In honor of Women’s History Month, we are introducing our Women in Furniture series, which celebrates women who are experienced leaders in the furniture industry. Gender diversity in the furniture workplace is still far behind other industries. At 3D Cloud™ by Marxent, we continue to advocate and support outstanding women who push the industry forward. So, grab yourself a coffee, pull up a chair, and meet —
Laura is currently the Executive Vice President at Scott Brothers Global, where she leads the consumer products licensing business for Drew & Jonathan Scott (aka The Property Brothers). Laura’s retail buying, product development, and wholesale expertise spans three decades in the home industry, including executive experience at Fortessa Tableware Solutions, as well as stints at World Kitchen, Venture Stores, and Kitchen Etc. In this article, Laura shares her career journey and insights into the furniture industry.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background?
Laura Aldrich: I have spent my entire career in the home industry. I started in Housewares on the retail side. I went to college knowing I wanted to go into retail buying. I was excited to get my first job out of college in a buying office at a large retailer, and I wanted to be in fashion. The opening was in the housewares department. I was a little disappointed, but they promised me to put in my first six months, and they’ll move me over to fashion when a position opens. I fell in love with the home area and have never left. Sometimes, things are meant to happen, even if you don’t realize that at the time. I spent 14 years in various buying and director of merchandising roles, all in-home departments ranging from textiles, housewares, decor, and furniture. I then had an opportunity to move to the wholesale side of our industry. It was with a tableware company, which was a category I hadn’t worked in previously, but it was still home. I worked on product development at that company and ran their inventory management and planning teams. Eventually, I moved over to the sales side and ran the consumer products division for the company. It was a great opportunity to learn the wholesale side of the business and work with major retailers throughout the country. I think I was successful in my roles there because I could relate to the retailers and focus on how to bring value to their customers. Having experience in buying, supply chain, product development, and sales helped me creatively solve problems and drive revenue. To continue growing our business, we decided to pursue some licensed opportunities. One of which was with Drew & Jonathan. We earned the license for Scott Living in tableware at the end of 2017, which is how I ended up meeting Jonathan and Drew. About six months later, they were realizing there was an opportunity to grow their business significantly, but they needed somebody who understood retail, wholesale, and what it was like to be a licensee and could put all those pieces together. I joined the company in 2018 as an EVP of licensing, and it’s been an amazing journey full of learning along the way.
I love to learn and be challenged. I was fortunate enough to have some incredible leaders that knew that about me, particularly at Fortessa. I changed roles almost every 18 to 24 months to learn new areas of the business. I started leading their product management and product development and then moved into financial planning and business analysis in the finance department. I started their e-commerce business and then moved into sales, so it was great to have a leader who believed in me and saw talents in me that would help me chase my curiosity and really allow me to grow. I’m proud that I’ve been able to round out my career from the retail side, the wholesale side, and now, the branding side to really see how these come together in a full 360 view.
When you transitioned into your EVP role, was that something they were hiring for at the time, or was it your decision wanting to move into a leadership role?
LA: At Fortessa, I got my first promotion to SVP when we needed to have additional VPs hired to support my growing team. So now, I was leading a team of VPs and a larger sales organization. As I became Senior Vice President, the role expanded beyond just sales. I was able to focus on brand building, business development, and future growth strategies.
Can you explain a little bit about what an Executive Vice President of Licensing does?
LA: As EVP of Licensing at Scott Brothers Global, I set the vision of how we take the Brothers Brand and bring it to the consumer products market. I lead our amazing team to develop products that bring our brand to life and add value to the retailers and consumers. In licensing, we don’t make anything. We don’t buy anything, we don’t sell anything. We build a brand and work with licensees and retailers to bring that brand to the consumers. We provide design inspiration to our licensees who actually make the products and sell the products. I spend most of my days working with our teams to ensure the products we’re developing are on brand and that we’re telling a story that the consumers relate to the brothers as one of the most trusted brands in home. We are very tenacious about making sure we deliver to the consumer products they’re going to love and know will perform well in their homes. I partner with our retailers to help build cross-category programs. We have many licenses in lots of different categories that each work on their own piece of the business. Our job is to make sure it comes together in a really clear and comprehensive way. Then there are all the fun contract negotiations and putting deals together. I love what I do.
We have two brands now in the market, Scott living, as well as Drew and Jonathan Home, and they each have a different place and a reason to exist. We are very customer-centric and put the customer’s journey at the forefront of everything we do. It is a lot of fun. Every day is different.
What’s the best thing about working for Scott Brothers?
