Philanthropist Libby Cook
Cook agreed to help support Women Rule! financially, then came to check out the participants, counseling a number of them during and after the conference. Cook, with her husband, turned a local health food store called Wild Oats into a billion-dollar company before selling it to Whole Foods in 2007. "I had no business experience and made every mistake in the book—at least twice," she says. "At one point we were trying to be everything to everybody—we had seen hard-core hippie health food stores fail and we were trying to be a crossover store, introducing customers to natural foods without scaring them. But people were wondering: 'What's your real message?' Sometimes it's important to start small and be really focused." Wild Oats provided the means for Cook to create Philanthropiece, a foundation that supports international programs focusing on education, health, and the environment, with an emphasis on local communities
(Cook took a particular interest in several participants, including Lea Webb, Micki Krimmel, and Rahama Wright and has been working with them to develop their projects). "You have to surround yourself with the right people," she says. "I didn't care about having marquee names on my board. I knew not to ask, say, the dean of a business school because he's too darn busy. I looked for people with the same passion I had."