People often inquire about what working at Vera Bradley is really like. So, we thought, who better to ask than a group of newcomers with a fresh take on what goes on behind the scenes?
Since each new employee receives a Tote as part of their official welcome, we asked our lunch goers to bring theirs along and gather to get to know each other a bit better over breakfast.
From left to right: Lavinia C., Gilda C., Terry N., Allison W., Molly K.
We were thrilled to have our first male guest, Terry, at Table Talk. He proved to be the perfect choice, and held his own with this lovely group of ladies. Terry shares a bit about working at Vera Bradley from a guy’s perspective, while the entire group reveals their thoughts on Fort Wayne, the culture of the Vera Bradley family and what surprised them most when they came aboard.
On the guest list:
Were you familiar with Vera Bradley when you applied?
Gilda: A little bit. I was intrigued by the different patterns; they aren’t like anything else you see in the store.
Are you from Fort Wayne, IN, originally?
Gilda: No, I’m from Chicago.
Terry: I am as well.
Allison: Me too.
Lavinia: I’m from California. On the west coast, Vera Bradley is not as prominent, so I just learned about the brand, probably a couple of years ago. The first time I saw it was at the bus stop! I was with my son – waiting for the bus – and all the little girls had their backpacks on in all different colors, and I was like, “What is that? It’s so cute.” And then all of the teachers were asking for it. You know, they’d say, “If you happen to be shopping on verabradley.com. I would like a wristlet!” So me and a few other moms got together and got a Weekender for his third grade teacher.
Terry: So, Lavinia, did you come here specifically for this position?
Lavinia: My husband is a professor and he got recruited by Indiana Tech for their new law school. So he came out to interview for the position, and I found out Vera Bradley was here, and it seemed perfect!
Terry: What a coincidence, I coach the men’s lacrosse team at Indiana Tech. It’s my fifth year. Right now we practice before work, 5:30 am – 7 am, and then I come to work here. Keeps me pretty busy.
Allison: And you have a baby?
Terry: Yes, I have a 2-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son. We just missed the Baby line with my little girl.
What was it like growing up in Fort Wayne and being around Vera Bradley?
Allison: I’ve had it since elementary school. I bought it at a local retailer, and then would get a piece every year for Christmas.
Lavinia: Then you must have quite the collection!
Allison: I do … in an assortment of patterns. I have a lot of Seaport Navy from the early years, but as I have grown up, I’ve watched the brand evolve.
Molly: I remember when I started, they showed me the section of the website where you can see all of the retired colors, and I went looking for my first color. It was forever ago! I had to keep scrolling down. It really is fun to think I’ve grown up with the brand, and it was a major factor in me returning to Fort Wayne. Everyone knows this is one of the best places to work in the city.
Terry: Obviously I didn’t follow Vera Bradley as closely as you ladies, but I knew it existed. My Mom had it. When I got to college [Ball State University] I noticed a lot of people had the bags and wristlets. The first piece of Vera Bradley I bought was actually a Large Duffel for my wife.
On retired colors …
Lavinia: As I’ve been out and about in Fort Wayne, I’ve seen a lot of retired patterns out there that I really like. I’ll ask someone in my department and they’ll say, “That is so old,” but I don’t know! I’m discovering patterns for the first time.
Gilda: Over the weekend, I was watching “The Good Wife,” and was like, “What pattern is that?” it was so beautiful and I wondered how I didn’t know about it! And then I want to get it, but it was Poppy Fields and it’s retired.
What, do you think is unique to this brand?
Molly: I love that we touch so many demographics, from babies on up!
Lavinia: When I went home this winter for Christmas, I brought a whole suitcase of Vera Bradley home for gifts. And I was still shopping for more because everyone wanted something. The west coast still needs more Vera Bradley love!
Gilda: I love how the brand fits with the family, from a daughter to a sister.
Lavinia: I started my 4-year-old daughter with the smaller Backpack, and as she gets into elementary school, she’ll need a bigger style. Maybe the Campus Backpack – well, maybe that’s too big! Gradually maybe.
Gilda: Have you found, with being new to the company, you try to mix and match your clothes based on what color you’re carrying?
Allison: Yes, like today!
Gilda: I find myself thinking, “Oh, I want to carry my Plum Crazy … What do I have to wear?”
Terry: Yeah … not so much.
Terry: Actually, that’s a lie. I have a Go Wild Tote now, and I try to use that a little more often.
Allison: It’s kind of manly.
Which styles do you find most useful?
Terry: I need to order a new Baby Bag. I think I’m going to try and stick with Classic Black as often as possible. I picked out a Paisley Meets Plaid Tote and then Go Wild, and my wife loved them both. Each child has his or her own Tote my wife can grab on her way out the door. She handles inventory control. But if I’m going to church and need to carry one of those bags, I’m going to choose Go Wild every time.
Lavinia: I have a bag for every kid and every function; a church Tote, a YMCA Tote, and they’re in Indigo Pop and Canyon for the boys. I can identify what goes with which kid really fast.
