Why Joining The Family Footwear Business Can Be Tricky

Joining the family business can be tricky business.

The children of powerful footwear families who spoke on a panel Tuesday at FN Platform in Las Vegas, shared what they learned from their parents, as well tips for navigating some of the challenges.

“The biggest thing I learned from my parents is the importance of listening to the customer,” Jesse Edelman said about his parents, Sam and Libby Edelman. “If you get the trust of the customer, together you can provide the best product for the end consumer.”

Edelman, who is national brand manager for the Caleres-owned labels Circus By Sam Edelman and Sam & Libby, said he has been in the shoe business his entire life. He recalled the many times as a child he trailed his parents into stores on trips to Europe. That, he said, taught him about learning trends and seeing product in action.

Similarly, Seth Campbell, vice president of international sales at BBC International, said he first entered the footwear business as a 13 year old, when his father, Bob Campbell, had him work at a factory in China.

But he said that helped him see how hard his father worked. “He is 78 years old and just got back from a 14-day trip to China,” the younger Campbell said on the panel.

Still, working in a family business can be a balancing act.

That’s certainly true when it comes to establishing boundaries for discussing work.

“We don’t talk about it all the time but we do talk about it a lot,” said Jori Miller, vice president of product development at Minnetonka Moccasin Co. “Sometimes, I’ll say to my father, ‘Take your CEO hat off and put your dad hat on.’”

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