By Lacey Henson
Jill Nichols, executive vice president for Vera Bradley, spoke Wednesday, March 21 in Cecilian Auditorium as part of the Four Star Series, sharing the story of the founding of the Vera Bradley Co.
Nichols shared that the company was co-founded by Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, who were friends and neighbors in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Nichols said that Pat and Barb noticed that women in airports were dressed up, but were carrying just any old bag. They made it their mission to design more fashion driven luggage.
Both women contributed $500 each and had a few bags designed, took them to a party, and sold them all. That was the beginning.
“The mission of Vera Bradley today is simple, to be a girl’s best friend,” Nichols said.
Nichols studied business administration and accounting at Indiana University and has worked for the Vera Bradley Co. for 23 years.
“Sometimes I need to pinch myself because I am living the American dream,” Nichols said when discussing her job.
Nichols encouraged college students to experiment something different; take an art class. She also said to enjoy these years, because you have the rest of your life to work.
“If you have an idea, go with it,” Nichols encouraged. “You need to love it [your career].”
Nichols shared that Pat and Barb didn’t expect their company to get this big. They just wanted enough money to have a cleaning lady.
Men do work at the company, but 83% are female, which Nichols said the company is proud of.
“I found it inspirational when she talked about loving your job and to not be in it just for the money. That is something I’ve learned being at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods,” senior Jessica Zogbi said.
One of the goals of The Four Star series at SMWC is to enhance and enrich the college’s curriculum.
“We try to do four different types of events a year,” Dean of students Jeff Malloy said.
Nichols also participates in a variety of volunteering opportunities. She currently serves as a director and the treasurer of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.
“Donations to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer were accepted in lieu of speaking tonight,” Malloy said.