Community for women of color in sales and business
Tiana Kenney is a 27-year-old Pace University alumna, where she studied marketing and completed a few marketing and media internships before her passion for fashion landed her in the world of wholesale apparel. Currently, she is an Account Executive II at PVH Corp. (formerly known as the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation), one of the largest global apparel companies in the world and parent company of iconic brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Let’s find out how she got to where she is today.
Q: What's your background?
A: While majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Advertising & Promotion at Pace University, I wanted to work on the promotions or advertising side for a record label, and with me living and attending school in NYC, I knew I would have many options at my fingertips to make that happen. Therefore, I dove in head first and landed a marketing & promotions internship at EMI/Capitol Records, but, I hated it. At that moment I realized that was ultimately what I didn't want to do. Then some soul searching occurred for me to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I decided to meet up with my Career Counselor and he helped paint a path of what I could do or what I would like to do in order for me to figure out which direction I should be going with my career after graduation.
Like any college student, Tiana enters college with an idea of what she would like to do, but as she took those classes and landed those internships, she quickly had a “come to Jesus” moment where she realized what she wanted may not be what wanted her. Those moments force you to evaluate what you like vs what you really love. Tiana was wise and strategic in finding what that was and made the discovery with her Career Counselor that she really loves fashion, so that is when she landed an unexpected sales internship that would change the trajectory of her budding career.
Q: What encouraged you to shift gears and pursue a career in sales?
A: The summer going into my senior year, my career counselor encouraged me to apply for a sales internship with PVH, and I did. I am so happy I did because that internship is what help me discover what I should be doing with my Marketing Degree. I loved the internship because it was a great balance of all things I love like talking to people, interfacing with customers, my love of products and numbers, while not being stuck behind a desk all day. I fell in love with this internship because you were not just an intern, they encouraged you to be deeply immersed in the day to day functionalities of the company while working on a separate group project that helps with partnering with people from different departments as well. They had me hooked!
Like me, Tiana strives to be a well-rounded sales professional, so she had a checklist she needed to get through to help her become just that. So the last box she wanted to check was her working in media. Therefore, during the second semester of her senior year, after leaving her 6-month internship at PVH, Tiana went to intern at a media company named Zenith Optimedia. That was a good internship but again it made her realize where her heart was, and that was with PVH. Luckily for her, she was able to go back to PVH full time after she graduated!
Q: What does your position look like?
A: I am an Account Executive II (Senior Account Executive), working on the Corporate side of wholesale. Anywhere from Macy’s, Nordstrom, JCPenney, and department store accounts are what I handle. In my division we do business with different tiers of distribution from the private label in your local wholesale club, to top tier department stores. I am in the dress furnishings division where I work with boys and men’s dress shirts, neckwear, cold weather, small leather goods, and belts. I also handle all the e-commerce sites for those accounts. My day to day is a bit different because my product is very far along in its life cycle. A deal is running an established business where there are small wins like selling a new product or into a new category to that established client such as Macy’s. These deals are much easier because of my relationship with these accounts.
A lot of relationship and sales management is involved in her role since it's more of a partnership she is creating with her accounts. Those relationships ultimately help maintain and grow her book of business. Since she does so much in her role, I had to tell Tiana that I thought she was going to tell me that her title would have the word “Director” in it, since her role seems so robust. She does have a Jr. AE report to her and has EVP and SVP’s above her which I believe she will quickly become since she is so passionate about her job. What's also very cool about her role is that she gets to travel to places such as Dallas while working with the JCPenney account or Seattle while working with Nordstrom, and since their resources are spread out across the country, PVH has a warehouse in Georgia and LA, she may travel those places as well. Basically, her retail partners impact how much she travels.
Q: Tell me about your biggest deal, and how did it close?
A: This one involved a lot of research but getting Van Heusen belts and small leather goods into a variety of my mid-tier partner's stores such as JCPenney and Kohl’s is one of my biggest deals. I worked with a different buying team, but I had my input into the design and was a part of the deal from start to finish. Getting feedback on what is new and innovative was part of the process as well.
From development to getting it into the stores, it took about nine months to close the deal and get those products into those two stores successfully. This also includes me packing up my sample case and flying out to Dallas to present the product, get their feedback on what they liked and didn't like, taking that back to my design team, tweak or make some necessary and approved changes, then flying out again to present the updated products. The final step is finding a home for it on the sales floor. In addition to selling it in, I spearheaded the promotion and the placement while working with the marketing team to put up the new fixtures and all! I am kind of a liaison between the customer and different facets of PVH.
