Meet the Masters - Lillian Vernon
"Thanks to my father, I never gave up and never will. I am proud that my 47-year success as a pioneer in our industry helped set many of the standards and practices followed today."
Ask any colleague: If you were lucky, there might have been a few paragraphs on direct marketing in your college textbook. As direct marketing wasn't even a term when Vernon got her start, she was fortunate to benefit from a wise professor at New York University who taught her the founding principles of running a business.
"Under Professor Cochrane's guidance, I learned the basics of clear-headed analysis and self-discipline, which have always proved to be valuable in developing my company," she recalls.
Because she has been given so many opportunities to succeed in her own right, Vernon shares a trait common amongst other entrepreneurs—that is, an overwhelming urge to give back and help others achieve their dreams.
"When I started my company, there were few role models for women in business. The few companies headed up by women were basically in female-oriented businesses—Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder and Helena Rubenstein made names for themselves in the cosmetic industry; Coco Chanel was a prominent fashion designer; and Miriam Haskell was a renowned jewelry designer.
"Today, high-profile role models abound, among them Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and Warnaco Chief Executive Linda Wachner. I hope my success in the once male-dominated mail order industry has served as an inspiration to many women executives. I pride myself in hiring many people in our company who I helped "mentor" up the Lillian Vernon corporate ladder.
"For example, our vice president of product development, Lina LoRusso, started out as a telephone representative in our call center more than 15 years ago. Lina is just one of the many Lillian Vernon success stories—promising young people who came to work here and showed the initiative, perseverance and interest to learn the business and grow as the company grew.