Hildy Abrams | Part I – Career Path, Blog 4

Expansion, ownership and the retail driven approach

Gourmet Settings’ success continued with Abrams at the helm. She worked alongside Kadey and another partner for 10 years, but eventually sought greater autonomy. Abrams bought out her two associates in 2004 with Argosy Capital’s help, a private equity investor. Five years later she bought out Argosy Capital, acquiring full ownership in 2009.

“I couldn’t be happier owning my own business,” she proudly explains.

Connecting with all quadrants of her business is key for Abrams. Her main customers are retailers, rather than consumers and Abrams works backwards in her approach. It’s an interesting methodology, when broken down as products ultimately end up in consumers’ hands.

“We try and work backwards – if you look at our assortment at every different customer – it’s very different depending on the retailer,” she explains. “What we do at Costco is specific to Costco, Bed and Bath & Beyond, Loblaw is specific to them.
There is some crossover in patterns but really and truly our solutions are exclusive to the retailer.”

She also holds a contract in Santiago de Chile through Costco and does business in Mexico, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Abrams’ unique business approach helps build trust between her and retailers. She attributes her past in social work to her aptitude for relationship management.

“You start with the client as though it’s social work and you work backwards from what they need,” she describes. “Effectively, I adopted that model in our business.”

“Here we are sitting on a couch, having a conversation. Every trade show booth I have – I have a showroom in New York City – there’s a couch,” Abrams continues. “You sit down, have a cup of coffee, have a glass of wine, depending on where we are in the world, and I say ‘Let’s have a conversation about your business. What are you looking for? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t worked and how do you think we could be different?’”

Abrams’ style exemplifies her dedication to Gourmet Settings – it shows her clients that she has a vested interest in their success and differentiates her from her competitors.

“What I’ve been told is that it’s a point of difference from other trade show booths where you walk in and everybody’s saying, ‘Do you want to buy this? Do you want to buy that?’ I never say that. It’s just a very social work way of approaching things.”

No matter the retailer’s size or the scope of the sale, Abrams remains steadfast in her commitment to customer service. She finds it surprising that some of the biggest companies in the world actually break down into small entities once you know all the people. Value sharing becomes intrinsic.

“They have the same passion for the business as you do, and they agonize over the same things that we do,” she admits. “We’re all having similar kinds of conversations and at some level, trust is a really important thing.

“Our customers know who we are and what we say matches what we do and I think we’re awarded business partly on that basis.”

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