I was born and raised in Berkeley, California and I love the freethinking, artistic culture of the Bay Area. I am married with two children and two dogs and work in Alameda, California (about fifteen minutes outside of San Francisco) at the corporate offices of Cost Plus World Market.
When I was a teenager, I had an after-school job at a fabric store and just being surrounded by the bolts of beautiful fabrics sparked my interest in textiles. Over the years I’ve been a merchant for many different types of home furnishing products, but my interest in color and fashion has made working with textiles my favorite. Since my first merchant job at Cost Plus I have been passionate about what I do—creating and updating new merchandise concepts, traveling to countries to meet the makers and oversee the process of getting an item produced, and finally seeing a product that I’ve had a hand in developing land on store shelves for the first time! It’s an amazing process that checks all the boxes for me on a creative level.
I do quite a bit of travelling for my job. In addition to attending trend and trade fairs in Europe, I spend the majority of my travels in India developing textiles for all of our rugs, table linens, pillows and apparel. India is by far my favorite destination; I love the people, their history and the work that they do. During my visits, I have the honor of working with companies who have mastered the artistry of rug making, block printing, and embroideries. The most memorable moments are when I actually get to try my hand at an artisanal task with these talented artists. I have had hands-on teaching with block printing, shibori dying and rug weaving on a loom—skills that have been passed down through multiple generations. In fact, one family of artisans in India has been with us at Cost Plus World Market for our entire 60-year history!
I have worked for Cost Plus World Market for fourteen years, first starting out as an assistant buyer, and then working my way up to my present role of Sr. Divisional Merchandise Manager. I did leave the company for a short time to pursue other interests, but I found my way back because this company supports merchant creativity like no other that I have worked for.
In my current role, I lead with a flexible administrative style that can adapt to any given situation. I operate as a coach and mentor to those who work for me, and more often than not I am collaborative, seeking feedback and dialogue for projects. I work with women at all levels of their career, from entry to tenured. I like my team members to have a voice in decisions, but if needed, I can and will provide firm direction on the way to go, and why. I enjoy teaching and realize that I am bringing up the next generation behind me, same as was done for me with women who I was lucky enough to work for.
I have been fortunate to work for and with outstanding women leaders at all points of my career. During my time in retail, my managers were not only interested in teaching me how to be a merchant through learned tasks, but also in developing values for becoming a good partner in business. I’ve relied on the lessons of good communication, interpersonal skills and the importance of working as part of a team more so than being “the boss” throughout my career.
I believe that if you find the right fit in a company and career as I did with Cost Plus—for me, this was having a creative voice to support and drive my vision—then, the passion for what you do every day will naturally come through as a commitment to higher levels of performance and success will follow.
RETAIL ADVICE TO SMALL ARTISANS
1. Study the retailer and make sure your aesthetic seems aligned with the brand you are seeking.
2. Offer what you think will take the brand into the future, not a repeat of where a retailer has been (at Cost Plus World Market, we are always looking for something NEW).
MENTORING FOR FELLOW RETAILERS
1. Take some risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. Retail isn’t brain surgery and most things are fixable. The nature of fashion demands risk-taking.
2. Have a voice, ask questions and do not be a “yes” person. This is important in order to push through dialogue about new ideas.
3. Stay inspired. Regular retail inspiration can be challenging at times due to the fast and changing landscape. Building merchandise assortments that will continually excite and inspire customers can be difficult, but inspiration can be found everywhere—Instagram (a current favorite of mine), flipping through magazines or visiting other stores (especially small neighborhood boutiques and larger specialty stores).
A recent accomplishment, and my proudest this year, was establishing a donation co-branded assortment with Sackcloth & Ashes. Cost Plus World Market merchandised their exclusive blanket assortment in our stores and online and, with every blanket sold, another blanket was donated to a shelter for the homeless. This program not only helped to bring immediate awareness to the issue of homelessness, but it also fostered a volunteer program within our company where employees spend time at shelters handing out blankets, as well as, preparing and serving food to those in need.