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How She Got There: Tricia Whalen, Vice President of Business Development & Licensing at Ivanka Trump


Name: Tricia Whalen
Job Title and Description: Vice President of Business Development and Licensing at Ivanka Trump  
College Name/Major: St. Johns University, Communications
Instagram Handle:@trishconnolly2004

How did you get started?

Tricia Whalen: I was fortunate to have gotten two great internships during college—one at Ralph Lauren and one at MTV Networks. I leveraged my internship at MTV to secure a full-time job as an assistant within the network's licensing division, which is where I got my initial exposure to licensing.

What was the most difficult part about starting a company from scratch?

TW: It's a small team, and there's always a lot to do. We are always prioritizing the objectives at hand. There are a lot of times where we all have to stop, pivot and pull it together as a team to move things forward. So pivoting is something you have to be comfortable with at a startup. 

Did you have similar jobs in your field before this? If so, how did you get them?

TW: I started in entertainment licensing at MTV, then transitioned to fashion licensing when I secured a job at Kate Spade New York. The job was a lower-level title than my current job at the time, but I was willing to take a step back in title to secure a job within the fashion industry and with a brand that I loved. After interviewing at Kate, they created a larger role for me within the brand. I'm glad I didn't overlook the role just because of the lower-level title. 

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

TW: I oversee the sales and marketing strategies across eight categories of product. In addition, I am charged with expanding the business and brand internationally as well as domestically through partnerships and new licensing opportunities. It’s hard to have a "typical" day in a start-up entrepreneurial environment. We are always seeking new areas of business while evaluating current business to determine how to best move forward in this rapidly changing retail landscape. 

What is the best part of your job?

TW: Representing a brand whose message I passionately support and one in which I personally believe in. As a brand, we have charged ourselves with changing the narrative around what it means to be a Woman Who Works, embracing the "one life" mentality and encouraging women to create the lives they want to lead. Whether it be in a professional career or staying at home to raise children or a combination of both, this brand is about celebrating and supporting women and the many roles we play. The idea that we can change the conversation for the better and support future generations of women, like my nieces, so that they may feel more supported and confident in choosing whatever they decide they want their "work" to look like. That is the best part…that and the amazing team of women I get to work with each and every day. 

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

TW: I believe that all mistakes or setbacks are learning experiences and it's important that when faced with a setback you stop to evaluate what the learning is so that you are always growing from your "mistakes."

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

TW: I've had quite a few along the way, all of which I am super grateful to have experienced; working with Johnny Knoxville and the cast of Jackass while at MTV to create successful business was a trip. Building a very successful watch business from the ground up at Kate Spade, then eventually selling it to Fossil. And now, working for a woman who has created a thriving brand [and] may be the daughter of the next President of the United States; it’s all been fascinating. I wouldn't change a thing!

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

TW: Good energy; someone who is eager to tackle the role and help in whatever way possible to move things forward. "That’s not my job" should never be part of their vocabulary.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

TW: You are in charge of your destiny; no one is going to push for you more than yourself. Be courageous and determined. Don't be afraid to ask; the worst thing you will hear is "no." 

What are your goals for the future of the company?

TW: To continue to grow Ivanka Trump to a successful multi-category global lifestyle brand and amplify our mission so that we can successfully change the definition of what it means to be a woman who works! 


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