Day two at the National Retail Federation Student Program kicked off just as strong as the first. Buddy Teaster, President and Chief Executive Officer of Soles4Souls was the opener. If you’re unfamiliar with Soles4Souls, it is a non-profit organization that creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of clothing and shoes throughout the world. Buddy preached that most people were willing to work hard, but lack opportunity.
His business plan is focused around sustainability, collecting 4 million pairs of shoes just this past year that would have otherwise joined our plastic straws in the landfills. This current trend of fast fashion won’t go on forever, as consumers are encouraged to buy less (quality over quantity), which reminds me of Patagonia’s Campaign: Don’t Buy This Jacket. Buddy encouraged us to start shoe drives of our own at our university, or other events such as asking friends to donate shoes at a birthday party, rather than bring you a gift. We then split off into what I would consider speed-dating, but for professional networking.
After that incredible session, we began a panel with some of the biggest leaders in Supply Chain: Jonathon Gold, Melissa Barr, Cameron Geiger, and Magnus Rindefjell. Besides speaking a bit about artificial intelligence and how they’re trying to have robots unpack the delivery trucks and restock shelves, they also mentioned the shortage of truck drivers we’re experiencing in the market.
However, figuring out the best and most sustainable ways to transport product from one place to the next, especially perishable product will always be a challenge. They summed this up by leaving us with a few simple points:
- Tell a story, don’t just read your PowerPoint.
- Influence versus being right.
- There’s no substitution for a great user experience.
- There’s no substitution for a stable supply chain.
Our closing speaker on the last day of the National Retail Federation Student Program was the bold Jo Malone CBE, Founder and Creative Director of Jo Loves. As she grew up, she struggled with dyslexia and being told she was stupid by her teachers or that she should try harder in school. Being a drop-out at 15 was something she used to be embarrassed about. She got her first job at a flower shop, which is where she first realized how great of a nose she had, being able to tell what type and how fresh the flowers were with one sniff. However, she learned that dumping a bucket of water on your manager’s head is an easy way to get fired.
Jo moved on, but knew she had always loved playing with beauty products and making face masks, etc. After beginning her own small business within a business, her client base began to grow faster than she could keep up with it. Even so, Jo loved what she did. However, the time came when she made what she described to be the biggest mistake of her life: Jo sold her business. After being down and moping around, her husband encouraged her to get back out there, thus, Jo Loves was born. Years later, Jo Loves is now operated in the SAME EXACT location that she began this journey many years ago, which just goes to show that life will bring you full circle. Jo left us with two remarks:
- You can’t change the world by sitting back and watching it.
- Don’t go for it if you don’t believe in it.
These words hit home for me and my entrepreneurial self and was the perfect way to end this inspiring student program. As my second year attending the NRF Big Show, I am once again in awe of all the professional development and advice and connections I am able to make in a single weekend. I mean, just those days alone I connected with 50 new people on LinkedIn, pushing me well on my way toward the goal of reaching the 500+ mark. I am thankful for another great year and cannot wait to be back in New York for this program in 2020!