Savannah Kleiner ’17 had no idea what was in store for her as she headed to New York for the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, the annual showcase for retail merchants. But not only did she come away excited about her future, she was honored as one of 20 semifinalists for the federation’s Next Generation Scholarship, which supports college students pursuing careers or majors relevant to retail.
“I think I was a little overwhelmed at first just at the magnitude and what a production it was,” said Kleiner, who has distinguished herself during her college career as Founder and President of Butler’s Fashion Club and as marketing intern with the Indiana Supreme Court. “But it was a great experience. I also didn’t realize how far-reaching the National Retail Federation (NRF) is. We had people from California to New York City. There were more than 600 students from all across this country. So this was huge.”
Kleiner was one of 10 Butler students to make the trip, along with Kim Goad, Director of Career Development in Butler’s Lacy School of Business, and Eloise Paul, one of the Lacy School of Business’s career mentors. Paul, who worked in retail before switching to teaching midway through her career, recommended that Butler join the National Retail Federation and attend the Big Show as a way to show students the enormous variety of career options available to them in retail.
The trip was funded by donors to the Lacy School of Business’s Experiential Fund and through NRF scholarships. In addition to Kleiner, Kelsey Kinniry ’19 (NRF Student Ambassador) and Macey O’Brien ’19 (NRF Rising Star) earned scholarships that paid for their expenses.
“I’m so grateful that Eloise encouraged us to join the NRF, and so proud of our students,” Goad said. “They represented Butler well and made the most of four very full days. This opens up incredible opportunities for all of our majors and I look forward to growing the program.”
During those four full days, Kleiner, Kinniry, O’Brien, and the other students—Anna Doran, Leanna Kerbs, Savannah Kitchel, Emily Leeson, Ariel Norris, Sabrina Pusatera, and Alex Ruemler:
-Had dinner with Mel Tucker and Michael Wolkoff, CFO and Chief Merchandising Officer, respectively of the iconic New York store Century 21. Paul said they had “an engaging conversation about the retail industry and careers in retail, and a tour at their flagship store.” Mel is the husband of Butler alumna Edwina Tucker ‘88.
-Heard from an array of speakers, including Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz; designer Rebecca Minkoff; a young professional panel with recent hires from Nike, the Home Depot, West Elm, Belk, and Kohls; College Relations executives from Macys, Kohls, Ross, Nordstrom, and Belk; and author/motivational speaker Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
“Karen Katz was really motivating,” said Kleiner, who liked the CEO’s story about getting turned down by Neiman Marcus when she applied to work there immediately after college. “It sounds cheesy, but if you’re passionate about something, do not let a little bump in the road take you off task. Stay focused on the goal and you’ll get there.”
-Learned that retail offers a broad range of career opportunities—not just fashion and not just sales. Paul said that the conference stressed the need for students in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) who can crunch and interpret data.
“Retail is dynamic,” Paul said. “It’s not for those who like a lot of structure and sameness. But if you like excitement and change and can juggle and do lots of different things, retail is a great career.”