Michelle Kelly: CEO of Lilly Pulitzer

Episode 514

Michelle Kelly, CEO of the incredible, iconic brand, Lilly Pulitzer, shares all about the brand known for its imaginative prints and lively colors. In our interview, she discusses her career trajectory and the unexpected path that led her to her current role. She highlights the importance of staples and collaborations in the business, as well as the challenges and resilience required in the fashion industry. Michelle emphasizes the value of retail stores and offers advice for aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs. Plus what does it take to scale a brand like Lilly Pulitzer? You are going to love this episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Now on the #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to the Kara Goldin Show. Today, we’re joined by Michelle Kelly, who is the CEO of the incredible iconic brand, Lilly Pulitzer. And if you’re not familiar with little wood pellets or and all those beautiful bright prints that they are so known for, we are definitely going to have all the information in the show notes, but you should definitely listen up because this is the CEO of Lilly Pulitzer, she is not the founder. But gosh, she’s going on 20 years being at Lilly Pulitzer. So pretty darn close. The brand is known as I said, for the imagine of prints and lively colors, inspiring consumers to shine bright and standout. And this year marks Michelle’s 20th year, and she is such a force. I’m super excited to have her here with us today to share the story and hear all about her journey helping to scale this iconic brand. So let’s get started. Welcome, Michelle.

Michelle Kelly 1:42
Thank you, Kara. It’s such a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Kara Goldin 1:46
Super excited to be here as well. So Michelle, you have achieved tremendous success working at Lilly Pulitzer for 20 years now. That is crazy. Crazy. Crazy. I bet you didn’t snap your fingers and become who you are today just by osmosis. So did you always imagine becoming the CEO of an iconic brand like Lilly Pulitzer.

Michelle Kelly 2:11
Thank you so much. It’s so nice to hear you say it that way? No, definitely did not imagine it. I actually, it’s one of the probably the piece of advice that I’ll you know, give to folks that earlier stages of their career now that there’s no way I could have planned to, you know, have this role that I love so much with a company that I care about so so much. But it is wonderful. So yes, it has been a journey, we can talk about various parts of it, but none of it was really expected. Yet somehow, you know, looking backward. It does make sense. And and it’s certainly, you know, just something I’m really passionate about. For

Kara Goldin 2:56
those listening to when you first got there, you were not the CEO, you did not get hired in as CEO, what has sort of been your career trajectory on getting there?

Michelle Kelly 3:08
Yeah, so I joined Lilly Pulitzer, right out of getting my MBA, so I was in graduate school. And the couple of steps I had taken before that I always describe as you know, there were great steps. I learned a ton. I worked hard. You know, I certainly did my best. I don’t want to make it sound like it was a total accident. But I majored in business as an undergrad partly because I didn’t have a strong I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point, then I was able to do consulting, great experience. But in full candor, I chose consulting because I didn’t really know what else I wanted to do. And I knew that that would be great learning it was you know, prestigious, firm, and, you know, would be a good experience. And that was it was great. And I developed wonderful mentors there. But then I actually applied to business school in part because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I do share with folks that you know, I was well into my mid 20s and still had not found that you know, perfect spot. So maybe a little bit of a late bloomer on that side. But, you know, then of course caught up once I fell in love with the company so I started with Lilly Pulitzer as a sales representative they were building their department store business this is 2003 that I met the the founders who had relaunched the brand will go into the kind of whole Lily’s story at some point, I’m sure. But these two founders had read launch the brands and and had been at it for a while and I just you know, fell in love with what they were doing. I had already fall in love with the brand as a customer and, you know, fell in love with what they were doing and and the culture that they had built in the company and you know, just said I wanted to do this for a few years. I And I certainly wouldn’t have predicted it would be 20 years and could not have predicted where it would go. And certainly all the changes we’ve had in the company and within the business over that time. But I knew I wanted to give it a shot. So I began with Lilly and the August of 20 of 2004. As a sales rep, and I worked with all the department stores totally got my butt kicked by You really strong and wonderful, but tough buyers up in New York. And I love that it was fantastic. And I just really felt like I, you know, was able to sell with passion. But it was also good for me to have the experiences of you know, sometimes you don’t make your numbers. And that’s really tough. No matter how hard you prepare, you know, you need to really find another way and dig in. So having that sales experience was fantastic for me.

