Kristen Standish of Grapevine Shops: “Don’t ask permission, take risks”

Be authentic. Get behind something you love, and you are passionate about. Empower and promote other women. Don’t ask permission, take risks. Do not be intimidated by raising capital. Women can do it and don’t need men to show us how. As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure […]

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Be authentic. Get behind something you love, and you are passionate about.

Empower and promote other women.

Don’t ask permission, take risks.

Do not be intimidated by raising capital. Women can do it and don’t need men to show us how.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Standish.

Kristen Standish serves as CEO of Grapevine Village and CEO/Co-Founder of Grapevine Shops. Since joining Grapevine in 2018, she has overhauled the company’s operations and strengthened Grapevine’s position as a leader in enterprise digital marketing. Using her decades of experience creating revenue and brand awareness for several media companies, including Boston magazine where she served as Publisher, and the Phoenix Media/Communications Group, CBS Radio, and the Boston Globe, Kristen is adept at driving sales and creating lasting mutually beneficial business relationships while also constantly innovating.

In 2020, alongside Co-Founder Charity Richins, she launched Grapevine Shops, the consumer-facing e-commerce platform where shoppers of all ages and interests will discover innovative and purpose-driven brands, most of which are led by black, brown, and female business owners, and were carefully curated by Kristen and Charity. Building what Kristen deems a “trust economy” is important to her and the Grapevine brand, and it means that both the small businesses featured on Shops and the creators in the Grapevine Village community share the same commitment to giving back, as 10% of all Shops proceeds go to charitable organizations, such as Family Reach.

Kristen’s most important role is mom to 10-year-old daughter, Abigail. And at age 51, she bravely learned to sail, got a sailboat, and is currently getting her RYA Day Skipper certification.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

After many years in the media and publishing world, I knew that I wanted to use that experience and expand on the amazing relationships I’ve built over the years to evolve into the next phase of my career — with more focus on sharing content in a way that consumers want.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It most certainly was being part of the iconic magazine cover of Boston Magazine where we had over 100 runners’ sneakers represented on the cover of the magazine after the Boston Marathon bombing. We decided we were going to do some outreach to the runners who we knew had participated in the Boston Marathon and ask them to bring their sneakers to Boston Magazine. We then set off to New York City where an aerial photographer shot the cover of the sneakers shaped in the form of a heart. The cover was beautiful and reinforced the strength of our city and the resilience of the Boston Marathon runners. I was very proud to be part of that project.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest things that happened to me was over a phone interview that I bombed completely! I wasn’t feeling well and conducted the interview in-between running to the bathroom and getting sick. I realized I had totally bombed the interview and was not going to be receiving a job offer. The next day I woke up and called the interviewer back to say I wanted the opportunity to do that interview over as I was violently ill during her interview and was not projecting my best self. The interviewer laughed aloud and thanked me for my honesty and my courageousness in calling back and asking for a do-over. I ended up getting the job.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Stephen Mindich was not only a mentor, but the trailblazer who started the Boston Phoenix. He hired me as a young 25-year-old know-it-all and tolerated me for seven years. He admired my tenacity and trusted me at an incredibly young age. When I presented him with my idea to launch a magazine that would compete with the Improper Bostonian, called Stuff@Night, he let me do it, funded it, and he said, “Go for it, just don’t lose me any goddamn money.” Little did I know that typically a publication would in fact lose money for at least two years before turning a profit. But the fear I had instilled in me from Stephen at a young age pushed me and my team to be the best that we could be. We were not only profitable, but we were extraordinarily successful within our first year of publishing.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I love Emily Dickinson‘s letters. I read them often and it gives me pleasure to read correspondences that last and have an impact over time. I often refer to this book when responding or writing my own personal notes. I feel the art of writing is in jeopardy and it is coming upon women and mothers and children to stick to and read the classics.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

A client once told me this in relation to sales — “I’ll see quickly if you’re in or you’re out.” It doesn’t particularly correlate with what we are doing during a pandemic, however, it’s important to try and do business face-to-face and to be in the mix of your industry and on the cutting edge of emerging technologies. To me being social is a big piece of that success.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I am not sure that I’ve made the world a better place, however, I do believe launching Grapevine Shops affords many women-founded businesses and/or minority-founded businesses to be part of a new economy called the ‘trust economy’ where we help scale and bring to market small emerging brands and provide resources to small businesses. Additionally, Grapevine Shops can save consumers time knowing that the products featured are important their everyday life.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

In my experience part of what is holding female founded companies back is that many of the VC firms and investor community is still run by men. It is intimidating enough to launch a business, but then having to rely on men to understand a business can be extremely challenging, especially when trying to raise funds for something that perhaps they don’t fully understand or see value in. That is why it’s refreshing to see VC firms now being run by women for women — we need more of this.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I try to participate in as many thought leadership events, conversations, and/or podcast interviews as I can to bang the drum for women to become founders. In doing so, I am able to help provide a forum to assist female founders scale their businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.

This might be intuitive to you, but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

I think it is particularly important for women to have autonomy and to work in an industry that they love, where they can call the shots, and not worry about having to answer to somebody — especially in regard to raising a family and being able to balance responsibilities at home. The more women founders, the more women in leadership, and the more success we will have.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

Be authentic. Get behind something you love, and you are passionate about.

Find a space that isn’t overcrowded.

Empower and promote other women.

Don’t ask permission, take risks.

Do not be intimidated by raising capital. Women can do it and don’t need men to show us how.

One other piece of advice that may seem like it flies in the face of becoming a woman founder: You don’t have all the time in the world to have a family, focus on that when you’re young and don’t wait too long. You can have both, but don’t put your family off for your career.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I do think creating an anti-Amazon marketplace such as Grapevine Shops that gives back 10% of all our proceeds is the beginning of something that could trigger a movement. Only working with small female-founded, many already funded, brands is a start and I think it’s something we can hang our hat on.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Since there are so many people who I admire in business it would be hard for me to just select one that I would love to have lunch with. That being said, if you were to tag somebody, I would want it to be somebody that can actually cook me a great lunch! I would have to say Ina Garten or Martha Stewart would serve the purpose. I admire and love them both, and if Julia Child were alive today, she would be the one who I would have lunch, cocktails, and dinner with in a heartbeat!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can shop and learn more about Grapevine Shops at They can also follow me and Grapevine Shops to keep up with all that we have going on.

Grapevine Shops on Instagram: @grapevineshops

Kristen Standish on Instagram: @kristenstandish

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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