An American Success Story
Written by Philip Grant
I was born and raised in a modest town in southern Maine. A town with a population of 2,892 and a racial make up that is 97.3% white (2010 census). Limerick is a typical example of a small Maine town. I grew up on a twenty-acre plot of land with my parents and younger brother, at various points with a slew of outdoor animals, dogs, and cats. While it was not a “farm” per say, it was technically zoned as such. My first pet, which I was responsible and tasked to take care of completely on my own, was a Hereford cow named Katie. This sets the stage for how my life began. I often wandered the acreage, through the woods, climbing trees, creating a fantasy world for myself. I sometimes felt regretful that I grew up in such a limited environment, but at the same time credit it wholly for my creative development, and later my solid work ethic.
All roads pointed to colleges specializing in performing arts and education. I applied to, and was accepted by various schools around New England, some with and without scholarship incentives. It was made very clear to me that I would be responsible for paying for my own education. The one school, which promised full tuition, was even more remote and sleepy town where I grew up, so the thought of that option seemed like an unbearable four-year sentence. I decided, with my parents’ full support, to delay for a semester and get a job. Retail shops peaked my interest, and the closest mall was 45 minutes from home. I could easily commute from home and save some money. The spring of my senior year, I applied at a shoe and clothing store, and was offered a sales associate position. My life and future in retail began.
After working my first store, there was an opportunity at a department store nearby Macy’s, for an entry level “trimmer” in the visual merchandising department. I jumped at the chance, was offered the position, and soon met my first roommate, moved out of my parent’s house, and into my first apartment in artsy Downtown Portland. At twenty years old, I felt like my life had just begun.
In the six years with Macy’s, I went from trimmer to senior staff to manager to regional director of training presentation standards. The first few years were like visual merchandising boot camp, with high expectation on level of detail and performance. I traveled for company prototypes and new store openings, meeting the most talented and interesting people. As a young adult, making a good salary and working in a field that I was passionate about, I soon became restless. I felt like I had peaked and that there was something missing. An opportunity arose, a friend who had left the Company called about a position in New York City. As much as a move from Maine to New York was terrifying to me, I couldn’t resist. I met with the hiring manager, fell in love with her (or her fierce shoes), and accepted the position. The best thing for me ended up being a commute from Norwalk, CT. I thought it perfectly respectable taking baby steps in this new adventure. I said goodbye to my Macy’s family, and began my next six years in corporate specialty retail.
I spent two years with each of three companies in the specialty retail sector. The corporate office life was so different than the being in the field. I became as diverse as the companies themselves, learning shop development and fixture design, interfacing with many levels of management and the vendor community, fine tuning my presentation skills and level of “finesse”. I worked on marketing and branding, directed creative strategies for photo shoots and seasonal campaigns, and even had the opportunity to design and oversee the load in of a mock retail store featured in a Steven Spielberg major motion picture. I am a big proponent for continuing education, but I realized that all the exposure, experiences and opportunities were invaluable, and not something that I could have learned in a classroom.
Then I received a call from a former Macy’s colleague regarding a newly created position. It would relocate me back to New York City at the flagship store and corporate office. The role sounded exciting and had a huge influence on developing the next generation of how the Company was presented to the market. New York City no longer was a daunting place for me, so I moved to the Upper West Side without hesitation. The job was everything it had promised to be and more. I was able to leverage all of the crafts I had developed over the past twelve years, the transition was seamless, it was like I had been doing it for my whole career.
Seven years later, here I am, writing this article in my midtown high-rise apartment. The countless artists, merchants, designers, events, and opportunities I have had exposure to will forever continue to shape my life and my career. I feel proud to represent an example of the American success story, that through hard work, focus, and of course skill and talent, you can achieve everything and more.
I am from a middle class family, so can hardly call my story “rags to riches”, but there is no limit in this country to what you can achieve if you have passion and drive. Never take for granted the help you receive along the way from mentors, friends, lovers, and the most important, your family. I am Philip Grant, and I am America.
Written by Philip Grant view site