Amy Lipper, the driving force behind Lipper International Inc., didn’t take the typical path of a CEO. Her journey was rooted in the unlikeliest of soil — education. Starting her career in the Masters Program in Education at URI, Amy initially explored the world of teaching at elementary schools. However, life had a different trajectory in store for her.
In a twist of fate, Amy found herself on a side hustle, selling vacuums in New England to make ends meet. The experience opened her eyes to a newfound passion for sales. It was this unexpected turn that led her to approach her father, Herman Lipper, the founder and CEO of Lipper International Inc., with a proposition that would alter the course of her career.
In 1974, Amy officially joined the family business as a sales representative in the New England territory. What started as selling vacuums evolved into a remarkable skill for selling housewares. Climbing the corporate ladder swiftly, Amy became the National Sales Manager in 1978, a role that demanded her presence in multiple cities every other day, clocking over 150,000 miles each year.
Yet, amidst the whirlwind of her professional life, Amy yearned for a more balanced existence. In 1980, she took a step back from her role as National Sales Manager to focus on starting a family. Despite the step back, her passion for product development became evident as she introduced innovative designs based on the needs of key accounts.
Recognizing Amy’s flair for product development, her father elevated her to the position of President in 1987. However, Amy’s appetite for learning and growth persisted. “As a mother of two boys, I needed balance between work, my personal life, and my ongoing education,” recounts Amy. In 1988, she enrolled in the OPM (Owner President Management) program at Harvard, a transformative experience covering 60% of the Harvard MBA course over two intense years.
For Amy, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. Being a woman in a leadership role, she learned the art of resilience. Her leadership approach evolved, emphasizing learning from failures rather than dwelling on them. “I learned the most from my failures and continued to press on,” she reflects, embodying a tenacity that defines her leadership style.
The Genesis and Growth of Lipper International Inc
The roots of Lipper International Inc. stretch back to 1946 when it began as Lipper and Mann, an importer of fine glass and ceramic items from Japan. Situated on the seventh floor at 225 Fifth Avenue, New York, the showroom became a bustling hub where Herman Lipper, Seymour Mann, and a team of sales representatives showcased their merchandise to leading department stores, independent shops, jewelry stores, and home furnishing stores.
In 1951, Herman Lipper made a significant mark on the porcelain dinnerware landscape by developing the iconic Blue Danube pattern. The company’s journey took a pivotal turn in 1963 when Herman Lipper acquired full ownership, leading to the birth of Lipper International Inc.
As a family business, Lipper International Inc. possesses a distinctive ability to innovate swiftly and adapt to the ever-changing trends in the housewares market. Amy Lipper, the torchbearer of this legacy, has played a pivotal role in steering the company through the tides of evolution. “After giving birth to two boys in 1983 and 1986, I identified a gap in the market — a lack of children’s furniture crafted from natural wood products. In 1988, I introduced the children’s small occasional furniture collection at affordable price points in select department stores,” shares Amy.
Listening keenly to the needs of customers became a hallmark of Lipper’s evolution. In 1990, the company began sourcing beechwood products from Thailand, challenging the dominance of plastic drawer organizers in the market. The year 2003 witnessed another milestone with the introduction of a collection of beechwood organizers, diversifying the product line.
The spirit of innovation continued to propel Lipper International Inc. forward. In 2007, a wide assortment of bamboo organizational and serveware pieces made their way into the product offerings, reflecting the company’s commitment to sustainability and versatility. A significant leap came in 2016 when Lipper International Inc. introduced one of the largest collections of “live-edge” serve ware. Crafted from acacia wood imported from Thailand, these pieces not only reflected aesthetic sophistication but also showcased the company’s dedication to embracing new design trends.
Beyond product innovation, the company’s facilities and operations underwent a transformative phase. In 2019, Lipper International Inc. embraced the tech revolution by implementing cloud-based ERP, WMS, and EDI software. This strategic move not only expedited order processing and inventory turnover but also streamlined operational efficiencies. The results were substantial, with overhead expenses reduced by a third and the elimination of company overtime during peak seasons.
The Pillars of Success
At the heart of Lipper International Inc.’s ethos lies four foundational pillars: integrity, accountability, innovation, and adaptation. These principles not only define the company’s core values but serve as the guiding forces propelling its enduring success. Amy says, “Our longstanding relationships with factories for over four decades are built on honest communication and accountability. We do what we say, and we say what we’ll do.” Transparency is a cornerstone of their interactions with customers, providing clear insights into lead times and the costs associated with developing new and exclusive product lines. This commitment to integrity ensures trust in every business interaction.
