More Frantic By The Minute

A few weeks later I was back in New York staying at the Melia hotel on West 35th near Fox Studios where I was appearing on the nationally-syndicated Morning Show Mike & Juliet.

My limo driver picked me up from La Guardia and spent the whole drive into the city telling me how worried he was about the economy. I told him everything was going to be alright, that a few sub-prime mortgage brokers were going to go under, but they probably deserved to.

I remember watching in horror from my hotel room that week as the reports on CNBC gradually became more frantic by the minute as the true reality of the financial crisis began to materialize before the nation’s eyes

I Was Confident They Would Never Invite Me Back

In October of 2008, the Governor’s office called with an invitation for dinner at the official residence in Lansing. I pulled up to the iron gates in the dark of an unassuming, ultra-modern dwelling and was asked to state my name by security into an intercom. A guard met me at my car and led me to the mammoth red front door, opened by the First Gentleman.

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I was shocked to promptly find myself seated next to the Governor with only 8 people in attendance: her Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, the VP of the MEDC, and the Directors of the MWF and the MWC. The Governor had to excuse herself throughout dinner to take calls from leaders at Chrysler as she negotiated a multi-billion dollar bail-out in Washington as I watched

The economy was in free fall and Michigan was ground zero. Michigan was about to become a state of entrepreneurs, by necessity, not choice, and they wanted to know my ideas for helping laid-off autoworkers make the transition.

“Connect women with capital,” I boldly told them, “and stop incentivizing failure by giving investors the tax-deduction when they put their money into the start-up, instead of when it fails.”

I spoke my mind and by the time I was done I was confident they would never invite me back..

The Answer Was Obvious

They called me back that week and I would return to the Governor’s residence and capitol offices many times in the next year.

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Over 10 million jobs had been lost overnight—with Michigan the hardest hit. Everyone in the state was trying to figure out how to create jobs. The answer was obvious to me: women were starting businesses at twice the rate of men, When 70% of all new jobs come from small businesses, connecting women with capital to start and grow businesses was job #1.

At the Governor’s request, my team worked for months to come up with CONNECTING TO SUCCESS, bringing together public and private organizations to connect women to billions of private equity. I started using all my personal connections to call up all the VC and angel investors I knew to ask them personally to participate in my mission.

Getting them to get behind a government-sponsored initiative was almost insurmountable—but I did.

Will You Bring Your Money?

It was early spring when I drove to Kalamazoo to meet with my first investor contact. Intoxicated by the beauty of orchards in bloom I missed my exit and arrived late.

He was gracious as I told him women owned 48% of all businesses and were starting businesses at twice the rate of men, yet only received 4% of all private equity to start and grow those businesses. As a result, only 3% of women-owned businesses had annual revenues of a million dollars.

It was my strategy to look him in the eye from across his desk and ask him why he wasn’t investing in women-owned businesses. I wasn’t prepared for his answer.

He was as shocked as I about the 4% statistic.

He told me the problem wasn’t a conscious decision on his part to not invest in women- owned businesses; the problem was, women weren’t asking him for money. They weren’t even pitching him.

asked him, “If I vet and qualify women entrepreneurs to pitch you, will you come—and will you bring your money?” He answered

"Yes. Just make it about money—not about women.”

I Had $100 Million in 3 Phone Calls

IWith this one investor I realized I had some of the smartest money in the country enthusiastically behind me.

I started calling other connections. I had $100 million lined up in three phone calls.

I was back in the Governor’s office for a final meeting. Our part of the deal was done; we needed $1.8 million to manage the infrastructure necessary to connect the $100 million with women entrepreneurs.

"Kim Lavine is inspiring." First Gentleman Dan Mulhern with Governor Jennifer Granholm

"Kim Lavine is inspiring." First Gentleman Dan Mulhern with Governor Jennifer Granholm

The Governor’s staff rushed from the capital building across the street to our meeting. The grounds were covered with news trucks running live satellite feeds from every station in the state. There was bare-knuckled debate going on on the floor as the national economic crisis was creating catastrophic budget shortfalls for states dealing with historic levels of unemployment, foreclosures, corporate bankruptcies and bail-outs.

The writing was on the wall: Governor Granholm was a lame duck, budgets were being slashed, and Lansing was embroiled in all-out partisan infighting.

This deal was dead but I wasn’t about to let my dream die.

This. Was. Not. Easy.

I realized the solution to this mess was never going to come from Washington, or Wall Street. I had invested so much precious time and resources into my dream of connecting women with capital—without a dollar in return—that I decided to go all in.

