Meet the couple that helps get your favorite pieces of clothing and gear into your closet.
by Rebecca Tavernini '11MA
We take it for granted that when we go to buy, for instance, a pair of athletic shoes, that our favorite brand will be on the shelf, in the right size and sporting a new design that surprises and pleases us. Elisa (Eminger) ’08 BS and Dan ’08 BS Mattonen know well that doesn’t happen by magic or accident.
As a global supply planner/buyer for Brooks Running, Dan estimates that “during the manufacturing process alone, upwards of 150 people handle a pair of shoes through completion.” But it doesn’t stop there in ensuring each customer is delighted with what they bring home from the store or have delivered to their door. “Brooks has 500+ employees throughout the company globally, and I feel like they all play an integral part.”
Elisa, who works for The North Face overseeing its account relationship with outdoor retailer REI, said, “Depending on the product or size, it could be up to 40-50 people who touch a style throughout the entire process from conception. If that doesn’t illustrate the importance of effective communication and teamwork, I’m not sure what does!” She stresses that “it really comes down to three things: product, people and passion. Our industry is fueled by a mutual love for the outdoors and exploration, and that’s a key common denominator that brings together passionate people and innovative product.”
That same fuel brought the Mattonens together as well. As two twenty-somethings who love to camp, hike, bike, sail, climb, ski, run and fly fish—in one of the world’s most active and adventurous cities, Seattle—their jobs seem to be a natural extension of their lives, and vice versa.
“It’s very rewarding coming into an office every day surrounded by passionate, like-minded folks all working towards the same goals,” said Dan. “The culture is contagious, and we take everything we do seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.” Brooks’ “Run Happy” motto, along with strong brand loyalty established through a positive product experience has been a winning formula for the company, Dan says, noting it has nearly doubled in size over the past few years. The physical office environment is a reflection of the brand as well. The company’s new headquarters, which overlooks Lake Washington and the city skyline, is pioneering Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program. “It’s not uncommon to squeeze in a run, ride or yoga session on the roof deck between meetings. If lucky, that next meeting could be held at a local brewery.”
Elisa, whose office boasts impromptu Frisbee meetings and a kegerator, said, ”We work really hard, and we spend more time with each other than our families, so we also try to keep it fun and active,” adding that transformation is key to The North Face success story. “The consumer gravitates towards brands that inspire them and products they trust. It’s important for brands to be progressive and forward-thinking to continue to inspire the consumer, without losing grasp of their timeless DNA. Customers look to their favorite brands to lead them toward the newest innovations and designs.”
She reports there is no lack of inspiration or vision. “The most challenging part of my role is bringing together many different and valid perspectives to drive an aligned strategy. There are so many great ideas coming from different places that need to be melded into one direction.”
To help with that challenge, she draws on her NMU experience: “I have two professors whose voices stick in my head continually. Dr. Claudia (Orr) Hart taught me the importance of clear and concise communication, with a major emphasis on customer service. Even in the worst situations with a less-than-ideal outcome, you can still walk away having given great service. Dr. Orr is an unbelievably influential voice in how I manage people and customers even today. Dr. Brian Gnauck elevated my strategic thinking skills to a completely new level in my last semester of college. I was equally terrified and motivated by his 400-level Strategic Management course. He stressed the importance of great consideration and mindful decision-making when reviewing a complex situation. Even when it’s overwhelming, you can work through your thoughts one step at a time. It’s reflective of what I do nearly every day now.”
As the couple squeezes in as much adventure, travel and great food experiences as they can as a part of and between their jobs, Dan said, “I realize today that Northern offered a great school/life balance that’s relative to the work/life balance that’s so important to us now.”