Schwartz & Benjamin Milestone: Thoughts From the Team

The talented staff of Schwartz & Benjamin reveal what it means to work in a family business.

Eli Footer
Former title:
Co-chairman (retired)
Years at the company: 47
Biggest change at the firm: “I started as a salesman on the road, then I became sales manager and, ultimately, Arthur Schwartz named me co-chairman of the company.”
Fondest memory: “Schwartz & Benjamin encouraged territorial salesman to become very proactive in the industry [associations and organizations]. And they were very generous in donating to FFANY Shoes on Sale. That was part of the culture there.”
Best part of your job: “Working with Arthur. He had a vision of manufacturing shoes under the names of clothing designers. The company’s growth was really due to Arthur. He saw an opportunity that nobody else saw.”

Angela Forlini
Current title:
Line builder
Years at the company: 14
Biggest change at the firm: “The company growth, changing offices and moving into a much larger location as we have taken on new, amazing brands.”
Fondest memory: “I have grown up in Schwartz & Benjamin and learned so much from the best in the footwear business. Barbara Schwartz took me under her wing and mentored me. It has been and continues to be a very rewarding experience.”
Best part of your job: “I love how family-oriented the company is and who I work with. I seem to learn something new every day.”

Nicole Ginnetti
Current title:
International sales
Years at the company: 18
Biggest change at the firm: “Growth in all areas: brands, staff, manufacturing, etc. We had to relocate both our showroom and design studio in New York, as well as our corporate office in Massachusetts, to allow for the expansion.”
Fondest memory: “That’s easy: Bob Schwartz, [Danny Schwartz’s late cousin and our former director of international sales]. He took me under his wing and mentored me. He was tough and it wasn’t easy, but I was so lucky to have learned from him.”
Best part of your job: “Working with some wonderful people who I consider family.”

Barbara Hannify
Current title:
Credit analyst
Years at the company: 30
Biggest change at the firm: “The newer technology that allows us to reference data quicker and that is more time-efficient.”
Fondest memory: “I have always enjoyed the people I have worked with.”
Best part of your job: “The challenges in my particular position and knowing that this company will be there for you when you need it.”

Annie Marino
Current title:
VP of sales, Derek Lam and 10 Crosby Derek Lam
Years at the company: 8
Biggest change at the firm: “Seeing all the amazing designer and hip contemporary brands that we have made shoes for in both the past and present.”
Fondest memory: “Working with the wonderful owners … and feeling like I’m a key part of the company.”
Best part of your job: “Having the opportunity to work with designers, owners and their teams, as well as working with high-end stores and their buying teams.”

Jennifer Masella
Current title:
President, Diane von Furstenberg Footwear
Years at the company: 5
Biggest change at the firm: “The growth of the e-commerce business and the balancing act done between customers that have both online and brick-and-mortar businesses.”
Fondest memory: “When I brought my 3-year-old son Jack to work for the day and Barbara Schwartz went to shake his hand and he grabbed her by both cheeks and kissed her on the lips. Both of their smiles are imprinted in my mind forever.”
Best part of your job: “The everyday ins and outs here at Schwartz & Benjamin are great. We are all so hands-on that every day brings a new challenge.”

Kelly Mitchell
Current title:
Order processing supervisor
Years at the company: 31
Biggest change at the firm: “The length of time it takes for the orders to get to the factory from the customer. When I started here, the seller would take the orders from the customer and mail it to the office. They would then be keyed into the computer, printed off, checked and then mailed to the factory. It could take up to two weeks from the customer to the factory. Now, it could be hours from the customer to the factory.”
Fondest memory: “The Christmas parties.”
Best part of your job: “The atmosphere.”

Michele Prandi
Current title:
VP of sales, Kate Spade Footwear
Years at the company: 3
Biggest change at the firm: “Our ability to implement new technology to keep up with the growing e-commerce channel.”
Fondest memory: “When I began working on the 90th anniversary party and learned about the rich and diverse history that Schwartz & Benjamin embodies. I had a unique opportunity to view the archives and see some of the original shoes Schwartz & Benjamin manufactured.”
Best part of your job: “Coming to work each day in our beautiful showroom space and working with such creative and motivated individuals.”

Robert Sabelli
Current title:
Controller
Years at the company: 29
Biggest change at the firm: “The transition of company leadership from Arthur to Danny. It’s extraordinary that the core family values and culture of the business have remained the same while the company structure and direction have changed considerably as the footwear industry has changed.”
Fondest memory: “1984 — the first time I was sent to meet the New York team, which was my first time in New York and also my first time on an airplane, at age 24. Another fond memory was our 70th anniversary celebration.”
Best part of your job: “I never get tired of it. Having the opportunity to contribute is energizing and having full access to all employees, including Arthur and Danny, is a special quality that preserves the family atmosphere, which is unique in today’s business environment.”

Sarah Smith
Current title:
Sales manager
Years at the company: 5
Biggest change at the firm: “The exciting growth of the Kate Spade New York division that I am currently working in. There is so much buzz and demand for the brand, and footwear plays an integral part of making Kate Spade the lifestyle brand it has become.”
Fondest memory: “I’ve had the opportunity to work on three different brands (Juicy Couture, Seven for All Mankind and Kate Spade) during my time here at Schwartz & Benjamin and have learned so much through the process. Each brand has a different personality and customer who is drawn to the product, creating many fond memories and exposing me to so many different facets of the industry.”
Best part of your job: “Working with all the different global stores and online accounts. It’s incredible to think that many of the stores we work with have been in business longer than Schwartz & Benjamin. There is such satisfaction in getting great product into the hands and onto the feet of millions of customers around the world.”

Melissa Wilson
Current title: Product development
Years at the company: 7
Biggest change at the firm: “Technology. I am now able to correspond face to face with our international partners by using Wifi and Skype. This is a great advantage when projects are time-sensitive and decisions need to be made quickly.”
Fondest memory: “The opportunity to meet and work with amazing people and brands. In a single day, we could have Derek Lam and Diane von Furstenberg in our offices. It is exciting to be a part of so many brands with well-known designers.”
Best part of your job: “The people I work with in the office on a daily basis. I am able to learn and grow by being exposed to all aspects of the footwear industry, from sales and merchandising to design. The family atmosphere helps to create an enjoyable workplace.”