Early Years: Keeping it in the family
Hildy Abrams never set out to pursue the family business. In fact, the Montreal-born entrepreneur and business owner was focused on social work during her early years. Abrams graduated from McGill University and then moved on to the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at New York’s Yeshiva University. Her father and younger brother ran their family business, Murray Sales, from an office in Saint-Laurent, the Montreal suburb where Abrams grew up.
“I didn’t know that business was my life-long dream,” Abrams admits. “At least not until my brother and my dad approached me when my daughter was a year old.”
Abrams began work with Murray Sales in 1987. “They sold gadgets – kitchen and wine gadgets, a little flatware at the time, not that much,” says Abrams.
She assumed a sales role and helped Murray expand its operations to Toronto shortly thereafter. “The plan at the time was that I would open the Toronto office, which I started in the basement of my house,” she recalls.
At first, Abrams was trepidatious about her new career path. She had entered an unknown industry, assumed a role that was unrelated to her education and had reservations about her abilities as a salesperson. “It was silly, but I was scared about going out and making sales,” she concedes. “Eventually I got a little more relaxed about it and liked it.”
Getting over her initial fears paid dividends for Abrams and Murray Sales. She was instrumental in opening up a line at Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as Zellers. Soon her comfort level and confidence in the business prompted her to strive for more.
“I contributed to the overall success of the business and asked about becoming a partner,” she claims. “My dad was really clear that he wanted the business for my brother.”
She continued to work diligently from her Toronto outpost, but from that moment on Abrams would have increasingly lofty aspirations.