Kara Goldin 5:53
That’s awesome. So can you talk a little bit about the mission and sort of a lot more about Lilly Pulitzer itself. I remember Lilly as a little kid, I very specifically remember when my mom would play tennis, and she had her whole Lilly Pulitzer, beautiful, fun outfit that she would wear at least she would end up putting something together. I’m not even sure that you guys actually had tennis specifically, but my mom figured out a way to do it. So I remember the brand way back when in the 70s, as as crazy as that sounds. And and I mean, it was just always happy. Right? Like it was just bright colors. I grew up in Arizona. So it was just super perfect. But I would love to hear a lot more about kind of the founding story when a lot and just how would you describe it?

Michelle Kelly 6:55
Absolutely. So Lily herself. She there was an incredible woman named Lilly Pulitzer, sadly, she is no longer with us. But she lived kind of the I think 1938 to 2013. And so she was just, you know, incredible person. I’m very fortunate I got to spend time with her. But her story is that as a young adults see, it really was I would describe it as I think we all know someone who who might fit this description as well. And every time I tell the story, there’s someone in the group who might identify with the story themself, or, you know, know someone but but I think one of those situations where she had on paper or kind of outside looking in everything to be happy about. And she wasn’t that happy. And really, you know, I think hopefully today we would have better diagnosis and better words for it. But you know, she was really struggling to lead a, you know, an optimistic and joyful life at that time. So this is in the 1950s. She was young adult, she had married Peter Pulitzer, they had moved to Palm Beach, Florida, year round, absolutely beautiful part of the world, but at the time, much more of a seasonal resort town. So things got very quiet and isolated during the kind of summer and fall months. She had, you know, three kids and about four or five years span. And, and I think she had a hard time admitting, you know, how, what exactly, you know, she was feeling and having a hard time talking about it. And someone gave her good advice. Again, I’m sure hopefully, by today’s standards, you know, we’d be able to serve her needs better, as you know, kind of in the overall wellness and health perspective, but at the time, she didn’t get good advice, and it was needing to do something really productive and purposeful with her life. So she started a juice stand. And the most important and most important part of the story is that it worked starting the juice stand. I describe it as the kind of the grownup version of a lemonade stand that many entrepreneurs have have done as an earlier stage in their life. And she did it on worth Avenue in Palm Beach. And the most important part of the story is that it worked it helped her wellbeing and helped her frame of mind, she really set out to improve her life. And she did she was successful at that. Now in the meantime, she was spilling on herself because it she had to do stand and was you know chatting with friends who had come up and you know, being kind of the social butterfly of the town at the time. And everybody wanted to be around Lily. She just had this incredibly magnetic personality and charisma and beauty. And, and she was filling in herself. So many folks, probably myself included, might have said well put on an apron, right? She did not she always liked to march to A bit of her own drum. And she asked to have a dress made, she had a seamstress and had her make her a dress that could hide the juice stains. So it had to be, you know, color in print played a significant role there. And I it had to be comfortable under the hot sun, she was working in Palm Beach outside year round, but this juice stand. And those are still traits we keep close to heart today. And it had to be sure to look polished, she wanted to be comfortable and had to hide the juice and it had to work for the palm beach lifestyle that she was living. So the classic Lily shift was born. And as the story goes, eventually she was selling more dresses than juice to all of her friends. And you set off on this journey to really build this apparel company. She did it for about 25 years, and then actually closed the company in the early 80s. The business was out of the brand was out of the market for 10 years. And and then 10 years later, she actually did not want to she relaunched the brand was able to be relaunched. She sold intellectual property to the two founders who ended up coming to work for and then after they built it. Gosh, however many years in 2010 Oxford industries acquired the business. And, you know, it’s we’ve been under their end of the parent company that since since late 2010, their New York Stock Exchange Traded and the end and here we are, you know how many years later it’s 2024. So, that’s 65 years of business and brand history in a nutshell, a lot of twists and turns. I think we’re one of the few brands that has had two distinct entrepreneurial founding phases. I think that gets into our culture a little bit. But also I think there’s a resilience Lily herself showed her resilience in the way that she set out to improve her life. And you know, the company has had a lot of resilience with with multiple twists and turns different ownership structures different you know, many different people who’ve contributed along the way. And you know, here we are ready to celebrate the brand’s 65th anniversary.

