I don’t know how many of you read the story about the CEO Summit in WWD last week. I really enjoyed Kenneth Coles’ speech and his fascinating story about how he got started in shoes. For the full story see WWD, if you’re not a subscriber I found a biography here.
He talks about how he started the shoe company with a little bit of money (now reading the biography I see a little bit of money in 1982 was $300,000, not as little as I had imagined when I read his speech). Realizing how expensive it was to either rent a room at the New York Hilton or lease a showroom close to the Hilton that he couldn’t afford. He had to be more creative and that he was. Apparently he borrowed a forty-foot trailer from a friend, learning that the only ones allowed to park a truck were utility companies or production companies shooting a motion picture. He changed the company name from Kenneth Cole Inc. to Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., filed a petition to shoot “The Birth of a Shoe Company”, parked across from the Hilton, had models double as actress and sold 40,000 pairs of shoes in two and a half days. Now that’s the kind of genius I really appreciate, I love to hear stories like this because it gives me hope.
I know that there are many roads to success and I find it far more interesting to read these kinds stories than the traditional stories i.e., got a degree in X, parents have millions, I grew up in the factory; blah, blah, blah. I tend to like the stories of those who create a road where there once was none, maybe because that’s what I am trying to do. I guess it’s the same part of me that always roots for the underdog, I am always betting on the long shot.
I also appreciate that he has chosen to co-mingle his success with the causes that he holds dear as this is my intention as well. If you would like to learn more about his charitable work, here is the link to amFAR. I have to say knowing this about Kenneth Cole makes me want to buy more of his products. It’s funny how when you know someone’s personal story, if it resonates with you, it changes the way you see the company or at least it does for me.