From TV anchor to fashion, meet Hamilton Northcutt, Etcetera Area Development Manager.
1) Hamilton, when did you join Etcetera and what prompted you to contact them?
I started selling Etcetera in the Fall of 2004. I had been a customer of a consultant who was selling the line in Atlanta, but not all that close to me. When I heard that two friends planned to begin selling Etcetera right in my neighborhood, I called them immediately to ask if they would like a third partner in this new venture. I was very busy at the time, working full-time as a television anchor and correspondent, but I thought it would be a lot of fun to have a small business on the side that would be very different from my “real” job. So the three of us launched our Etcetera agency and had our first show in August 2004. I guess you’d say the rest is history.
2) Had you been a wardrobe specialist before or were you changing careers?
Before selling Etcetera, I had no retail or fashion experience at all. For the first year of my involvement with Etcetera, it was just a part-time business/hobby that I fit in as best I could around the demands of my full-time television career. Then, a little over a year after I began selling Etcetera, two things happened—there was a management change at the TV station where I was working, and Etcetera’s Regional Manager in my area approached me about the possibility of becoming an Area Development Manager (ADM) for the company.
I shrugged off this suggestion at first, as I considered television my “real” job and long-term career, while selling Etcetera was just a fun little business/hobby on the side. But I kept thinking about the ADM job—I didn’t like the management change at my TV station, yearned for a break from the long hours (nights, weekends, holidays, up at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. to host morning shows), wanted more flexibility in my life, and was excited by the thought of being my own boss and creating a team of fantastic women that I would manage. So in November 2005, my little hobby on the side turned into a career change.
3) How did the transition go as far as making this career change?
I had a lot going on for three to four months as I made this transition … looking back now, I wonder how I juggled it all! But I remember being exhilarated about my new direction in life and very motivated to make sure I was successful in my new venture. I continued my television job for the first couple of months as I launched my new career as an Etcetera ADM, and also continued to sell the clothes with my business partner, Susan Stuart. Working full time at the TV station, recruiting for Etcetera in every spare moment to start building my team of consultants, signing on new recruits and training them, getting them ready for their first show, delivering clothes to my own clients, keeping the books for our agency and preparing for the next show … I was super-busy!
4) Have you discovered new hidden talents and skills that are showing themselves in this career?
I’ve learned so much in my career with Etcetera—about myself and also others. I’m a really good networker, which I didn’t realize before I took this job. I have a gift for working with people … in training my new consultants; of course, it’s important to teach them all they need to know in order to have a successful Etcetera business. I think it’s also key to enjoy what you do in life, so I strive to make Etcetera fun for my consultants and clients alike—it isn’t too hard as the clothes are fabulous and our mission is to share them with other women and help them look and feel great!
5) What do you enjoy most about this career? And the partnership?
I love so many things about this career, it’s hard to know where to start! Perhaps the best thing of all is the flexibility it allows—I can do my Etcetera work on my schedule, llowing time for the other demands, commitments, and opportunities in my life. And it’s fun—working with beautiful clothes, introducing other women to Etcetera’s fabulous collection, meeting people and making new friends. I enjoy my partnership with Susan Stuart tremendously; our Etcetera agency in Atlanta is called Head to Toe and we just have a blast with it! With the help of five to six associates, we are one of Etcetera’s successful agencies and proud to be in the top ten and even top five each season. Susan and I work really well together because while we are both energetic, motivated high-achievers, we each bring different skills and strengths to the table. And we both love what we do, and want our business to be the best it can be.
6) What type of corporate culture and management do you experience as a consultant working for Etcetera?
Along with my love of the clothes and firm conviction that we consistently offer the most stylish, wearable, high-quality clothing at an affordable price that you can find in the marketplace, I have tremendous respect for Etcetera as a company and the top-level management that I have come to know in my four years with Etcetera.
Executives are experienced, knowledgeable, forward-thinking, and very responsive to changes in the marketplace and economy, as well as input by consultants.
7) What is one of the best moments you have recently had in this role?
It’s hard to choose just one, so let me share a few thoughts about why it’s so gratifying to be an Etcetera consultant. Since I began selling Etcetera four years ago, I have often been amazed at how often I hear clients say things like “I hate to shop,” “I don’t know how to put myself together,” “My closet is full of clothes but I don’t have a thing to wear,” or “I want to look good but need help!” It’s really fun to help clients like these select a rack full of clothes to try, then find the styles and colors that look best and create outfits that truly look fantastic and are easy to wear. When I see a client’s eyes light up and her mood and energy change as she looks in the mirror and loves what she sees—these are some of my best moments as a consultant. And it’s what I strive for with each and every client.
8) What would you say to women who are looking to make a change in their career or on-ramp back into a career?
My decisions to become an Etcetera consultant and then an ADM are two of the best things I ever did. So I would tell women who are considering career choices to think carefully about their own strengths and needs, be realistic about what Etcetera has to offer them and the demands of the position, and then if it seems to be the right fit—go for it!
9) Did you ever think you would own your own boutique and be helping women in this way?
Absolutely not—my plan was always to continue working in the television business and growing my broadcast career. What I came to realize is that it’s okay to step off a path you’re on, and onto a new one that may offer a different challenge and potential for growth and success in an area you may not have previously considered.
10) How would you say Etcetera is changing the way women think about themselves and their wardrobes?
Speaking from four years of experience with my own Etcetera clients, I can tell you that shopping Etcetera helps many women feel more confident about their ability to dress well and feel good about themselves and how they look, as well as their investment in their wardrobe. Many clients have told me that their Etcetera pieces are the “go-to” clothes in their closet, and when they get a compliment on what they’re wearing, odds are it’s Etcetera. Obviously, as a consultant I love hearing comments like this.
11) What differentiates Etcetera’s clothing and service from what women can find in your city or town?
I live in a major city and we have just about every shopping opportunity you can imagine. Women certainly don’t need to wait for an Etcetera show to come around … and yet, often they do. What we offer is personal attention, outstanding customer service and a genuine relationship with our clients that you simply are not going to find at the mall or in most boutiques. As an Etcetera consultant, I truly care about my clients and know what’s going on in their lives—I know who has a wedding coming up, who just started a big new corporate job and needs sharp new suits, who has gained weight and just wants a new top or two to update her look a little bit until she slims down, and who has a new boyfriend and really wants to wow him when they go out. Etcetera has clothes for all of the above and much more. I challenge you to find a store that can match our product range and level of customer service.
12) Etcetera has grown rapidly and is ranked in the Top 20 by Money Magazine for providing flexible careers for women. How important has a flexible work environment been to you and your success at Etcetera?
I can’t emphasize enough that flexibility is what attracted me to the opportunity with Etcetera, and it’s one of the aspects of my business that I value the most. My life is busy and I have many other things going on—Etcetera allows me to create a work schedule and environment that permit room for my other priorities and commitments.
13) What advice can you give women seeking to re-enter the workforce on how they can use their skills in new fresh ways?
First and foremost, I think it’s important for women to be open-minded and think outside the box about the skills they possess. Perhaps someone has been in the same career for a long time, as I was, and can’t imagine doing anything else. Those skills and strengths WILL translate to another field. Or perhaps a stay-at-home mom is ready to think about resuming a career, or starting one if she has not previously held a job. It’s a good idea to make a list of skills, and also things she enjoys doing. Then look for opportunities that involve both.
Photo courtesy of YourOnRamp