On February 18, the Tuck School of Business and Dartmouth College hosted an incredible entrepreneur, Stuart Weitzman, founder and designer of Stuart Weitzman shoes. Stuart is the type of person you meet and instantly connect with—he is kind, passionate, enthusiastic about his work, and is constantly seeking to find ways to give back to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
As a Visiting Executive Fellow through the Alan Smith Visiting Executive program at Tuck, I had the incredible opportunity to host Stuart throughout his time at Dartmouth and wanted to share five learnings from his visit.
Throughout his visit at Dartmouth, Stuart consistently emphasized the importance of being imaginative. In college, Stuart began working at his father’s Massachusetts shoe factory which ultimately served as the catalyst for him to start his namesake shoe company, Stuart Weitzman. Stuart shared a story about a young five-year-old girl in Kindergarten. During all of her classes she was bored, paying little attention to the class, and generally disinterested in being there. However, when she was in painting class, she absolutely loved it. One day her teacher comes up to her and said, “What are you drawing?” “God,” she responds. The teacher replies, “But we don’t know what God looks like.” And the little girl responds, “Well I’m about to show you!” We need to all channel our inner child to fuel our imagination.
One of the main questions Stuart received throughout the day was, “How did you know what you were meant to do?” Stuart’s response: inspiration is always built on a need so find a corporation and innovate. He found initial inspiration when working at his father’s shoe factory and built Stuart Weitzman into a luxury, global brand.
One of Stuart’s key learnings that he shared with the Dartmouth and Tuck community from his career was the importance of Managers and Executives being both nice and communicative. “Nice” isn’t always the first characteristic you hear successful entrepreneurs discuss as critical for hiring success. Stuart believes when managers and executives are nice, their team members will look to spend time with them, and further the mission of the company. Being communicative is critical so these executives can clearly articulate the strategy / vision of the company so all team members know they are striving towards a common goal.
Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding but also equally lonely. When building Stuart Weitzman, Stuart looked for individuals who would be there for the long haul and who were as excited about the business potential as he was. Amazingly 26 years later he had built a veteran team who stayed with him until he sold the company to Tapestry.
Stuart took incredible risks in his career and what he realized when building a global brand generating hundreds of millions of dollars was the importance of taking risks. When thinking of a risk, he recommend you ask yourself a question, what would I gain if the risk worked? What would I lose? Luckily for all of us Stuart’s calculated risks have paid off, and he was able to share his learnings with the broader Tuck community!