News & Events

Gwyneth Paltrow, a champion for woman-led ventures, visits Vanderbilt

Mar 4, 2024

By Lacie Blankenship

Actress-turned-innovator Gwyneth Paltrow joined Vanderbilt faculty members Kelly Goldsmith and David A. Owens for an entrepreneurial-focused conversation in December 2023. The discussion explored themes encompassing the value of failure, continuous learning and leading with intention; Paltrow, Goldsmith and Owens also delved into more nuanced topics like resilience and navigating barriers—particularly those intertwined with female entrepreneurs’ experiences.

Pictured: Gwyneth Paltrow holds a microphone to speak alongside Vanderbilt faculty members Kelly Goldsmith and David A. Owens.

Gwyneth Paltrow

The Academy Award–winning actress, four-time New York Times bestselling author and founder and CEO of goop was introduced to event attendees by Julia Schuller, a Vanderbilt MBA student, TikTok women’s health advocate, and co-founder and CEO of Bloom Health. The event was at Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall and was open to the Vanderbilt community.

Fueling the next generation of innovators

The event’s moderators, Goldsmith, E. Bronson Ingram Chair and professor of marketing at the Owen Graduate School of Management, and Owens, Evans Family Executive Director of the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, and professor for the practice of management and innovation, paved the way for an engaging conversation with thoughtful questions; Paltrow opened up about her lessons learned and shared advice for budding entrepreneurs.

Lead with intention

Paltrow said that for entrepreneurs, it is crucial to decide what kind of leader they want to be early on in the process.

Paltrow noted that leadership styles vary and are all based on personal preferences and experiences. She claimed to be naturally conflict-averse and spoke on the value of coordinating difficult conversations for a healthier work environment.

“People are the most important asset,” Paltrow said. “I think one of the most profound things I’ve learned is that we tend to go through our lives—our parents shape who we are. And then eventually we get to a workplace, and all that unresolved stuff we put on the conference table—we’re not aware of it…The workplace is such an amazing petri dish to be in.”

Find the value of failure and learning

“It can be hard and embarrassing to stick your neck out as an innovator and say ‘I have this idea,’” Paltrow said. “I think it’s so much about freedom of thought and being able to inhabit a space where ideas are fantastic, even if they’re bad.”

Pictured: Gwyneth Paltrow holds a microphone to speak alongside Vanderbilt faculty members Kelly Goldsmith and David A. Owens.

Kelly Goldsmith (left), David A. Owens (middle), Gwyneth Paltrow (right)

Paltrow spoke on the value of creating and maintaining a learning- and mistake-friendly environment for all.

“I’ve learned so much from the mistakes I’ve made in building my company,” she said. “I became a better leader and founder because not only do I make mistakes, but I’m willing to admit my mistakes and learn from the mistakes.”

A woman’s place is in innovation (or wherever she wants)

For Paltrow, the inspiration to pursue entrepreneurship and launch goop struck after she questioned whether she truly loved the public nature of her acting career. She was originally inspired to pursue acting by seeing her mother, actress Blythe Danner, as a model for how women could own their power. Paltrow enjoyed her career as an actress, but the birth of her daughter prompted an opportunity to pursue new paths, and she found a renewed sense of empowerment as a female entrepreneur disrupting industries.

Paltrow advised student attendees at the December event to “take the time to explore what might fill you up and might take you off the beaten path. Explore the unexplored aspects of yourself.”

Girls just wanna have equal access to venture capital

When discussing her transition to entrepreneurship, Paltrow spoke on her challenges in raising venture capital and called out the indisputable disparity in funding for women-founded companies. Despite research showing that women-owned ventures are growing at more than double the rate of all others, only 2 percent of venture capital funding goes to female entrepreneurs. This disparity in funding is something that Paltrow is now engaging in initiatives to combat.

For Schuller, greeting the audience and welcoming goop’s founder to Vanderbilt was a full-circle moment. Her venture, Bloom Health, won a goop-sponsored pitch competition that was part of the Wond’ry’s 2023 Renaissance Women’s Summit.

Pictured: The Bloom logo. The second "o" is a pink flower, the other letters are black.Bloom’s flagship product, Bloom Birth Control, is a natural birth control app that reports being clinically proven to be comparably as effective as the birth control pill. Bloom’s proprietary algorithm also works to plan pregnancy (Bloom Conceive) and identify hormone imbalances (Bloom Balance). After winning the pitch competition, Schuller and her co-founder, Dr. Danielle Miller, received prize money and a package of marketing and legal services, propelling their success and enabling them to secure $250,000 in capital to complete the software development for their beta.

“I consider Gwyneth Paltrow an inspiration,” Schuller said. “She’s not afraid to have conversations about things, especially in women’s health, that many people are afraid to discuss.”

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