Nicole Leinbach – Adjunct Instructor - AEMM
Not only is Nicole an instructor at Columbia College Chicago, but also an alum. She worked for major companies such as Nordstrom, Sears Corporation, Franco Sarto Footwear and Adidas America, before starting her own company in 2007.
Tell us about yourself.
My work experience has always been in retail and wholesale, and I'm very passionate about supporting independent retailers specifically. It's due to my good fortune and professional experiences with some of the largest retailers and wholesalers in the market that I feel so strongly about educating and supporting the independent retail communities. I do this through Retail Minded.
I wear a lot of hats under RM. Aside from being the Founder, I write for an assortment of retail trade publications, speak at a variety of retail focused events both nationwide and internationally, blog as the official ASD Show blogger (a retail merchandise trade show in Las Vegas) and offer services to retailers and wholesalers from across the country. Additionally, I sit on a wide range of retail focused Advisory Boards and work in my local community to help retailers through general consultation. I do this all while maintaining my blog and Retail Minded Magazine - the nation's only retail lifestyle publication, which is published quarterly.
What is Retail Minded?
Plain and simple, we’re partners for retailers and the cities, chambers and trade associations that support them. Our no-nonsense, straight to the point approach speaks directly to the hearts of independent retailers, delivering applicable solutions and news to support retailers both IN and OUT of their stores. Through our magazine, our Retail Partner Program, RM Store and blog, it’s our goal to help support retailers with their individual, unique retail journeys. It’s kind of like we’re a marketing, publicity, management and HR team for the nation’s independent retailers!
I founded Retail Minded in 2007 after being offered a National Marketing role with Adidas America. Although I loved the job opportunity, I didn't want to relocate back to NYC - which is where the job was based. I had lived there when working as a Marketing Director for Franco Sarto Footwear, and chose to return to Chicago due to my personal life. NYC was great, but I didn't want to make a big move. It was then when I realized my job would keep bringing me to either coast unless I took control of where it was heading. I combined my passion for writing, education and retail into a career that has organically grown since then under Retail Minded, my first born "baby" as I like to say.
How did you end up at Columbia?
As an alum of Columbia, I was proud to speak to students visiting NYC while I lived there. When I returned to Chicago in 2005, Diane Erpenbach got in touch with me and invited me to lunch. We discussed the possibility of me teaching one class a semester, which I began doing shortly after. I have since taught up to three classes a semester. I feel lucky to contribute even just a little bit to a school I love and students I respect. It's fun to connect with students not just as an instructor, but as an alum, as well.
How does your outside work influence your teaching?
Everything I do in my professional work influences my teaching. From the wonderful range of industry experts I'm lucky to have worked with, or currently work with, to the interesting retail and at large business trends, news, and experiences I am exposed to... it all adds value to what I can share with my students. Since I am a professional writer as well, I find that my work with Writing for Managers is particularly interesting. All day long I communicate via the written word as the founder of Retail Minded, so I am constantly exposed to situations that act as great examples for my students to learn from. I have even been fortunate to have a few interns from Columbia.
Has your classroom work influenced your professional work?
Absolutely! Because I work in the retail sector, I spend a great deal of time trying to understand consumer behavior and generational marketing. Communicating with my students is always a learning experience for me. If there is any reason teaching online is not as preferred as classroom, this is it. You simply can't gain this type of understanding from a student via virtual communication. You can, however, gain so many other things that are very relevant to our modern, working world.
What are you currently working on?
Retail Minded just released our Winter 2013 Issue and we are working on our Spring issue already. I'm also thrilled to be speaking at a variety of retail conferences and expos this year, which is something I compare to my teaching at Columbia. A classroom of students is not all that different than a conference room of professionals. I am also beginning to work on a special edition of Retail Minded Magazine specifically designed for wholesalers.