Michelle joined the Land of Nod as a customer service representative in 1999 as the tenth employee at the then catalog-only retailer. Since then, she’s worked in almost every department including operations, IT, marketing and merchandising. She is currently the Managing Director at Land of Nod, which goes to show that it doesn't matter where you start, you can make it to the top.
She also launched #CelebrateTuesday, a campaign Nod has created for families to share and celebrate the small but important moments in life, initiated ongoing female empowerment by supporting up-and-coming artists through partnerships and mentorship (such as Ashley Goldberg, Roxy Marj, and Lotta Jansdotter) and participated in FEED’s celebration of #InternationalWomensDay that launched this week.
Michelle is an influential woman in technology, marketing and social initiatives. Please read our full interview with Michelle below:
Mogul: How are you?
Michelle Kohanzo: “I’m awesome, this year is off to an exciting start and I’m just getting ready to travel to New Delhi, India which is a favorite destination of mine."
Mogul: Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, how important is that day for you?
Michelle Kohanzo: “International Women’s Day is hugely important to me. As a woman and mother I have a responsibility to create a world where there is gender parity and everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. I do this through leading The Land of Nod and making it a caring, family oriented place to be, by working with female artists and artisans around the world and by supporting women in every facet of my life – both personally and professionally."
Mogul: Growing up who were some of the women who may have influenced or inspired you?
Michelle Kohanzo: "Growing up I was lucky to be surrounded by many strong influential women: grandmothers, aunts, and friends. More than anyone, my mother taught me to be independent and to believe in myself. She raised 3 kids and then started her career, she never took no for an answer, she knew her worth, and she worked tirelessly to achieve her goals. She is my model for womanhood. And of course my sister, my best friend – she is such a beautiful talented mother and friend, I would be lost without her."
Mogul: For those of us who may not know, can you explain the different initiatives and services you provide at Land of Nod?
Michelle Kohanzo: “Land of Nod designs products for a family’s home. We believe kids live in the whole home and that the home should be a unique expression of the individuals that live in it. We make and sell everything from bunk beds, to ceiling lighting, and we design all of our products with the experience of a parent who’s been there and gets the unique challenges that a family home creates. We have 5 stores, landofnod.com, and a school bus and we also offer complimentary interior design advice and the best service out there – we like to call it “service so good it’s weird.” We also like to have fun and are known to hold crafting events, parties, and just get up to nonsense."
Mogul: You also launched, #CelebrateTuesday, how important is it for families to celebrate small achievements in life?
Michelle Kohanzo: “I love Celebrate Tuesday, for me it’s the ultimate parenting tip. Life, and specifically parenting, is so much about the small moments, the chaos of it all. I think we all spend too much time striving for perfection and if we could all slow down, cut ourselves some slack and see the beauty in the everyday the world would be a happier place."
Mogul: You have given up-and-coming artists opportunities, how important is it for you to give these kind of artists a chance to shine?
Michelle Kohanzo: “The vast majority of the products we design our in collaboration with an artist. I am really proud of that. Our artists are at the heart of what we do, it makes the Nod brand so much more dynamic. In return it is my responsibility to create a platform for these brilliant individuals, to tell their stories, and credit them for their work. I am so proud to be able to do that. Meeting and collaborating with our artists is the best part of my job, it fuels me."
Mogul: You also participated in FEED’s celebration of IWD, how was that experience for you?
Michelle Kohanzo: “I was so honored to be included in FEED’s #ItStartsHere campaign. I loved that it celebrated different types of women. Differences can be undervalued, but it’s our unique talents that allow us to offer something new to the world. The chef, the globetrotter, the entrepreneur – none of us are exactly alike, but we all have the shared goal of building a more equal world. I actually started crying when the campaign launched; we should all live in a world of peace and happiness where our dreams can come true. I am so proud to be able to share that message!”
Mogul: You have worked your way up professionally, what is your advice for young women just starting out in their respective careers?
Michelle Kohanzo: “Be curious, try everything once, travel as much as humanly possible, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Be open to everyone and everything; opportunity takes place in the most unexpected places.”
Mogul: Lastly, what is next for you professionally?
Michelle Kohanzo: "I would really like to start a woman’s cooperative, perhaps in India. I have seen cooperative models in several countries and they are a powerful way to employ and empower women, while at the same time creating an alternative model for the manufacture of goods."
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