Kathy Ireland, CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, Captivates More Than 820 Local Businesswomen During United Way Luncheon


Kathy Ireland with United Way Women's Leadership Council Co-Chairs Karen Dee, (left) Florida Regional President of Fifth Third Bank, and Helen Donegan, (right) Vice President of Communtiy Relations for the University of Central Florida

Discussing everything from her career as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model to the entrepreneurial achievements recently highlighted in Forbes magazine, Kathy Ireland inspired more than 820 prominent female leaders during the Fifth Annual United Way Women’s Leadership Luncheon.

From Beach to Boardroom
In sharing her journey “from the beach to the boardroom,” Ireland said she has learned many critical lessons since launching her first business venture – designing and selling socks – nearly 20 years ago. Since that time, Kathy Ireland Worldwide has grown into a global brand and design empire that sells more than 45,000 products – everything from home furnishings and replacement windows to wedding fashions and books – in 50 countries.     

“Modeling was never part of my plan, I always knew that I wanted to be on the other side of the camera,” said Ireland, noting that she barely graduated from high school. “I’ve had many failures throughout my career, but they’ve provided an incredible education. Don’t be afraid of failure. Learn from it.”

While encouraging the group to follow their dreams and passions, she also advised them to have a solid plan. “If you have a great idea, don’t let anyone discourage you,” she said. “But always remember that imagination without implementation is hallucination.”  

Ireland, a noted philanthropist, also praised the Council’s efforts to improve lives of local women and children in need and encouraged others to follow them.

Gail Amaral

Helped by United Way
Also speaking during the March 14 luncheon was Orlando resident and Publix associate Gail Amaral, who shared a moving story of how she and her husband, Jay, survived an unexpected medical crisis thanks to help received through 2-1-1, United Way’s free, 24-hour information, referral and crisis helpline.   

Following emergency heart surgery last October, Jay was unable to work for three months, which reduced the couple’s income by half. 

“With bills piling up, we were getting further and further behind,” Amaral said. “Even with good health insurance, there was no way we could keep up. Just before the holidays, things hit a breaking point when I could no longer pay the rent. Terrified of losing our home, I called United Way 2-1-1, where I learned I was eligible to receive temporary rent assistance. I can’t tell you the difference this made in our lives.”

Event sponsors for the Fifth Annual United Way Women’s Leadership Luncheon included Tupperware Brands Corporation, Fifth Third Bank, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Orlando Health, Orlando Magic, the University of Central Florida, Darylaine Hernandez Law Firm and Florida Hospital.

For more information about the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, click here. To view, download and share photos from the luncheon, please visit United Way’s Facebook page or Picasa photo gallery.

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