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Caroline Hipple, Dorothy Belshaw: Being brave and taking risks leads to success

GREENVILLE, S.C.  – Honesty, transparency and a willingness to take risks and step into the unknown are some of the themes touched on during the WithIt Leadership Conference this week in Greenville, S.C.

During a new TEDTalk format, industry leaders Caroline Hipple, chief creative officer for Hooker Furnishings, and Dorothy Belshaw, president of Andmore, shared advice with attendees based on what they’ve encountered during their careers in the home furnishings industry.

“What I’ve realized is that each role was more important than the last, and not one of them was planned,” Hipple said. “I know what it’s like to face the hard things and get pushed down. My message today is to think about, from here on, that you are the CEO of yourself. … Do what you love married with your worldview.”

Growing up, Hipple said her mother read her fairy tales to teach her and her sisters that they are the heroes of their own stories. “There’s always trouble, and the hero gets through,” she said. “My real bliss is building cultures where people feel empowered. That’s the path I’ve been following all of my career.”

Hipple said it’s important to be resilient and learn how to deal with change, “I never took a job for what I could earn but for what I could learn.”

She said it’s important to take roles that offer the necessary experiences and shared that showing up is 80% of success “along with listening and laughing.”

“To me the culture is important and the outlook,” Hipple said. “I am passionate about bringing beautiful things to the world, and I have to be needed. With this recent move to Hooker, it was a culture that fit. I always end up taking the hardest job that, in turn, offers the most abundance.”

Belshaw, the newly named president of Andmore, said, “My career was not a path but a ramble with many terrifying moments.”

She said that after college she took a job helping the senior vice president of business development at a company that produced trade shows. After five years in that position, she had “learned a ton by watching and listening and doing the grunt work.”

Belshaw then had the opportunity to move to California from New York with her husband and two small children. At first, she thought about turning down the opportunity, but her husband offered a different viewpoint. Namely, that she might not have this opportunity again.

“How do you know when it’s a leadership moment?” Belshaw asked. “Many times, you don’t believe in yourself in that moment, but you need to overcome the disbelief. I moved my family to Los Angeles with a 17-month-old and a 3-year-old.”

After four years in California, Belshaw moved back to New York to run the International Gift shows during the boom years when there were 3,000 companies, 6,000 square feet and 35,000 attendees.

“I navigated the 2008 recession and learned that you had to listen and flex and give. We offered discounts and free booths to accommodate the exhibitors,” said Belshaw. “In 2011, the owners decided to sell the company, and we went on a roadshow to talk about the current value and what it could be down the road.”

During that time, Belshaw met Bob Maricich, who founded International Market Centers in 2011. Even though his company passed on buying her company, they remained in contact. And in 2012, after 20 years with her previous company, Belshaw decided to make the move to a new position and work with Maricich.

One of the biggest challenges at that time, she said, was commuting from New York to Las Vegas every week. She spent Sunday to Thursday in Vegas and then flew home to New York for the weekend.

“It’s important to be 100% there, whether you are spending time with your family or at work,” she said. “The interesting thing about not going home at night is that I was really focused when I was in Las Vegas and focused on family at home. My youngest was four years old at the time.”

In 2016, Maricich made her the chief marketing officer, and then in 2020, the pandemic hit.

“Our business is about being together physically,” she added. “After all my 28 years in sales, I had so many customer relationships. My phone blew up all day long with customers that were afraid and crying, looking for answers I didn’t have and asking for help I couldn’t give.”

Belshaw said she took it all in and decided that she could represent the voice of the customer and could help advocate for them. “This was a new skill set for me,” she said.

Maricich recently retired, and Belshaw was named president of Andmore (formerly IMC). “It’s only been four weeks, so I don’t have much feedback. But I do believe in pushing through when you are scared. Fear is a signal that something great is about to happen.”

She offered some suggestions of what she’s learned along the way. “Break it down one day at a time. Be brave but not blind. Respect the situation. Don’t go in alone. Build relationships. Be kind. Take risks. Advocate for yourself but know your blind spots. And seek feedback.”

See also:

  • ‘Learn to read a spreadsheet’ is the advice from WithIt panel to women in business
  • 5 named winners of WithIt’s 2024 WOW Awards

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