Glen Ellen Brown has had an inspiring career in which she has climbed the corporate ladder and held a number of Senior Strategy and Brand Marketing positions. She graduated from The College of New Rochelle with a degree in Fine Arts, double majoring in Painting and Photography, and soon after moved to the city to pursue creative opportunities and get out of her small town. She started out working in graphic design for a publishing house, where she was first exposed to the business world. She then decided she wanted to learn more about money and finance, and took a job at Chase bank. There, she worked with real estate developers to finance new developments, all the while learning as much as she could about the business. At the time, she was one of the few women on Wall Street. On her five person team at Chase, she did an impressive 75% of the business.
After seeing how the developers could get financed and build something from nothing, she was inspired to once again use her creative talents to start her own business called Glenswear—hand-painting and designing clothing. Through this experience, she learned the same things she had at Chase; that she was good at working with groups and was very skilled in business and building brands. She then had the idea to start building brands for others, and successfully took on an array of jobs in marketing: first at Grey Advertising, Inc., next as Director of Marketing, Consumer Products at The Walt Disney Corporation; then VP, Consumer Products at MTV; SVP, at Kenneth Cole Productions; and SVP, GM and Member of Executive Management Team of Imix.com, (a business-to-business and consumer site for personalized digital entertainment). This, of course, before tackling the position of Vice President of Brand Development at Hearst in 2001, a position she currently holds. She also serves as a Board of Governor and Executive Committee member for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, a Board of Governor for the We Are Family Foundation, and a Catalyst Board of Advisors Alumni Board Member.
Hearst Corporation is one of the world’s largest publishers with ownership of over 360 businesses. Glen Ellen Brown repositioned the division as national lifestyle business and expanded Hearst's magazine brand franchises across multiple product categories and distribution channels, with global success in consumer, wireless, entertainment and lifestyle products. Glen Ellen told scholars about the role of licensing in fashion:
“To get a sense of the scale of that business - it’s huge, global licensing represents only $263 Billion in retail sales today. Fashion is usually anywhere from 12-20% of that number, so you can start to think of it when you look, Walt Disney is the leader in global license sales at 7.2 billion and PVH- that’s $18 Million. They’re monetizing those fashion brands, using licensing as a legal tactic to make money.”
Currently, she’s been overseeing several brand extensions with Esquire, working with developing shirts and ties, as well as with Metropolitan Home for furniture and bedding. Glen Ellen told Scholars about her current project “Edit by Seventeen”, a capsule collection of must-have fashion pieces currently being teased on Instagram with an accompanying e-commerce site that launched July 5th. The line will retail from $24-$120 and is targeted at back-to-school shoppers.
Words of Wisdom
Intern. “Know the value of getting deep inside a brand, that’s the first step. It’s imperative that you make the most of your internships, that you get that industry experience and acquire the skills you need for entry-level jobs. Be a sponge, absorb absolutely everything you can.”
Research your target industry. “There’s so much information online, you’ve got to take advantage of everything. Read all the journals, look at all the campaigns, look at the Executives on Twitter.”
Manage your time. “It’s not college anymore. It’s so incredibly important for your career, everything is going to be coming at you from all different ways, how do you organize and prioritize that?”
It’s not about you, it’s about who you’re working with. “Ask what you can do for them, find out how you can be indispensable. Don’t tell me something isn’t working, tell me how we can make it work.”
Give 110%. “It can’t be just doing my job, I have to be doing more, I need to be doing my very best. Understand that you’re really contributing to something much larger, and you’re a piece of that. The more you think about how you’re building something with someone, as part of that team, then you realize how important 110% is.”
Organization and Commitment. “You can’t succeed without being organized, it’s just that simple. Find whatever tactics work best for you - some people use a notebook, some have post-its. Know exactly what you want to accomplish in everything you do.”
Visualize what you’re doing. “You have to think about making that presentation, you have to become that role. If you prepare and become organized when you start speaking it flows right out.”
Make a good first impression. “Look people right in the eye and say hello, that’s what they’ll remember.”
Attitude. “Coming in thinking, I love what I’m doing, good morning, I saw this interesting thing I want to share with you, I mean that engaged personality - it doesn’t have to be a big personality, it’s your personality but it has to be present. I think that if people are more likely to want to work with you, you’re going to get more responsibility.”
Communication. “Great ideas aren’t anything if you can’t articulate them.”
Resourcefulness. “If you’ve read a good article or seen a good show, tell me what you took away from it. I’m interested in the fact that you enjoyed it and wanted to share it with me, but here’s why and here are the things that really jumped out to you. Share that with a message, have a point of view. Don’t miss an opportunity to share insight.”
Learn from failure. “It’s how you really become better. So many people can’t get started because they’re so afraid of failure. Everyone makes mistakes, we should all embrace the fact that we all make them and use them to get better.”
Q: “You talked a lot about your zig-zag career and how you moved from a creative role to a finance role, from entertainment to technology, what do you think it is that made you qualified for these roles when transitioning between industries?”
A: “I would say that I was very into being in the next job, so I did develop hard skills working for several years, I wasn’t coming right out of school. So I said to them, I am organized, I am prepared, I’ve done these kinds of things and I think they have applications. I found ways that I was beneficial to them, and made it very clear the things that I wanted to learn there. It’s a little bit of finding what you can do and what you’re interested in doing.”
Q: “What do you think has been the most successful and the least successful licensing deal while you’ve been at Hearst?”
A: “The most successful financially was our Cosmopolitan deal with JCPenney right before Ron Johnson, which was also our least successful with product and having what the typical JCPenney customer was looking for.”
Q: “You spoke earlier about incubators that Hearst was involved in, does Hearst have ownership over those incubators, or is it more of an accelerator program where you offer venture funding, or backing and letting them use your resources?” - Joanne Kim, Cornell
A: “We definitely intended to fund them and make capital available to them, and in some cases we did that for them, other times they didn’t need it. We have a couple different areas, one is Hearst Ventures, and that’s for serious investment - how much money are we going to make. We’re fluid, we’ve moving in and out of these business on a very rapid scale. Except for incubators, some of those seem to be a little longer term.”
Q: “As someone who is creative but also wants to be a business person, do you think it’s best to learn the business first?”
A: “I think if you’re already on the creative track, what’s best to do is use the business people you know and learn from them. So you can get some of that from others, there’s also a lot of online resources. I would take advantage of those, and also use your network to get in touch with people who you can learn more from about specific areas you’re interested in.”
Thank you Glen Ellen for hosting such an incredibly informative and inspirational breakfast!
Stay tuned for our next recap!
Katherine Manson, 2016 FSF Scholar