Do you now see why I think she needs a new work title?! This woman does a lot and she makes sure she does it well! It really pays to do what you love and have fun doing so, because can you imagine if Tiana did not love her career? This would be so exhausting for her. What's also great is that each time Tiana, her friends, and/or family passes a Macy’s JcPenney’s, Nordstrom, or any department store for that matter, they are reminded of her passionate work in wholesale.
Q: What do you like most about being in sales?
A: Client facing, being out in the field, visiting stores, getting customer feedback since not all stores receive the same products, ultimately wearing more than one hat and putting hands in different pots as well. Having the opportunity to run my own business by being independent while still remaining a team player is something I love as well.
At one point, Tiana left PVH again because as mentioned earlier, she strives on being a well-rounded sales professional. Since she has worked and interned at PVH for so long, it would have been what she only knew. So, in her time away, she worked for a baby brand startup in Brooklyn where she worked with 500 specialty accounts spread out across the country. That was so eye-opening to her because she was working with small boutique shops that ran their businesses completely different from what she was used to at PVH. This helped her foster a different sense of how she sells to her customers because she was able to give individualized attention to the baby brands and apply that to how she handled the larger brands at PVH. That time away was really important to her because she wanted her world view of the wholesale fashion industry to have a wider scope and she did that by being strategic in learning different aspects of the business.
Q: What does your progression look like from Account Executive II?
A: I have been with PVH for about 4.5 years starting as an intern then promoted Sales Coordinator to Jr. AE, then left and returned as AE I, then currently an AE II (Senior Account Executive), next step is AE III, then depending on the division I am in, the next step can be Director or VP of Sales, and finally EVP of Sales.
Q: What are the challenges of being a WOC in sales?
A: There are over 10,000 employees at PVH, but in my building in particular, I am the only woman of brown color (that I know of) in the sales department. PVH is really big on diversity and is making strides in being a more diverse workplace. I see there are a lot of women in positions of power than most places I have worked, but in terms of color, that is a work in progress for sure.Last year, one big step PVH took in the right direction was creating a Business Resource Group named B.R.A.A.V.E- Building Resources for African American Voices and Empowerment), where I am a part of the culture committee. This group was created in an effort to bring people of color from the tri-state area within the company and departments together. There are a lot of people of color in design but the sales department is lacking WOC because I believe people of color do not know these opportunities are there for them. I think this is where SIS will help bring more awareness about open job positions at different companies such as PVH that are striving to diversify. It's about spreading awareness and building a network of community where we can share our stories. In meeting WOC at the SIS events, it’s very empowering because it makes me proud to be a part of this emerging movement.
Q: What would you say to a WOC interested in pursuing a career in sales?
A: Try to make some connections because there aren't many of us out here. If you find one, latch on, keep trying and don't give up since we will hear no a lot, so persistence is definitely key. It is very important to be on top of your game, make sure you look the part specifically for an interview in the fashion industry; your appearance is very important. Make sure your resume is strong and tailored for the positions you want in sales. Pull out the transferable skills to create a resume for the position you are applying for. WOC have more odds against them, so in our positions, being over prepared is essential.
Q: Why do you think a community like Sistas In Sales, is important for WOC like yourself, and what other communities are you a part of that keeps you grounded and help you find sisterhood?
A: SIS is extremely important for billions of reasons and there is no organization like it that I know of and I have never seen so many WOC in sales before and SIS has done that. SIS has exposed to me to different levels of sales, and to see so many women in these roles has really encouraged me. This is our time! The future is female and it's the time for WOC to be at the forefront. It's such a critical time to lift each other up. Outside of being a part of B.R.A.A.V.E, I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., at Pace where I met Chantel.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
A: My age of 27 is very important for me to let people know because of how young I look and sound, but when I get into a board room, all of that goes out of the window because I know what I am talking about. I have accomplished a lot of great things in my sales career in a short amount of time. When I am not engulfed in all things fashion, I love to travel, indulge in great food, music, and taking care of my rescue dog, Penelope.
I have learned some fun facts about Tiana that are “must shares” such as she was born in Honolulu, HI, raised in Maryland, moved to NYC at the age of 11 to play young Nala in the Lion King on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre, then moved to California, and back to Bel Air, MD. Similar to me, she has a background in acting and theatre arts as I too performed on Broadway at the age of 10! She loves to compare herself to herself and never to others; such a great thing!
Her 2019 Mantra is, "Be more aware of people as people rather than questioning what they do."
I cannot wait to learn when Tiana gets promoted to a well deserved Director role at PVH. It was a pleasure to get to know her and look forward to seeing her at more SIS events. If you would like to connect with Tiana on social media, please reference the links below: