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Claudia Poccia: From Selling Shoes to the C-Suite

The president and ceo of Gurwitch Products looks back on her first job in a neighborhood shoe store.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 10/14/2011

I was 16 years old looking for a summer job when I saw a “help wanted” sign in my neighborhood Thom McAnn shoe store in Hollywood, Fla. It was the perfect job for a girl who was passionate about shoes (and still is). I was around shoes all day and, what’s more, I was eligible for a free pair every six months if I met my sales goals.

Working in a small store was excellent business training in multitasking. I had to do a little bit of everything — from merchandising the displays and stocking the shelves to vacuuming and dusting. The job had its challenges, too. Thursdays were physically demanding because new shipments arrived and we had to lug boxes up and down stairs what felt like hundreds of times. Then there was the “Rubik’s Cube” puzzle of shelf stocking with all the new styles. That was a crash course in the value of planning and organization.

I credit my two bosses at Thom McAnn for this workplace education. From Jack Scott, I learned how to lead by example: There wasn’t anything he asked of us that he wouldn’t do himself. And Syd Friedman, from behind his ever-present pipe, taught me the fine art of closing a sale. Most importantly, that shoe store was a great place to learn the importance of listening to the customer to better understand what they really want and need. It’s a learning that has served me well throughout my career.

In retrospect, I think working with customers to help them find the perfect pair of shoes for a new outfit was what I loved most about the job. That, and the fabulous pair of free denim
espadrille wedges I earned by doing so!

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