Entrepreneur Eileen Fisher
This in this month’s edition of Inc. Magazine the How I Did It Column featured clothing designer and entrepreneur Eileen Fisher. So many parts of it struck a cord to me that I had to share them here.
The article excerpts, as told to Liz Welch, are in purple while my comments are in italics underneath.
When I decided to go to college, my dad said, “Well, Eileen, since we don’t have the money to send all the kids to school, we have to save up for your brother. He’ll need an education to support his family one day.” … I paid my way through the University of Illinois working as a waitress.
I was shocked at this! A real sign of the times, I suppose. It made me think, if she didn’t complain about that, who am I to complain about anything?
I never set out to be a clothing designer — I was an uncomfortable person, and so I wanted comfortable clothes.
I wouldn’t classify myself as a designer either. Nice to know you can still succeed in the fashion industry.
I had three weeks to produce my line, $350 in the bank, and no idea how to make a pattern.
Always love to hear the dollar amount people start with. Makes me realize you can make any budget work if you really want to get it done.
I sold $40,000 worth of clothes and took the stack of orders to the bank to borrow money to make them. They laughed. “How do we know that these are real orders? Or that these stores are creditworthy?”
People are going to doubt you. You just can’t doubt yourself.
I had my son Zack a few days before I turned 39. … It helped me understand how hard it was juggling kids and a job. We have a lot of flexible work situations as a result, as well as a woman in charge of work-life balance.
This is something I want to do for my eventual employees too: Flexible schedules. Trust that you will get the work done. Ability to be a woman, have a family and a successful career.
A major turning point for me was meeting Susan Schor. It was at a party in 1999. Her expertise is in organizational development, and so when I told her about my company and my philosophies, she asked, “How are you assured that the culture disseminates?” She worked as a consultant at first, to help me integrate the company and answer that question.
There are two high level people who I want to hire. Having them support me already has been a turning point in the way I think about the business. Its a big deal to connect with these pivotal relationships.
I thought about going public, but it seemed way too complicated. I don’t think about my business so much in quarters or in numbers that way. I think about getting the product right. If you do that, the money will follow. The ESOP is an extension of what I always wanted for my company: a sense of inclusivity. My employees run the business, and they deserve to own it. We’ve done profit sharing for years, and it makes people feel really connected. It’s not us and them. It’s us.
Wow! I didn’t even know you could do this. But it makes so much sense. I’d be much happier working toward this goal than the going public one.
After reading the article I reached out to the author, Liz, to thank her. She then forwarded my note to Eileen Fisher’s company. In a matter of minutes, a PR person from Eileen Fisher emailed me with a grant opportunity.
While I didn’t qualify, it made me admire Ms. Fisher an her company even more. What an awesome role model.