Kara Goldin 12:33
Oh, it’s incredible. So did she play a role and part two of Lilly Pulitzer then after 10 years when she took a hiatus, I mean, was she back now and she was

Michelle Kelly 12:45
she was a wonderful advisor, and and, you know, was very, you know, was involved at a pretty light level, she wasn’t, you know, designing the clothing anymore at that point, but she was always available for a phone call here and there, a meeting here and they’re, you know, really through probably about 2010 ish, so wonderful, wonderful woman and such an inspiration. You know, one of our biggest challenges today, as a leadership team is you know, many of us, you know, really have this deep love for the history and the heritage. And I think balancing that with the need to always move forward and the need to kind of you know, not not stay too attached or not getting nostalgic in any way since fashion is all about moving forward, we really have to work hard to make sure we’re finding that balance between the love of the history that can can get a bit nostalgic, but also the excitement and the passion for everything that we’re doing that’s fresh and new and innovative and you know, recognizing that many of our customers you know had been born in this century at this point and you know, care a lot more about what we’re doing that’s new and fresh and fitting their lifestyle. So that’s definitely a balancing act. But we do always you know, I reference the kind of core product tenants that Lily was thinking about when she was you know, having her first dress made and it’s you know, the bright happy prince. We the story is all about setting out to make yourself happy. So we certainly try to incorporate that into every single product. You know, the colors the prints for hiding the juice stains, originally the you know comfort under the sun and sunny skies, we are a resort wear brands at our hearts and so the tennis the great story that you have of your mom, you know, being able to wear your clothing for that active outdoor, often resort and often warm lifestyle, as well as kind of looking polished and and beautiful. We always want people to kind of look really polished but feel very comfortable. So those are things that we still embed in every single product decision today.

Kara Goldin 15:00
You guys have done an incredible job because you still very much see Lilly, right? And in all of your designs, right, and it’s, or I should say, all of the fabrics, I mean, the designs have changed significantly over the years because they have to. But I think that would be such an interesting challenge, though, for any CEO to look at, you know, an iconic brand, where you, people have an idea about the way it’s supposed to look. And you certainly want to bring existing customers loyal consumers along, but you also need to bring new consumers along in order to stay alive, right, and stay relevant. So how do you do that? I mean, how do you do that as a leader?

Michelle Kelly 15:50
Well, I have to give so much credit to our team, I think we’ve really internalize that challenge. And so it’s not uncommon for any conversation that we’re having, especially in this kind of a year where we are celebrating a milestone anniversary, for any any of the leaders in the company to pipe in with, you know, how do we that exact question, how do we celebrate the heritage, but we know it has to be new and fresh, you know, not, there’s nothing, you know that a customer wants less than something she already has. So, so keeping that balance, and it’s very ingrained, I guess that’s the first thing I would say is that it is such a core challenge to our business, that we’ve really internalized it and we talk about it, I think the company or company culture, we’ve gone through phases where we have been, you know, Less and More, and then less again, and then more, again, the the different phases of being comfortable talking about challenges. And I’m really happy that you know, right now, I feel really good about our ability to surface issues, it’s certainly probably related to the fact that we’ve had a lot of challenges in the past four years in the apparel industry, that have been unusual and different. And, you know, we just had to get things up and out on the table. But our team does a great job of kind of, you know, if there’s something that’s making someone feel uncomfortable, like they will raise it and talk about it, and, you know, maybe not know what to do about it. And a lot of times that core question of heritage, you know, mixed with innovation and where we are on that scale, as you know, kind of just overall Matter of Degree and what the company needs at that time is very ingrained in all of our leadership team. And they’re so creative. I mean, all of we have give artists, we have fashion designers, we have digital folks, and everyone’s been trained in these different disciplines that all have creativity, even our fulfillment center, you know, we just put in this cool robot that is really creative, and how it’s getting product to the customers from an operational perspective. So I think that’s the second thing I would say the team is really oozing creativity, from all the different areas of discipline. I

Kara Goldin 18:02
noticed a lot of different products a on your site, even pickleball rackets that was on so you’re doing a lot of you know, fun, unique things, really understanding who this consumer is. But I would imagine staples play an important role in kind of the ethos of Lilly Pulitzer. Can you share what comes to mind when I say that? Yes.

