Liz: For me, I wish I had more mentors. I think because I started out so young and was juggling being a mom and owning a business, I didn’t really have people help me more or guide me. One person that did impact me though, was my client, Lisa Malat who was in charge of Store Operations for Barnes & Noble College… she was such a good model for me as a mom and as an executive. She was one of my first [visualizations of women in the workforce] — I dealt with a lot of men — and I was always impressed when [her kids] had a day off from school and she would bring them into the office. Or she would leave a meeting to take a call for her kid. I mean — she would stop a meeting to deal with something important with her family. And she had a nurturing side to her — it wasn’t all about business. And I just felt that she was such a good model for me to see that someone could do both. And make time for her family at work when it was really important. I had never seen this before.
Debbie: I really feel like my success was based on mentorship. My first mentor was at my first job — she showed me the finer things in life without any snobbery and she was so instrumental in [learning how to] be comfortable in luxury. And then I got my job at Clinique, which really changed my life. And my mentor there was the Chairman of the company and she changed the trajectory of my life completely. For whatever reason at 28 years old took me under her wing and taught me so much about being a strong woman [and] a strong proponent of things. But my final mentor was President of the company and really took me under his wing. When I was courted for the COO position, he was my biggest advocate of taking it…and when I didn’t he tracked my career. I think for him I was this person that didn’t stay safe, [that] really went out there. He thought I was crazy, [and] then I wasn’t. And then he was on one of my boards for LiveLux [another company Debbie co-founded]. He’s been so good to me.
Liz: My champions and who I learned from, were the people I brought on to work with me and my clients. I remember this one strategy consultant who came from a big corporate job, she was really good about [teaching me]…I just watched how she worked, was disciplined with her time, how she put her presentations together, how she spoke, and the kind of respect she garnered…and along the way I learned and watched how other people managed through Corporate America.
And I had clients pull me aside and say, ‘It would be good if you can do this’ or ‘I need you to figure this out’. They would give me advice on certain things and that has always been helpful. I’ve also hired consultants to do assessments on my business, reach out to my clients and talk to them about their experience with Reit. Just asking a lot of questions like, What they think we should be doing? How we’re doing? What we can do better? And by having that third party ask the questions, our clients are way more vocal than anything they would say [to us]. And I’ve learned a lot from those comments. They’ve shared things like that I have a younger team; they feel like they’re getting a fresh perspective while also balancing that with my experience and design heritage. Getting those surveys done from these outside consultants I’ve learned a lot from and have really guided me as well.
Debbie: Mentors are people who are outside of your company, sponsors are within your organization that help you — and that is more corporate than it is entrepreneurial. And I think that’s important [to note] — and even clients like Liz mentioned — it really helps us move forward [as entrepreneurs] and provides the support that we need to remind us that we can do this.
But [one of] my sponsors in my company was the Creative Director. And I made him quite successful, [and he in turn] was very grateful that I supported him in doing the things to make him successful. So he [in turn] supported me all throughout the time I worked with him. And even though he received public recognition, he supported me behind the scenes and helped me achieve credibility in my consultancy to work with established and well-known clients outside of the beauty industry…and allowed me to continue to flourish. I would say he was my biggest supporter.