A feminine approach to business

Karin Roest

Hillary Clinton recently created a stir among her critics by suggesting the future is female, and while she didn’t mention a particular realm, in the short term she might be more accurate about the business world than about politics. I thought about this while watching a local premiere of the documentary film Dream, Girl, which chronicled the entrepreneurial stories of several successful and inspirational women.

It’s a film that should be shown in every middle school social studies class, when educators are trying to get kids to start thinking about careers, but it’s also a reminder of the growing and powerful trend of female entrepreneurship. The National Women’s Business Council predicts that female-run businesses will increase by 50% over the next five years, a development that could have implications for everything from growing the local technology sector to pay equity.

Dream, Girl didn’t tell the story of entrepreneur and talent scout Karin Roest, but it had the same vibe of her “meditation and margaritas” — a metaphor for work/play — approach to business. To the globetrotting Roest, who spent an entire year meditating in silence in Burma, this approach is especially appealing to women because of their multifaceted nature. As more women launch businesses, she believes it’s likely to become the dominant approach to running a venture.

For decades, Roest notes, women have believed they need to act more like men in the workplace. As her career in the entertainment industry unfolded, she came to realize that if women apply more of their natural multitasking gifts in the office, they tend to get ahead in their careers. “The meditation and margarita concept really comes from my personal background,” she notes, “but now I’ve tied that to running my own business and also when I partner or work with employees or corporations, as well.”

That personal background is quite unique and could be the subject of a book and perhaps a movie. Forty years ago, Roest’s birth parents dropped her off at an orphanage the day after she was born in South Korea. She was adopted by an American farm family and raised — along with other orphaned children — two hours north of Seattle, Wash. Roest is still close to the five adopted siblings she grew up with, in part because they “had so much not in common that we all just get along,” she says, laughing. “We are so different that we have no excuse not to like each other, so it’s pretty cool.”

Roest returned to South Korea in the late 1990s to find that her birth parents had died, as had three sisters with medical issues, and as painful as that was it was time to turn the page. Failure to deal constructively with such swirling emotions only leaves a debilitating residue to carry around. “We all go through certain hardships in our lives. I’ve had my fair share of them, and it just made me a stronger person,” Roest says.

“You have to make the most of everything that happens in your life. I have to be grateful for what I have, and just keep moving forward. There is a way to heal from deep emotional pain. We all go through some kind of loss or abandonment, especially as an adoptee, but it’s not exclusive to just adoption. There’s abandonment from not feeling like you fit in from your family, your friends, or your peers.”

One positive thing Roest carries around today is her optimism about female entrepreneurship. She believes business organizations around the world are becoming more flexible in allowing women to show their natural gifts. While there is still more work to do, she cites studies that show investors are starting to see the value of placing their bets with women because they’re better at building long-term relationships, they come across as more trustworthy, and their companies generate healthier returns on investment.

Roest didn’t mention this — it’s just a hunch on my part — but women executives, having faced untoward behavior on their way up the corporate ladder, are probably more sensitive than their male counterparts of the need to establish strong, respectful business cultures, and they probably will be more proactive in building diversity and inclusion within business organizations.

“We want that more holistic approach to business,” says Roest, now based in Mexico City. “Women are naturally more empathetic, but we can also be assertive. We can put our foot down and know how to command the respect and authority in the workplace and in a boardroom full of men. It’s definitely happening around the world.”



Trumped up entrepreneurs

Don’t tell President Trump, but one of the places it’s happening is Mexico. Asked to name one society or culture that’s doing a good job promoting female entrepreneurship, Roest cites her new home. While she laments the strained political relations with the U.S. and jokes that Trump wants to build a wall to keep her out of the U.S., presumably because she’d be nothing but trouble for him, part of the reason she came to Mexico City is that “it is so incredibly entrepreneurial.”

“It’s amazing and it’s too bad that there is all this political unrest between Mexico and the United States, but it is such an underrated country,” she explains. “There’s so much opportunity here and people are so friendly. I just joined a co-working space and it’s all startups and it’s all innovative companies with people who are really on the move with things. They have this really vibrant energy and it’s really contagious. I’m really happy to be here with that.”

Having grown up in a rural area, Roest knows it’s an anomaly that she’s traveled around the world, getting to know celebrity clients like Britney Spears after growing up amid farm animals. Her entertainment career actually began during a party at a music festival when she summoned the nerve to walk up to the producer and say, “I’m going to work for you.”

“He literally like laughed in my face and had all these gorgeous women around him, and he was in the VIP section,” she adds, chuckling at her own chutzpah. “Then three months later he calls me and he’s like, ‘Okay, let’s start today. You’ve got to go pick up this super famous person at the airport,’ and I’m like, ‘Ah, okay,’ and then it spiraled from there.”

When the introverted Roest thinks back to that, she’s thankful that she manages to surprise herself on occasion. “If you want to see more of the world,” she states, “you’ve got to take the risk.”

Ever the risk-taking entrepreneur, she’s part of an extremely important trend, one that bodes well for the free-market — dare I use the dirty word capitalistic? — system. With the mystifying allure of socialism still alive and well, no matter how many epic fails it produces (see Venezuela), capitalism needs care and feeding and democratization. Instead of large concentrations of wealth in too few hands, the latest lament among free-market critics, increasing numbers of female entrepreneurs will help ensure that its benefits are more widely spread. In other words, women entrepreneurs are saving capitalism and not a moment too soon.

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