As a 29-year-old global brand and product manager, Erika Pope knows a thing or two about an effective strategy.
In the early stages of her career as a Senior Analyst for TJX Companies – the parent company to TJ Maxx stores nationwide – she consistently boosted annual revenue for the e-commerce division as well as leading category launches on the website which resulted in over $5 million in sales. Pope later went on to work as a buyer for one of the world’s leading airport concessionaires –Paradies Lagardère — where she curated and launched the companies first luxury brand concept stores.
In the next couple of years, she would go on to become Senior Analyst of Online Pricing and Promotions for Home Depot – managing the company’s most profitable business portfolio, Major Appliances. Now, she boasts the title of Brand and Product Development Manager for 4 major hair care brands, responsible for new product manifestation, retail distribution and global trade show management in the US, Africa and Brazil.
I got a chance to chat with Erika about marketing trends for growing businesses, how to build a strong personal brand and tips to aid inquiring minds on breaking into the industry.
Danielle D. Hughes: Elaborate on your journey of being a woman of color in the hair care industry? How do you balance overseeing million dollar brands while still building your own personal brand?
Erika Pope: I have worked in the consumer goods space for over 7 years and each step I’ve taken has taught me a few things in particular: being Black, a woman and under 30 can be easily seen as a triple obstacle. I choose to see it otherwise. I used to find it insulting that in the 20th century people in leadership still assume mediocrity is tied to race, gender, or age. The undeniable shock I’ve seen amongst my leadership throughout my career with my level of intelligence, my ability to command a room, or my fearlessness and passion was baffling to say the least. Now, I use it to my advantage. I like to use people’s assumption about me as a tool to develop and create change in business. People tend to give power to those who impress and lead them. Every role that I have been in, I was eventually given the power to pioneer or drive a change that ultimately could either cost or create a considerable amount of profit for the business I was in charge of. I like to think of using what some could see as ‘obstacles’ as my ticket to persuasiveness. This is a tool I learned from two fairly popular books: ‘Getting To Yes’ by Roger Fischer and ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz.
As far as juggling my personal and career endeavors, I’ve learned that I can’t do much by myself. I have a tremendous support system in my team, my husband and the rest of my family. There are some days that I literally think I have morphed into an octopus because I am managing so many different things. Most importantly, I prioritize daily and often re-prioritize throughout the day. I remind myself constantly that I am grinding now so that the impact that I make sets me up to relax later. I know none of my work is being done in vain because I’m slowly creating a platform that is full of a bigger purpose — and that is what makes it all worth it.
Hughes: You’ve worked for companies such as The Home Depot, TJ Maxx and currently, Aunt Jackie’s. How do you view the similarities and differences between each of these brands?
Pope: The biggest difference is their position in the retail and consumer goods space and the size of their businesses. I have had the opportunity to work in so many types of work environments and have seen the highs and the lows. I’ve been referred to as the “problem solver” in my industry, as I am often brought onto teams that have businesses that need to be turned around, refreshed or in some cases completely created. It’s the perfect play on me being the REAL Mrs. Pope (not to be confused with Olivia) I have a knack for being able to make quick assessments and find solutions, as well as developing profitable ideas from scratch. I pride myself on leaving my mark on every business I touch.
Hughes: In your role as a Global Marketing Brand and Product Development Manager, what are some current global marketing trends? What are consumers interested in?
Pope: Consumers are interested in being educated on products. There are so many options out there that it can be extremely overwhelming. The brands that spend more time developing the education of their products will always stand out over those who only focus on selling. Consumers are also looking for authenticity and transparency. Understanding what is in the products that they are using and who is behind the brand are both important and of interest to consumers.
Hughes: What are your plans for expansion?
Pope: I intend to not only continue to take strides in my current role and industry, I also intend to set fire to my personal platform that I feel extremely passionate about. I am a Women’s Empowerment Enthusiast. Social media has become cluttered with meaningless affirmations, leaving young women to aspire to do nothing more than promote their vanity. I want to create a new lane for influencing that involves showcasing internal beauty, intellect and motivation. This past year, I have been working on my social media that speaks positivity into women’s timelines on a daily basis. I also launched my podcast ‘Boss Moves’ that seeks to produce inspirational stories for young black women to use as their motivation to keep striving for greatness. My latest work is my e-book, Making Moves, which provides an outlined guide on how to achieve your goals and overcome setbacks is set to release May 2019. I eventually plan to use my platform to start self-help courses as well as do motivational speaking. I think it’s important for young women to see other women doing positive things and working towards what they aspire to achieve.
Hughes: Top 3 tips for those interested in breaking into your industry?
Pope: Find a way to stand out. Having a pretty resume, a great elevator speech and an aesthetically pleasing LinkedIn page won’t cut it these days. You need to make sure you have something that sets you apart from the rest.
Be a good study. Never stop learning your subject matter and even step outside of it. A well rounded person is always better suited for the job.
Network. It sounds like a standard piece of advice, but I can’t stress it enough. I haven’t received one job that I actually wanted from simply applying for it. I was always introduced into the position via a relationship and of course my ability to seize the opportunity and show and prove!
Danielle is an award-winning ‘Chief Changemaker’ committed to developing young leaders across the nation. Follow her @DanielleDHughes to say hello.