Michelle Kelly 18:26
Oh, my gosh, we have so much fun doing what we do. I mean, it’s certainly work. And you know, there are long days for assurance that you know, you’re catching on a good one here. But we do have a lot of fun. We listen to our customer, we, you know, watch our customers, we ask them, we always get I mean, people give us so many ideas, sometimes, you know too many, but they’re always great and fun. And you know, nothing better than standing in one of our stores and just hearing a customer talk about, oh, you could do this. And you could do that. We certainly have our little notebook of ideas. And then our challenge becomes, how do we prioritize them? And how do we not get spread too thin. So the pickleball ones, the pickleball rackets have been really fun. It’s actually a collaboration with recess pickleball. Since we are not experts at making pickleball rackets they are, but we are experts in print in color, a lot of our best collaborations come to play with that exact combination. And so that was really fun, and really came from just watching. We’ve had golf and tennis in our collection for many years. But our designers who work on those categories, were starting to know that pickleball was fast growing and we were of course hearing it from our customers. We all had to go out and try or learn to play pickleball some had more success than others. I had a hard time with it. And it was really fun to get to do things like that. So a lot of our collaborations a lot of our you know fun. Novelty ideas really come from a place of passion either the customer has brought some Think Forward, or we’ve observed and, you know, it always starts with a little bit of a what if we did this? Now your question about staples, you’re absolutely right, they’re so important to our business, they kind of give us the strong foundation and the flexibility to do some of the fun things. And we’re really, really proud of some of our staple products. We’re so lucky that we get to launch all new prints every season. But it makes it really nice from just the business model perspective that we’re able to often launch the new prints on styles that we know our customer, our customer will love. Of course, we’re most of our the listeners here can’t see me, but I am wearing one of our most staple products. It’s a top called the Elsa top and it has been in our collection for almost 15 years. Wow. Then we refresh it. And you know, it’s always what our customer loves about it is the fabric and the neckline and the fit. But believe it or not, there are always prints that she does not have yet. So we keep launching it, it’s a great style. And we’ll have to do something special when that’s when it’s her full 15th anniversary.

Kara Goldin 21:14
So sustainability and kind of ethical practices have been such a hot topic, not just for the apparel industry, but frankly, for every industry. How much do you have to focus on that as a leader? I mean, it when you think about, you know, building, the brand was certainly back when Lilly Pulitzer was launching this brand. I mean, that terminology wasn’t there. So nobody was thinking about that. But how do you think about that? And what are the things that leaders really need to think about? Maybe even new leaders who are coming into the space trying to figure out, you know, how much do I need to know about it? How do I think about it?

Michelle Kelly 21:58
Yes, great question. And I would, gosh, I think, you know, I’d start by saying, I don’t know that, whether we should have done it or didn’t know it, you know, I don’t know, but But there certainly was a point I would give a lot of people, you know, who came before me and the peril in the apparel industry, you know, a good bit of grace, because I’m not sure. You know, we just we all have so much more information now, and can really understand the impact that the industry has on the world. You know, so for us today, you know, I would say it’s happened gradually, as we’ve all learned more. So for us today, I would share that it’s important to us. It’s vast, it’s massive, I think just the you know, thinking about the different ways we can impact the world, in the planet with our business, it’s vast, and even then choosing you know, which areas we want to get after, is an exercise in prioritization and impact and strategy and all itself. So I’m really happy with the journey we have been on, I think it starts from a really authentic place that as a brand, we are about, you know, people living these, you know, joyful, confident, optimistic lives. And it’s hard to be an optimist, unless you’re also thinking about, you know, what’s the impact we’re having on the world. So, for us, it’s come along very authentically, and probably for that reason, you know, quite thoughtfully, we, you know, are really careful about, you just want to do the right thing more so than we even want to, you know, advertise it or get credit for it. So we’re very careful about not, you know, advertising anything, unless it’s like, you’ve been doing it, and it’s, you know, we’re very confident that it’s going well, and it has reduced our footprint. So we’ve had a number of great initiatives, you know, I have to give credit, we’ve got the green team, I think they’re actually in the meeting later today that I’ll hopefully get the check in on. And they’ve done great work, we’ve got the Sustainability Committee, it’s very embedded in our product development to you know, always be trying to find, is there a recycled yarn that we can use, it’ll have the same impact. You know, of course, we’ve got lots of standards on our, you know, the factories that we choose and that we work with, and it’s wonderful to see a lot of the improvements and innovations happening at our factories around the world that’s really powerful. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, and that’s one of the best parts is that it’s not just, you know, we really don’t feel alone in doing this. Certainly many, many other brands are keeping it a high priority. And then also just to see the factories all over the world, making a high priority. It really gives me this like very warm, you know, sense of we are all actually working on this together and what an PAC we’ll be able to have. That’s

