not hear about until 2022 at the Tory Burch Embrace Ambition Summit. Yes, the Tory Burch who designs luxury items started her business to then create The Tory Burch Foundation which empowers women entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, education and community.


Thank you to the then Executive Director of Tory Burch Foundation, Laura Fabiano, who encouraged me to apply as we were standing on the street corner of Central Park in 2022.

(I bumped into her the next day after the summit…talk about DIVINE!)


Fast forward to 2023-2024, I'm thrilled to share my experience as a fellow in the prestigious Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship program! This incredible year-long journey, designed to empower women entrepreneurs like me, has been a transformative one.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Tory Burch Foundation 2023 Fellows
Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Tory Burch Foundation 2023 Fellows

The program selects 50 women founders each year, providing them with the tools and support to propel their businesses to the next level. It's been a whirlwind of workshops, coaching sessions, invaluable networking opportunities, and access to crucial financial resources.

But beyond the practical tools, the program instilled in me some core principles that will forever guide me.


During the 2nd week in April in the vibrant city of New York – the Tory Burch Foundation team curated a week that had so many gems in it.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Tory Burch Foundation Team
Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Tory Burch Foundation Team

Here are some that can be applied by everyone that is reading this now.


  • Invest Wisely: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's a lesson often learned the hard way. The program emphasized the importance of calculated risks, reminding us to only invest what we can afford to lose.

  • The Power of the Pack: They say you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The fellowship brought me together with a phenomenal group of inspiring women entrepreneurs. Surrounding myself with such excellence has been a constant source of motivation and support.

  • Excellence All Around: Building a successful business is no small feat. The program stressed the importance of striving for excellence and brilliance in every aspect of our ventures, from product development to marketing and customer service.

  • Silence is Golden: There's a time to speak up and a time to listen intently. The fellowship reminded me that negativity is just noise, and true learning happens when we listen and absorb the wisdom of others.

  • Open Your Ears, Close Your Mouth: This one ties in with the previous point. The program emphasized the importance of active listening and continuous learning. True growth comes from being open to new ideas and constantly seeking knowledge.

  • Clear is Kind: Clarity is key. Remember that when one ask questions or you ask questions, the intent is to gain clarity not question credibility. I strive to be kind.

  • Growth of business is faster than the growth of human development: Always stay focused on your personal and professional development.

"Never learn anything with your mouth open!"


This incredible program has equipped me not only with the tools to succeed but also with a renewed sense of purpose and a powerful network of fellow founders. I'm incredibly grateful to the Tory Burch Foundation for this life-changing opportunity.


Let's be honest, every entrepreneur experience moments of self-doubt. At times, it feels very lonely.

There were times I questioned my abilities and wondered if I was in over my head. But being surrounded by such a powerful and diverse group of women shattered those doubts. Seeing their struggles and triumphs, their unwavering determination, and their infectious passion made me realize I belonged. I was exactly where I needed to be, on a journey of growth alongside a remarkable tribe of women.


Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Nicole Smith speaking with microphone
Photo Credit: Tiffany Sage for the Tory Burch Foundation/Nicole Smith speaking with microphone

Honestly, being in such a powerful room can be…well…you start thinking, “Am I supposed to be here? Am I in the right room?” And everything said, “Yes! You are right where you are supposed to be.” I am owning my craft, my talent and I am showing up in it.

Are you?


So I am asking.....

Are you someone, in any industry, who at times doesn't feel like you should be in the room you are in? Social anxiety, lack of shared experience, negative self-talk, new situations, and the list continues that play into this feeling.

Here are 2-steps to help you move through these feelings:

  • Shift your focus: When self-doubt creeps in, try shifting your focus from yourself to others. Engage in active listening, ask questions, and find common ground. People appreciate genuine interest, and focusing on them can take the pressure off yourself.

  • Seek out your tribe: Not every group is a good fit. If you consistently feel like an outsider, don't be afraid to branch out and find your people. Explore associations, masterminds, workshops, or online communities related to your interests. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals can create a powerful sense of belonging. TRUST ME ON THIS!

I was in the room with 49 other phenomenal women who probably felt the same as me (maybe? maybe not?), but I was in the room. I was in the room with Tiffany Dufu and Tory Burch but was also in complete awe of the 49 other female founders, and the Tory Burch Foundation Team! (Fangirl just a bit!)

And my year with TBF is not done! PLUS - Once a fellow...always a fellow!

Let's be Emotionally Brilliant (96.8% of the time!)🥴!

Nicole F. Smith Signature
Nicole F. Smith Signature

WHAT'S some good stuff!

WAIT! I have (re)launched my podcast! Changed branding, changed name, changed logo! Nothing is wrong with a little change! I will share the story why in a later blog, but in the meantime...take a listen (or look) on your favorite podcast platform OR see us power through our conversation at! Here is a 🔥 (Direct Link!)



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