Libby Edelman has been by her husband’s side for nearly four decades, helping to build powerhouse shoe brands and raise a large and growing family.
Here, she shares her take on brand-maker Sam Edelman.
What are Sam’s greatest strengths as a business leader?
“He’s exciting. You want to be around him, you want to learn from him, and I personally think that with all of his ideas, I want to jump on them right away, but you can’t. He also has amazing foresight, big visionary, great ideas. He sees the void 100% in the market. With every brand that we’ve started, there’s been this void, this white space. And then he’s a very creative marketer. He’s got so much. He’s got like three parts of his brain as a businessman. So many people are just [one thing], but he does it all.”
What is the key to his design success?
“He has a great eye to see what’s happening in the future, although, and he admits it too, sometimes he is too forward, too fast. One of the things he’s talked about is, we used to make shoes in Brazil, and he predicted how the thong bathing suit would become a thong pair of underwear. He was talking to an executive [at a department store] and told him this was going to happen. And of course, if you discussed it at that time, everybody said, ‘No way, women are not going to do that. It doesn’t fit every body.’ But it does — it did. Sam has a great forward eye. So we have to remember that if it doesn’t work right away, it will work, we just have to stick with it.”
Does he ever turn off business when you get home?
“He purposely says he doesn’t want to turn off business. We tried that one time, but always when you don’t want to do something, that’s what you keep doing. But something you’re doing personally might spur an idea for business, or vice versa. So he does not really turn off, unless we go on vacation and are there long enough to really let down, which that hasn’t happened in a while. I think different parts of our life feed his soul for the other parts. So he’s always fed to continue.”
You’ve had a long, strong marriage and business relationship. What’s the secret to making it work?
“It’s a good partnership because we fill each others’ voids. He lives on the phone — I don’t. He’s got such different friendships than I do. He’s much more social than I am — not that I’m not social. So in some ways I’m his calming [force]. He loves to bring his friends together at the same time, and so I’m the one who pulls it together. I’m the one who gets it done. When we’re at the office, we have a group of people to get all those ideas done. And at home, it’s me. He also loves to fill up a day. Sometimes I have to say, ‘Are you kidding? You’re starting at 5 and going until midnight.’ I think we’re good for each other. He gets me going in ways that I would never think of doing, and maybe I calm him down in certain ways.”
What do you think many people don’t know about Sam?
“He’s a great teacher. We have so many 20- and 30-year-olds here, and he loves that aspect [of teaching them]. I always think that maybe in his next stage he should spend time in a school teaching, because he loves doing it. [He will] get someone from the marketing department and make sure that they’re part of the sales conversations. He loves to teach them the whole business. Sometimes we get so segregated so he believes in integration. We’re not going to be here forever, so how does a company have legs and continue with the same aesthetic. You’ve got to teach it to everyone so they can keep it going as long as they can. He’s hoping we can make sure everyone understands what our heart and soul was when we started the brand, so it can continue.”
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