Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Helen Levy's Sock Shop

I am a successful business woman and a breast cancer survivor. My life has taught me that you can accomplish your dreams and overcome any obstacle presently in your path with hard work and faith. I post this entry just in case there is even one person who may become inspired by my story.

In 1980, I approached a girlfriend about opening a shop. We wanted to come up with an idea to compete with the 20% off stores that were becoming popular in our area. After much thought and research, we created the Sock Shop, selling socks, tights, and knee highs for all members of the family. Our motto was "Everything for the leg - always 20% off."

Our hard work paid off and the Sock Shop started to flourish. After we were in business for about a year, we opened a second location. With the second shop, we had to work even harder. Eventually, the business partnership ended and I bought the company outright.

One day, an English woman visited the shop and asked if she could pick my brain. She wanted to open a store in London. I spent a great deal of time with her sharing my business views and aspirations. I explained to her that my success was in part related to the location of my shops. The first shop was in a shopping center that housed a drug store, a jewelry store, fruit and vegetable market, pizza parlor, beauty shop, cleaners, tailor and nail salon. The result – a lot of foot traffic from women of all ages, which was my target market. I explained to her the importance of knowing your market, and shared with her the Sock Shop’s philosophy of providing name brand, quality clothing at discounted prices. I then emphasized what may be the principle reason for my success - exceptional customer service. For example, I special order items that customers cannot find in my shops. I’m also pleased that each customer who visits the Sock Shop feels like an extended member of my family by the time they leave. By treating my customers well, and offering products they want at prices they are willing to pay, I continue to enjoy a growing base of loyal customers. My English friend returned home and opened similar Sock Shops in subway stations throughout London. Today she is a millionaire and her company is traded on the British stock exchange.

In the midst of growing my business, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was devastated by the news and worried about how I would manage my illness and maintain the Sock Shop. Having a purpose gets you up in the morning and I realized during this phase of my life that the Sock Shop was my purpose. I underwent a double mastectomy and incredibly returned to work nine days later. It was gratifying to me that my customers were so supportive and helped me through that difficult time. I feel fortunate that my experiences allow me today to offer that same type of support, encouragement and hope to my customers coping with a personal illness.

I love supporting my customers and being a catalyst for their personal and professional successes. After three decades in business, I mostly enjoy the personal relationships I have built over the years. I love what I do and hope to leave this legacy to my daughters one day. Thank you for allowing me to share with you. I hope that someone’s life has been touched by reading my story.