Anita Patrickson, Ashley Merrill, Sarah Kunst, April Uchitel

Theory founder Andrew Rosen came to Los Angeles for the first time in a year this week to reacquaint himself with the ever-shifting retail, cultural and tech landscape, and among his activities was checking out the latest L.A. installment of the company’s Be Heard initiative.

The program, founded last year to mark Theory’s 20th anniversary and empower its younger employees with a voice and a more entrepreneurial spirit, has spawned eight events in New York, Miami and L.A. with speakers including Away cofounder Jen Rubio; Alexandra Wilkis Wilson of Gilt and Glamsquad; Drybar founder Alli Webb, Reformation founder Yael Aflalo; Alexandra Friedman of LOLA; Hillary Kerr of Clique Brands, author and activist Tiffany Dufu, and Glennda Testone, executive director of the LGBT Center in New York.

“I call it Theory 2.0,” said Rosen. “I’m always helping people outside the company develop their business and I wanted to do that with people inside our company to retain them and help them grow and think about our next 20 years.”

The latest panel, held at Theory’s Melrose Avenue store, was led by stylist and Amanu founder Anita Patrickson and featured Violet Grey chief executive officer April Uchitel; Lunya founder and ceo Ashley Merrill, and Sarah Kunst, VC investor and managing director of Cleo Capital. The conversation centered on building business online and how female founders are driving gender parity by making their own rules and supporting other women in their businesses.

Kunst encouraged the women in the audience to check out comparable salaries and advised on when it was realistic to ask for equity in a start-up; Merrill shared management tips and Uchitel reminded that women sometimes need to go easy on themselves, even though she herself worked insane hours after she left the apparel world at the peak of her career to start over in the e-commerce business.

“It’s really inspiring to come out to L.A. these days. It’s a different coast and different spirit, a lot of energy, new young designers and new ideas to be inspired by,” said Rosen. While he remained mum on whether he’d found any new companies to incubate, he did say Theory will be opening a store in downtown L.A. at Broadway and Ninth Street in September.

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