Kara Goldin 25:02
incredible. So when you think about collaboration, you and I were chatting a little bit about that right before we hit record, but it seems like you’ve done some collaborations or you. That’s, that’s an important part of your business overall, you also talked about the pickleball. Collaboration as well. But how important is that to business today? Do you feel like I always think about it as borrowing equity from other brands? Right. And, and getting new consumers? But is that something that is vital? Like, do you say we need to do one a year? Or it does it? Is it sort of opportunistic in some way?

Michelle Kelly 25:46
You know, what, it’s such a great question I am now I’m thinking we shouldn’t be more, you know, rigorous, bland about it, but I have to admit it is, you know, we approach it from a place of friendship, the brand is really all about friendship, and community and people connecting with each other. Sometimes we feel like the customers like to communicate or like to, you know, connect and build community with each other, whether we’re there or not, they just like that, you know, Lilly Pulitzer is something they have in common. So there’s a lot of friendship and community and, you know, sparking ideas that’s really well ingrained into the brand and to our customers. So I think a lot of our collaborations come from that perspective. This year, we were a little bit more intentional, given that it’s the 65th anniversary of the brand. So it just maybe gave us a bigger platform to be able to do collaborations, but I would say most of the time, it’s, you know, if someone approaches us we’re like, Well, how could this work? And you know, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just hard to prioritize sometimes. But we always feel like we can give a dose of sunshine certainly our expertise in color and print can be applied a lot of different places and there are so many potential brand friends out there who make products that we you know, don’t have a business in right now. So the collaboration really, you know, comes from that. A few that I can share that are live right now. We have a collaboration with North America, they have applied a Willie print on to one of their very cool low speed vehicles. If anyone knows North America, that is really fun. Definitely keep your eye out on the roads. I think 35 miles an hour or less, but but the many resort communities

Kara Goldin 27:32
How do you spell that? Oh,

Michelle Kelly 27:33
Moke M O Ke.

Kara Goldin 27:34
Off to check it out. Very cool.

Michelle Kelly 27:38
Oh, you’ll definitely recognize it. Once you see it. I mean, not the only one that will feel new, but but I’m sure you’ve seen them. They’re really, really fun to see on the road. So they’ve just launched and I’m hoping we see more on the road throughout the summer. We also have a collaboration with Natalie’s juice if you have tried that it is delicious. That is just hitting the shelves right now. And then we have a collaboration about to launch with Badgley Mischka, beautiful designer luxury clothing really the first time he’s in a partnership like this. And then we’ve got a long standing partnership with Pottery Barn and that will we’re actually about to drop a new collection there. So that’s a lot for one time, we usually don’t have that many going on at once. But really fun year, and it’s been a ton of friendship and ideas and prints and you know, all credit to our team for making it happen right in time for the big anniversary.

