Lillian Vernon

podcast Lillian Vernon

Lillian Vernon
  • Language: eng
  • Published: 28 Jun 1996
  • Duration: 08:20

A pioneer among women entrepreneurs, Lillian Vernon was the founder and longtime chairman of one of the nation's largest mail order businesses. Born in Germany, she and her parents came to America fleeing Nazi rule, and young Lillian learned her English watching movies. At 24, she was a housewife and mother looking for a way to supplement her husband's $75 weekly salary. She thought a mail order business might bring in another $50 a week. With money she had received as a wedding gift, she spent $495 for a five-inch ad in the September 1951 issue of Seventeen magazine, advertising monogrammed belts and purses. Her friends and family, even her husband, regarded her venture as a hobby at best, but in the first three months, her ad drew $32,000 worth of orders. Vernon encountered resistance from male suppliers, vendors and investors who had no interest in doing business with a woman, but her business prospered. Within five years, she was mailing a catalogue of housewares, gifts, toys and fashion accessories to households across the country. For years, Vernon held the company privately. In 1987, she became one of the first female CEOs to take a company public. She sold her controlling interest in the company in 2003 and retired from active management. In this podcast, recorded during the Academy of Achievement's 1996 Summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, Lillian Vernon shares her tips for success in any field of endeavor.