Interview with Alyssa Milano

Women are increasingly becoming an economic—and entrepreneurial—force to be reckoned with. While we have been an integral part of the workforce for decades, women-owned businesses have more than doubled in the last twenty years. 

Indeed, according to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, there are 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States today, employing nearly 9 million people and generating more than $1.7 trillion in revenue. While the majority of these companies fall under “other services” (like hair and nail salons), health care and social assistance industries, retail is another area in which women-owned businesses are thriving.

Just ask Alyssa Milano. In addition to being an actor and activist, Milano is the founder of a sports fashion line for women and has enjoyed great success; she is the only licensee with licensing to every major sports league in female apparel.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Milano about her entrepreneurial spirit, involvement in day-to-day business operations, maintaining a work/life balance, and more.

Maureen Shaw: You’re known primarily for your acting chops and activism, but you are also the creator of a fashion line—Touch by Alyssa Milano—for female sports fans. Have you always had an entrepreneurial spark?

Alyssa Milano: Yes, I have.  I think it is in my DNA, all the way back to my great grandparents. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. So, I was exposed to that at a very early age. My parents ingrained in me and my brother that we can do anything we put our mind to. 

Like any entrepreneur, I see business opportunities around almost every corner. However, I believe to be a good entrepreneur you need to be in businesses that you are passionate about and fit into your lifestyle. And, this is exactly where the idea for Touch came to me. I was at a Dodgers game one night and it got chilly outside. So, I went to the Team store to buy a sweatshirt and all I saw for women was product that was pink and boxy and unattractive. That was back in the day when licensees used the ‘ol “shrink it and pink it” mentality when it came to products for women. So, I thought, if I am looking for something cute, fun and fashionable to weear, there must be thousands of other women looking for the same. At that very moment, Touch was born.

MS: How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of the business? The design?

AM: Interesting question.  Some people on the Touch Team would say I’m too involved—HA!!  I do have a great Team of people at my partner G-III Sports by Carl Banks that work on the Touch Brand with me. They handle most of the day-to-day business.  But, I am in contact with them on a regular basis on both the business and marketing side, and especially the design side of the business.  I am a very active owner and believe in collaboration with smart people, which is exactly what we have on Team Touch.

MS: You are the only licensee with licensing to every major sports league in female apparel. How did you make that happen?

AM: Touch was the very first true women’s fashion brand that the NFL licensed. That is also true for the MLB, NHL and NBA. Nobody can take this away from me and I am truly proud of this. 

As far as the NFL is concerned, they have been a great partner for the Touch brand.  I love working with them. We have done some really cool fashion collections and some amazing marketing campaigns together.  

MS: In addition to Touch, you have several television projects in the works, are a UNICEF ambassador, high-profile activist, mom of two and you run PartisanNotPatriot.com. How on earth do you juggle everything?

AM: I have a great support team around me that is there for me and my kids, and pitch in when needed. And that starts with my amazing husband and terrific parents. 

It certainly is not easy to juggle all of this, but it is imperative that I keep a balanced work/life schedule.  My two children are my everything and I put them above anything else I am doing. Even as busy as I am, I make sure I am not apart from my kids and family for any extended period of time. 

MS: Do you ever envision a cross-over of your activist work into fashion? What might that look like?

AM: We have had discussions about this.  The ONLY way I would do this is to make sure G-III Sports and the Pro Sports Leagues are all on the same page and that every penny of a cross-over venture goes back to the cause I am involved with. I can see a time when we move in this direction for special products.

MS: What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs (or aspiring entrepreneurs)?

AM: NEVER take no for an answer!  And, make sure you build a sound business plan around your idea and vet it with people who are smarter than you. This is the advice I give to other entrepreneurs, regardless if they are female or male. 

MS: OK, quick pivot: In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing women in the United States today?

AM: Wow, where to start on this one…  In the most basic sense, I would have to say equality: equality in the workplace, equality in politics, equality in how we are treated in our everyday life. 

Let me be honest, this is most certainly a female-centric issue, but it also applies to many other walks of life. If we can get one thing right in our world, it should be equality for everyone. I really believe this is the root of so many issues we are facing today and will face in the future if we cannot fix this.