Kara Goldin 28:33
So when you think about your tenure there the last, you know, 20 years going on 20 years now, so incredible. You’ve done a lot of different roles in the company, you’ve probably seen lots of things, but probably some mistakes along the way. And maybe things that were, you know, big challenges that you just had to get back up and fix that you didn’t plan on but you had to do it because that’s what you do. What comes to mind when I say that? Oh, gosh,

Michelle Kelly 29:05
goosebumps. I think as you know, all of these challenges that we’ve all gone through in any of our lives and careers, they do stick with you. And that’s the point right? Their learnings and you know, I feel many of them in the 20 years for sure. You know, I think that Fashion and Retail you’re both there because you know subsets of the industry and we play in both, I think you know, fashion is about that newness and risk taking you’re taking risks every single season and we do four product lines a year. No one you know, every single one of them in the team is is taking a risk. So that’s very ingrained and built in and then I think on the retail side of the business, you know, just selling whether it’s digital or in stores, you know retail as a total You know, it’s, there’s always another day, there’s always another season, you always get to, you know, open the store again and start fresh in a way. So I do think that those two, you know, those two components really give the company a sense of resilience again, the company the company itself has, has had different ups and downs and you know, has been in the market out of the market relaunched sold, at some, some level, I almost feel like we’ve been through, you know, almost everything. And then now we add in, you know, various types of economic conditions and a pandemic in the mix. And it really does sometimes feel like, we’ve been through many different things. And that gives us confidence, it gives us energy, I think, you know, to know that nothing really lasts forever, especially in this business, and that can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing, it certainly helps us, you know, feel very grateful and honored, I think, on the days that are good that we get to do what we do and, and that, you know, there are great days, we can have fun events and celebrate anniversaries and, you know, have have have some good things going. But at the same time, we’ll also feel like, well, gosh, that isn’t guaranteed to last forever, either. So we better get back at it. So that’s a great counterbalance to that feeling. And then certainly, you know, the resilient side of things, I think, you know, anyone who’s been in the industry, for you know, any more than a season or two has definitely developed some thick skin and some resilience. And we’re definitely no exception. But I think we love you know, we love what we do. And we know why we’re doing it the you know, many of the incredible team members on the only team, you know, they have their why I think the company has its why around, you know, helping more people live the joyful lives that many of our customers do, and see the sunshine and create their own sunshine. That’s one of our mantras internally. And then, of course, a lot of our team members, you know, they they have a reason that they’re doing what they do that maybe even beyond that. And those are always really special and inspiring to hear when when team members share that with me as well.

Kara Goldin 32:21
So you’re selling online, obviously. And you have stores too, how many stores do you have?

Michelle Kelly 32:28
We have 63 stores. And a few more coming up. I’ve had what probably one of my favorite parts of the job is visiting new areas, development shopping centers, and just trying to see if if it would be a good fit for us. So I’ve been able to lean into that a little bit more in the past year. And that’s been really fun.

Kara Goldin 32:49
So are you bullish on stores? We’ve had a lot of CEOs on who have talked about that. And you know, obviously, online is a necessity for sure for this. Zoomer but but how do you feel about stores? Are we going to or the malls staying? Are they? How do you feel about retail?

Michelle Kelly 33:12
Oh, gosh, I love retail. I imagine this, this could be an answer that will be coming your way more in the next few years than in the past. But hopefully in the first one. So it sounds new and fresh. I don’t know, I am a big believer in balance right now, think that the past few years, we have done a lot of the pendulum has swung many ways and whether that’s the way we sell the customers, right, there was a moment, you know, probably in, you know, at some point in 2020, where we thought we might not reopen stores and how wild would that have been? Thank goodness that that was you know, didn’t last longer than it did. But, you know, there was certainly a point where it’s all about digital and oh no, you know, retail might might not survive. And, you know, then there has certainly been points I guess before that and then afterward where it’s like, gosh, the you know, DTC only is a really tough business model and it’s hard to make it work with the cost of digital advertising and you know, returns and everything that happens online. So I think with our business, it never made sense to be all or one we actually you know, a lot of our roots of the business are in wholesale and we still have incredible you know, third party retailers who are independent boutiques as well as some of the larger ones and you’d recognize and they’ve you know, we’ve been in business with them a long time and they’re actually you know, kind of where we started so then you know stores added on and then ecommerce digital, the app every every way we can sell online now has added on and I’m I honestly think each of those business models has such a strong reason for being and especially after some of the, you know, things we’ve seen in the last few years, I am so excited about a balanced business model, that might sound really boring. But I’m really excited about the balance that we have. And it’s in our selling model, of course, you know, I really just think there’s an opportunity to be connecting with customers being a resort brand, we also, I think, have a little bit more even strong reason for being within physical retail, because they’re just, you know, you can always get the item ordered and shipped to you on time, if you’re on vacation. And shopping is a really fun part of vacation. So you know, I love our stores, we have such a great team, in all of them, I think our stores are special places, and we’re not just you know, selling product, we’re developing friendships with our customers, we’re having fun, we’re letting friend you know, kind of new friendships develop in the fitting rooms, that happens a lot. And then, of course, digital is critical, we have so many places where we don’t have stores, and it’s not practical to have a store. So we’re really, you know, we’ve worked really hard on having the app, you know, be fast and speedy and fantastic. And that is really important too. And then you’ve got are no third party retailers, which I think are just, you know, one of the best. And sometimes the only way is that a customer who may not know, the brand and may not know to go to our website or to go to one of our stores, you know, she’s able to find us by hopping into one of the, you know, great stores that carries us along with maybe some brands that she knows. So I’m all about balance right now.