Innovation is not just a buzzword at Lipper; it’s a way of life. The company actively encourages innovation in both its products and processes, recognizing that the key to staying at the forefront of the industry is empowering its employees to drive change. “We constantly encourage innovation in our products and processes by putting the ownership of these developments in the hands of our employees,” states Amy.
Lipper International Inc. doesn’t merely meet industry standards; it sets them. A standout practice is the meticulous inspection of one carton of every item in every shipment that arrives at the warehouse, regardless of the item’s longstanding presence in the product lineup. This commitment to quality control is a testament to the company’s dedication to delivering excellence.
Dealing primarily with natural products like wood, Lipper acknowledges the impact of weather conditions and the potential for human error in the manufacturing process. To circumvent these challenges, the company’s ownership of its warehouse becomes a strategic advantage. Amy explains, “Owning our own warehouse and inspecting the merchandise ourselves, we have avoided many problems, and we have also been able to improve our products from time to time.”
Defining Identity, Inspiring Accomplishments
Lipper International Inc. proudly wears the badge of certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a distinction that goes beyond paperwork and numbers. Amy shares, “Being a certified member of WBENC is not just a recognition; it’s a journey of connection and shared aspirations.”
For Amy, the certification has been a gateway to a community of fellow women-owned business owners. “Meeting with other women in the same boat is not just enlightening; it’s a source of inspiration. We share ideas, dreams, and challenges. It keeps my focus sharp on what we aim to achieve, not just as a family-owned but a women-owned family business,” Amy reflects.
As women increasingly step into leadership roles, the desire to mentor and share experiences becomes a driving force. Amy notes, “Most women I meet today want to be mentors in addition to running their businesses. It’s a shift in the landscape, and it’s beautiful. We’re embracing not just the practical but the multifaceted nature of being a woman in business.”
Amy emphasizes the role of WBENC certification in promoting and enabling female leaders within Lipper International Inc. “It’s not just about recognition; it’s about empowerment. We actively contribute to breaking barriers and creating opportunities for women within our workforce. We want to be a catalyst for change and progress.”
Unique Challenges, Unyielding Resolve
Amy’s journey as a woman in a leadership position comes with its unique set of challenges. “In the early days, being the Bosses’ daughter and the questions about who was taking care of our children while I traveled overseas were part of the narrative. Would a man face such questions? Probably not,” Amy reflects.
Rather than succumbing to narrow perspectives, Amy focused on action. “I didn’t allow these challenges to weigh me down. I stayed focused on the task at hand, pushing forward and letting my actions speak louder than the words of those with limited perspectives.”
Amy’s commitment to fostering diversity and inclusivity isn’t just a corporate strategy; it’s a reflection of her upbringing in the diverse landscape of the greater New York City area. “Diversity has been a part of my entire life,” Amy affirms. From the warehouse in Queens to the current one in Wallingford, CT, Lipper International Inc. has nurtured a diverse team. “Diversity isn’t just about meeting quotas; it’s about creating a melting pot of perspectives. It’s the perfect ground for new ideas, especially in product innovation. We celebrate differences and recognize the strength they bring to our organizational tapestry,” adds Amy.
From Sustainability to Innovation: The Road Ahead
Amy takes pride in two specific additions to the product portfolio as she reflects on her career. These are the children’s furniture line and the beechwood organization lines, which were introduced during the early stages of her presidency. She recounts, “Between juggling my responsibilities as a mother, a leader, a wife, and as a student, I am particularly fond of the memories I have during this time as I strove to innovate and thrive in the face of adversity.”
These innovations not only diversify Lipper International Inc.’s offerings but also showcase the resilience and vision that define Amy’s leadership. Looking to the future, the vision for Lipper International Inc. is firmly rooted in the value of sustainability. Amy, who is at the forefront of this vision, shares that sustainability is a cornerstone for them. Their key innovations revolve around introducing affordable, natural products that are sustainably sourced and manufactured.
As the world makes strides in reducing carbon emissions, they are keenly watching for developments in manufacturing processes and innovations related to their product line. For Lipper International Inc., the future is intricately tied to advancements that align with their commitment to environmentally responsible practices. The company stands ready to embrace new opportunities that arise in the quest for sustainable manufacturing.
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