Kay Koplovitz not only shows what can be achieved, she's helping others with their dreams.
Female entrepreneurs need to see other women who have followed their dreams and achieved success to believe that we, too, can succeed.
If you're an entrepreneur looking for a terrific role model, then check out Kay Koplovitz.
Koplovitz was the founder of USA Network, the first woman president of a television network, and creator of what's now called Syfy. She went on to become chairwoman of Fifth & Pacific, the parent company of Kate Spade, Juicy Couture and other fashion brands.
Koplovitz was a driving force behind Springboard Enterprises, the groundbreaking organization helping women entrepreneurs raise money for their new ventures.
When cable TV programming was rolling out across the USA, Ted Turner had the flair, the playboy personality. He captured media attention.
At the same time, Koplovitz, too, was pioneering the industry, creating national sports programming and establishing the two-revenue-stream business model for cable — licensing fees and advertising.
Like many entrepreneurs, Koplovitz got her inspiration from a combination of previous experience and her passions, including science fiction and baseball.
"I got the idea (for satellite transmission of programming) from Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer. I heard him give a lecture," she said. "He captivated my imagination."
Koplovitz wrote her master's thesis on satellite technology and the effect it would have on communications.
Her success reflects a key ingredient of entrepreneurial success: You must believe in your own potential.
After college, she went to work at a local television station.
"People thought I would be there my whole career," she said. "But I didn't want to be manager of a TV station. I wanted to be president of NBC."
During the next few years, Koplovitz worked in television, satellite and cable sales. As she saw cable systems in small towns, she realized they needed programming to grow.
In 1977, Koplovitz launched the Madison Square Garden Sports network, what was to become USA Network.
"We had 125 events from the Garden. I set out to acquire more," she said. "The idea was to have an event every night. Sporting events then were only on weekends and Monday night football.
"As a kid, I was in love with the Milwaukee Braves and head over heels in love with Henry Aaron. ... I didn't like the Yankees at all," Koplovitz said. "But I knew the Yankees were big time. So I did a contract with (Yankees owner) George Steinbrenner.
"I made an offer to pay 2¢ per subscriber per game for licensing. That was the first Major League sporting team I had a contract with. In April 1979, the Yankees played the Red Sox. The game went extra innings. It was really thrilling.
"The next morning my phone rings," Koplovitz said. "It's Bowie Kuhn, the baseball commissioner. He told me I didn't have the rights to the game. ... Steinbrenner knew he didn't have the rights but licensed it to me anyway. Kuhn threatened me with a restraining order. ... I told him, 'OK, I'll trade you. ... I'll trade you the Yankee contract for a contract with Major League Baseball, and I'll broadcast all the games.' "
He accepted her offer.
Koplovitz kept negotiating — with the NBA, the NHL, the U.S. Open tennis championship, the Masters Tournament golf, college sports.
"Pretty quickly, we had over 500 events," she said.
She served as chairwoman and chief executive of USA Network until the company was sold in 1998 for $4.5 billion. In 2007, Koplovitz joined the board of what was then Liz Claiborne Inc., now Fifth & Pacific.
And just as important, Koplovitz turned her energy toward helping other women entrepreneurs. President Bill Clinton had appointed Koplovitz to head the National Women's Business Council, but she wanted to do more.
"I saw all this VC (venture capital) money and said, 'Why aren't women getting any of this capital?' " In 2000, she helped found Springboard Enterprises to showcase women-led entrepreneurial ventures.
Since its founding, Springboard has helped women entrepreneurs raise more than $6 billion in venture capital, creating tens of thousands of jobs.
Koplovitz is exactly the kind of role model that female — and male — entrepreneurs need: innovative, energetic, confident, benevolent.
And yes, in case you were wondering, Koplovitz does get free clothes. Every board member of Fifth & Pacific gets an allowance to select clothes and products.
"I'm wearing my yellow Kate Spade dress, and I love it!" she said.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her most recent book is Entrepreneurship: A Real-World Approach. Register for Rhonda's free newsletter at PlanningShop.com. Twitter: @RhondaAbrams. Facebook: facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness.Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2013.