I was spreading my time between being a mom to my two boys, one autistic, and trying to run my own companies in a business environment in total meltdown. It would have probably driven anyone else to give up, and I asked myself frequently if I should. My boys always answered that question with a resounding ‘NO.”

But things were going to get much worse before they got better.

When the bottom fell out of Wall Street, it fell out of my business, and millions of other businesses across America. Every one of my national retail accounts went bankrupt and closed. The retail industry went into crisis and shut down, freezing new buying indefinitely. The credit markets disappeared overnight, making it impossible to carry 180 day manufacturing runs out of China like I had been. My father died. I decided it was time to start that media company everyone wanted, but this time without investors or loans.

It. Was. Not. Easy.

Dinner at the Yale Club

At times of historic change comes historic opportunity, and I was all about opportunity.

I was back in New York on business. The licensing model my CEO had envisioned had become a reality. We had just launched a new home décor line in New York’s premiere showplace on Fifth Avenue. My Creative Director and I were invited to celebrate with my Editor and her (rabbi, Vietnam veteran, Wall Street attorney) husband at the Yale Club.

What I feared from the beginning had become reality: the vertical revenues dried up before the licensing revenues replaced them. Everyone was reinventing themselves so I did, too. I went to the mat with my investors and fiercely negotiated the buy-back of my company Green Daisy, assuming all the debt in return.

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.

The conversation over dinner that evening at the Yale Club will be forever memorable. My Editor convinced me that Hollywood was the place to be, and she had just the agent to take me there. At her urging I signed with him, and within months I was putting together a production deal and new book deal, certain they would make my dream of connecting women with capital a reality.

The Future Was Wide Open

I checked into the Andaz Hotel on Sunset and looked out from the rooftop pool over the Hollywood hills;.

They had lost my reservation, it was late so they ‘comped’ me an upgrade to a suite where Robert Plant reportedly stayed during the heyday of Led Zeppelin, with pictures of them riding in on motorcycles adorning the walls.

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Looking down Sunset Boulevard at night from the rooftop pool, with Tom Petty singing “the future was wide open” in the background, I was totally swept away by Hollywood glamour.

We had a half dozen meetings, including the biggest production company in the world. This show was going to be about people raising angel capital; the VP I pitched said “just tell me you open suitcases till you win a million dollars.”

The next day we met in Santa Monica with one of the biggest hit-makers on TV. The Managing Partner told me what a fan her sister was of my book. They got my concept and we were on the same page when it came to developing it. I told her that as long as we worked together for the greatest good of all parties, we couldn’t help but succeed. I was right


We worked for months producing a sizzle reel for the show, writing, casting, filming, and then to my surprise, summarizing it all in a PowerPoint presentation. Forget about all the glamour, this was big business, and in Hollywood there were no barriers to entry—as long as you had a dream.

This time I stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt, eating my breakfast of granola and fresh fruit next to the David Hockney pool, as I went over our busy pitch schedule for the day.

I met my team members at CBS. We were pitching a top exec when the talk turned to 401k’s, the economy, and the disastrous real estate market in LA. People had lost everything, including top executives. He asked me if I wanted to be on ‘Survivor,’ and I said no.

We had a dozen meetings lined up, and the next was with Oprah Winfrey’s new network OWN. They were just launching and everybody in Hollywood was standing in line to make a deal; after months of meetings, we would be the first.

We got a green light and everybody I knew suddenly wanted to be my friend. The deal died in negotiation and all my new friends disappeared. We could have taken the deal, but it could have been the end of my dream. I wasn’t putting fame before fortune—or history.

Page 6 Gossip

I was back in New York to meet with the world’s biggest advertiser and I needed to find a publicist to turn my dream into THE NEXT BIG DREAM. I called my Editor; she had two recommendations: Rosemarie Terenzio and Gregg Sullivan.

I called Gregg and he was on fire with passion for my NEXT BIG DREAM; he took the train in and met us at Aquavit on E 55th. Before he arrived I got the PAGE 6 gossip from my Editor about the feud between her and Liz Smith. “Didn’t she know that anything said at FREDERIC FEKKAI in the early hours reserved for private clients was off the record?”

I returned to my hotel just as Rosemarie Terenzio called. My heart skipped a beat when she said she was JFK Jr’s personal assistant until CAMELOT was INTERRUPTED. I couldn’t believe she wanted to work with me on THE NEXT BIG DREAM. But we had crossed wires; she was planning on meeting the next day and I was planning on leaving. It was one of those moments my Editor would call “beyond coincidence.” Instead she would go on to write a blockbuster bestseller about the young man whom I could tell in her voice she still dearly loved and mourned