LA: Oh my goodness. That’s a great question. I would say the brothers are exactly like you see them on TV. They’re fun, hardworking, and authentic. I think the biggest surprise I had in the company was that they are far more business savvy than I was expecting. They dig deep into understanding the business, knowing our customers and what’s happening. I love that so much because that’s how I am. We are on a mission to make sure we are the best employer and the best partner that our employees and our partners work with. It comes through in everything we do.
Are you fully remote right now?
LA: We are. That was a change we made last year. Being remote has enabled us to hire people all over the country. The teams thrived by having a better work-life balance and being able to work where it works best for them and their families. We do have a hub in LA, and we have a number of people in New York, and our headquarters is in Nashville. We get together in person regularly for meetings, get-togethers, and retreats.
It sounds like you have a really cool culture there too.
LA: We do. It’s something we’ve worked at, and really try to make sure we listen to our employees. We follow their feedback, we have committees where they’re guiding our activities and interests. Everything from our lunch and learns to our regular get-togethers and happy hours they’re all in the planning on it.
What are some of the unique challenges of a career in furniture?
LA: Having a career in furniture can be extremely rewarding. It’s not an industry that’s going to go away. People will always want to furnish their homes and create warm, inviting spaces. You’ve got some great longevity there. I love hearing the stories that come out of the Hall of Fame. For example, the second and third generations are actively involved in these companies, and I think that’s a fascinating one. It’s a little different than some other industries on the retail side. It’s fairly fragmented, but it also brings a lot of personality to different retailers. They know their regions really well. They know their customers. They’ve been in business there a long time. Then you also have new players who are doing it differently and appealing to yet another generation. I see it as an industry that has a great history, but it’s also evolving. I’m so grateful to all who have helped and inspired me throughout my career.
How do you motivate team members?
LA: The biggest thing to motivate a team is to remain optimistic. We’ve gone through some crazy times over the last few years, but there are always wins to celebrate. Having a culture of celebration is really important to keep people motivated and recognize that everybody contributes. We believe in that strongly. Everybody has a role in driving revenue and profitability. We try to empower our employees to find ways to improve. We’re always looking for efficiencies, but being optimistic and celebrating wins, I think, are really important factors to keep people motivated.
What advice would you give to younger women considering a career in the furniture industry today?
LA: I would suggest that they follow their passions and learn as much about the industry as they can. Find people that you are interested in or fascinated by their career paths. Talk to them about it. Most people in this industry are really open and welcoming. You can learn a lot about the different things they did navigating their career to get to where they are. Ask lots of questions, read about the industry, and try to attend as many events as you can.
How important is it to have a network of other women as you grow?
It’s so important. Having a safe space to ask questions is amazing. I love that WithIt provides forums for things like that. Having a network of women that you can feel supported and understand their journeys is priceless.
Do you currently have a mentor today?
LA: I have an amazing network or a personal board of advisors. I have several people I can lean on in the furniture industry, as well as outside. I did my MBA at Kellogg and stayed close to several from my cohort, and I bounce lots of ideas off them. I love organizations like WithIt, where you can network with really strong women. There are some absolutely incredible women that I have met, and I love spending any amount of time I can with them because I always learn something new.
You’re on the Executive Advisory Council for WithIt. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
LA: Yes. We are here to help advise the board of directors and give them guidance. It’s a great opportunity to be a sounding board for them as they are a group of volunteers that have full-time jobs. They’re such an amazing team. They put together incredible programming that serves our industry so well. I love being able to be a small part of that and really help advise them and continue to brainstorm ways to amplify and educate them on all the great things that women are doing in our industry.
What values are most important to you as a leader?
LA: Optimism is number one. Empathy. Vision. Decisiveness. Authentic and integrity. Those would be my top.
Those are all great qualities to have in a leader. What keeps you grounded and energized?
LA: I would say my family. We are really close, and I love spending time with them even on the phone or through text. I have two sisters, whom I text many times every day. I have two grown daughters and a daughter-in-law, whom I’m really connected with, and love spending as much time with them as possible. My dear darling husband of over 30 years, he is my rock and keeps me sane for sure.
I have a quote I love and live by, and everything about it is so true.
“True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.” – Bob Iger
It all comes down to being authentic. You need to work for companies that have shared values and that you are well-aligned with.
Laura Aldrich has paved the way in the furniture industry, shattering obstacles and motivating women to follow their dreams. Her unwavering focus on excellence has earned her great esteem in the field, and her efforts to advance diversity and inclusivity set an example for us all. We feel privileged to highlight her outstanding accomplishments.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your career journey with us.