There is nothing like receiving a beautiful invitation or thank you letter in the mail in this crazy, modern age of paperless, 120-character messages. And that is why it is great that we have stores like Papyrus to remind us that sending a letter is still treasured by most people. It also makes complete sense that there is a woman behind this great company, Dominique Schurman, CEO of the Schurman Retail Group, which owns the Papyrus chain.
But actually the Schurman Retail Group is a family business that been around since 1951 when it was started by Dominique’s father in their kitchen. In 1981 her father was going to retire and sell the company but Dominique said, “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Before you sell the company, give me a chance to work for you,’” she recalls. Schurman’s father agreed and put his daughter to work in 1982 answering the phones. Twenty-eight years later, Schurman is CEO of the 60-year-old Schurman Retail Group, the second-largest specialty retailer in the American personal expression industry and creator of the internationally recognized Papyrus brand, distinguished by its pink hummingbird logo and known for its aesthetically sophisticated and customized stationery products. Under Schurman’s direction, the company now has more than 450 stores in the US and Canada, featuring the Papyrus, NIQUEA.D, Carlton Cards and American Greetings brands.
Describing her management style as “informal and interactive,” Schurman spends her days in design meetings, traveling to stores and checking in daily with all aspects of her Fairfield, Calif.-based company. She told Jewish Woman Magazine that she is frequently the only woman at executive board meetings. “There’s still a men’s club at the most senior level of business, and I’ve had to work harder to be taken seriously. But I’ve also learned how to use being a woman to my advantage,” she says. She talked to The Grindstone about the pros and cons of working with your family, understanding the customer and that ‘having it all’ is a myth that needs to be debunked.
Did you picture always picture yourself in a career like this growing up? With your father working in this business did you know you would probably end up doing this as a kid? Did you consider anything else?
I always loved the business growing up, but had thought about other careers like law, marketing or teaching. I wanted to do something different as I had grown up with both of my parents in the business. My mother started the PAPYRUS stores, opening the first store in 1973. It was not until my father discussed his retirement plans that I seriously thought about a future in the company.
What is it like to be part of a family business? What are the best parts? What are the worst? Do you talk business with your family even in your off time or is there a real separation between work and family?
There are indeed good things and bad about family businesses. The good part is that we share the business in common and in many ways it brings us closer. The hardest part is that there really is no way to separate the two completely so the business is always in the dining room…..when things are going well it is fun, but when times are tough it can be a little tense.
What is your favorite thing about your job? What is your least favorite?
I love the creative challenge. Retail is all about trying to understand your customers and to anticipate their wants and needs. I find this incredibly challenging and rewarding. I also love working with our talented and passionate team to always be better today then we were yesterday. The hardest part of the job is when/if times are tough and having to make the difficult decisions sometimes needed in the best interest of the business.
How do you deal with the work life balance struggle or do you think striving for perfect balance is a moot point?
I try to find a personal balance. I cherish my personal time and I try to carve out an hour a day for exercise. This helps me to keep an even keel. But there is never enough time in the day to do it all.