Kara Goldin 36:26
Definitely. Right? Yeah. I mean, life is about balance, right? That’s what everybody’s talking about. It’s not just, yeah, not just for business. So for all the aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs listening, what advice do you have for those looking to kind of make their mark, I mean, you’ve had an amazing run on a on this company, we have a ton of universities that actually listen to this podcast, also graduate programs to all over the world, aspiring entrepreneurs, but also leaders that are, you know, maybe interested in brands like Lilly Pulitzer, but maybe also think about, you know, one day, I want to do that, and I want to learn from people, what would you say is kind of the best advice. Maybe you have for people, or maybe something that you’ve heard along the way?

Michelle Kelly 37:22
Sure, I’ve gotten so much good advice from others 100%. And I don’t even know if I, I may have internalized at all at this point. So I’ll do my best to give credit where it’s due. On that, yeah, I would say on the functional, it kind of what we do, I really do think there’s no substitute for doing the work and getting in there anything that you know, there were certainly points in my career where I felt like, you know, I wasn’t growing as quickly or being promoted as quickly as some of my friends from business school or other peers in the business. And, you know, there were certainly those moments where I felt like, gosh, is that you know, me doing everything right. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing everything, right, because otherwise I, you know, thought it would be further along. And, you know, then there would be a moment where there was a great opportunity for me to grow. And then I grow, I grew faster. So I think that’s I do try to share that with folks that from a career management perspective, I think looking back, I had much more of a spiral staircase than a true career ladder, there were times where I was learning, you know, I had a lot of lateral moves in my career. And some of those moments, I didn’t feel like I was growing as fast. Or at least, you know, moving into the positions I wanted as fast. I always felt like I was learning a ton. But I think you know, of course, in hindsight, the spiral staircase worked out great, that was fabulous. And it was able to get a great grounding in many of the functional areas of our business. And so then when it came time for me to step into the CEO role, I was a little daunted for sure, but I always, you know, I could kind of reflect and be grounded in the fact that I knew a lot of how the company worked and how the business worked. And, you know, certainly didn’t have all the answers and didn’t know what kind of challenges we would face but felt like at minimum I was I was very grounded in what our customer was looking for and who our customer and I just spent the time kind of doing what we do for our customer. So that was really helpful in terms of the confidence. And I there’s no way I would have gotten that if I had been focused on the career ladder or, you know, will I be CEO or will I be here 20 years, like, as much as I tried to have a plan. I think in reality, the best thing that served me what served me the best from a career planning and management perspective was kind of, you know, tuck things in a few year increments and you know, will this job work? right now and can I do this job right now? And are the kids you know, getting enough care at this moment? I think I did. Have great mentorship and advice from folks who helped me see that, you know, the career and business success. They come in chapters at a time. That’s not one big, you know, 20 year commitment. So

Kara Goldin 40:25
true. Yeah. Yeah. So, so true. So, Michelle Kelly, CEO of Lilly Pulitzer, thank you so much. And like I said, at the top of the podcast, we’ll have all of the info in the show notes, but really appreciate you coming on and best of luck for continuing success and building such an incredible collection and company and you are truly amazing. So thank you again, and thanks, everyone for listening. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. I would love to hear from you too, so feel free to DM me. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my Wall Street Journal, best selling book undaunted, where I share more about my journey including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for listening and good bye for now.