SVN Conference Helped Eileen Fisher Discover Passion
Founder of international clothing company recognized for creating a meaningful workplace
Wednesday October 31, 2012 -- Camille Jensen
When Eileen Fisher attended her first Social Venture Network (SVN) conference nearly 25 years ago she couldn’t anticipate the impact it would have, and continues to have to this day.
It was during that SVN conference that Fisher, for the first time, sat in a circle with business peers to engage in conversation. It was also the first time anyone had ever asked her what she was passionate about.
Having already been running her clothing company EILEEN FISHER Inc. for more than five years, the question took Fisher by surprise.
Of course, she was passionate about creating clothing and the design images continually whirling in her mind.
But, as she listened to other business leaders recount what mattered to them and how they felt their business was a tool to create positive change, Fisher began to think differently about what her company could achieve.
“I hadn’t thought about my business in that way,” Fisher tells Sustainable Solutions.
“It helped me a lot to go deeper and to see that my business could have a much bigger purpose . . . and that I could actually use my business to make a difference.”
Today, EILEEN FISHER Inc. is not only a leader in creating clothing that is made from organic and natural materials, it's been named a Great Place to Work winner for the past nine years. Thirty per cent of the company is owned by employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), and to this day staff members are asked and encouraged to follow their passions.
“People feel a lot of opportunity to find their own passion, to answer those kinds of questions,” says Fisher.
For her work in creating a meaningful work environment that empowers staff, Fisher is being inducted into SVN’s Hall of Fame as a Workplace Champion.
When asked about what she’s most proud of achieving, Fisher says it's building a holistic company where care and respect for people and environment are built into the operating system.
She says there is a depth to the organization, with staff acting with passion and kindness that leads to deep and long relationships with each other.
“It spills out into stores, and into customers. It's the we care for factory workers and the we care for the environment. The way designers think deeply about what and why we do what we do,” says Fisher.
“It's rewarding to be there. It feels like I planted some seeds in the garden and I am just sitting back and watching it grow and thrive, and it gets more wonderful by the day.”
Fisher will be honored as Workplace Champion at SVN’s sold-out Hall of Fame celebration in New York City Nov. 13.
SVN's fall conference takes place Nov. 14-17 in Rye Brook, New York.
— More to Come
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