Mary Kay Ash, Debbi Fields, Anita Roddick, Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Brownie Wise…women entrepreneurs have consistently and constantly pushed the standards of their fields to make an impact. Among them is Lillian Vernon. Lillian who, did you say?
Born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929, Lillian Menasche moved to the US in 1937 when the Nazi threat intensified. In 1951, she decided to start a small mail-order business – it combined her name and the name of her Mount Vernon, New York, home.
In 1951, Lillian used $2,000 of her wedding gift funds to set up a mail-order business, and she began by placing an ad in Seventeen magazine to sell matching purses and belts. Her small enterprise soon grew into Lillian Vernon Corporation, an American catalogue merchant and online retailer for household, children's and fashion accessory products.
“Toughness is a good thing, yet it is considered good only in men. When a woman is tough, men can't stand it. I like being tough and smart,” Lillian famously said. She strongly believed that you shouldn’t “try to be all things to all people. Concentrate on selling something unique that you know there is a need for, offer competitive pricing and good customer service”.
By 1970, she hit $1 million in sales. When the company went public in 1987, Lillian Vernon was the first company traded on the American Stock Exchange founded by a woman. Woohoo! There were challenges, of course. The greatest, according to Lillian, was “staying alive as a business, staying ahead of the game, and melding my business life with my personal life”.
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