Gilda: Last year, I was with Lavinia shopping, and I grabbed a lot of Provençal. A Tote, Jewelry Folio … I was just drawn to it!
Lavinia: You were loving it! We were at the store and you were decked out. You had the Scarf, the phone case, the hat …
What’s your favorite Spring color?
Lavinia: I’m pretty Plum Crazy for Plum Crazy right now.
Gilda: I like Plum Crazy, too.
Lavinia: And Jazzy Blooms …
Allison: I like Jazzy Blooms!
Lavinia: I was buying it for a friend and realized I loved it!
Gilda: And I know what Terry likes … Go Wild?
Terry: Actually Jazzy Blooms is my favorite. I like the gray in the background. You can match it with more and it makes the colors pop.
Lavinia: I’m impressed!
Allison: Maybe you need to be in Product Development, Terry.
Terry: I actually go over there every once in a while, to see if I can name something. They have the new, potential colors lined up and you can try to name them. None of mine have been chosen yet, but I keep tossing ideas out there!
What were your first few weeks here like?
Allison: Overwhelming. Our department passes around a ceramic rooster. It sits on the desk of the newest person.
Lavinia: I remember sitting in training with everyone from my department. We were supposed to be training but we were talking for 2 hours straight. Just getting to know each other. And later it was, “Oh by the way, how do I do this?” We were just having so much fun! I remember feeling really relaxed, and everyone was just so nice.
Allison: It’s weird having fun at work!
Terry: I definitely think that’s unique. As you learn the culture, you learn how important that part of Vera Bradley is, getting to know everyone personally. The relationships are more important than everything else. Know who you’re working with first, and then you can learn how to do your job!
Gilda: I remember my first day. I had 100 emails already. They were mostly, “Welcome!” The team members helped me adjust easily, especially coming from Chicago.
Lavinia: Yeah you guys in Fort Wayne are really nice!
What do you think of Fort Wayne?
Lavinia: I think it’s the perfect blend of small town character and big city amenities. We moved towards the end of the summer, and we could go to a TinCaps game, the zoo or the museums. And the people are so nice. Our neighborhood is great, and the schools are wonderful.
Molly: I’m always curious. I love it.
Lavinia: The trails are amazing, too.
Molly: Yeah, those are pretty new. I was in Indianapolis for 8 years, and moving back has been interesting. A lot of things are the same, but sometimes it’s like, “Oh, that’s nice and new!”
Allison: That’s how I feel, too, because I left and then moved back, to a different area than where I grew up, so I’m getting to know my city all over again.
Gilda: That’s what I tell my friends in Chicago. Fort Wayne has great local gems. Restaurants are amazing and locally owned.
Lavinia: And a lot of restaurants here use locally grown food and support the farmers. I love that the food doesn’t have to travel far. Going back to the west coast for Christmas, it was like, “Oh, this traffic!” “Oh, this smog!” And my kids said, “Are we going home yet?” That was pretty shocking. Plus, you’re just 2 hours away from a big city.
Terry: That’s my perspective, too. When I got out of school, I was looking for places to go. And I like Indy and Chicago. I mean, I’ll go to a Bears game! But when I come home, I don’t have to deal with all of the stuff that goes along with being in a big city, like the traffic and the commute. Plus, I can have land. There are a lot of pros to being here.
What would people be most surprised to learn about working at Vera Bradley?
Terry: The amount of men that work here was definitely a surprise to me. When my Mom heard I was interviewing here, that was her first question, “Do they have guys there?”
Allison: I didn’t realize there were five different buildings.
Lavinia: We came in when they were getting ready for Halloween, and I did not realize how big it was here.
Molly: I was warned, but I don’t think anyone can really prepare you!
Lavinia: I started at the end of August/beginning of September, and they were talking about it already and I was thinking “Whoa, we still have 2 months to go.” But it really did take that long to plan!
Gilda: Oh yeah, it’s hardcore. I also love seeing the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer partner with the city for things like Turn the Town Pink, where you can see pink ribbons all over downtown.
All-time favorite style?
Molly: I’d say the Large Duffel. I take that thing everywhere!
Lavinia: The Hipster. I love the ease of it, and being hands free, especially with kids.
Allison: The Weekender. I travel with that and love the little slip pocket.
Gilda: I think the Saddle Up is really cool.
Terry: I don’t have it yet, but it’s going to be the Baby Bag. It will probably be the only one that I’ll be rocking from here out.
Gilda: The Classic Black?
Terry: Oh yes, for sure.
Allison: Not Jazzy Blooms?
Terry: I could do Jazzy Blooms, actually. I normally have some orange in my wardrobe so it could work.
Lavinia: And orange is an Indiana Tech color! You could wear it for lacrosse.
Terry: Yeah, I’m sure I wouldn’t hear about that from 40 nice, polite young gentleman.
In the spirit of getting to know the new employees, do you have a hidden talent?
Molly: I’m trying to think … I love basketball. It’s my favorite sport. I like to play, but am more of a spectator now. A little fun fact!
Allison: One of the local malls used to have an ice skating rink. I started figure skating and did it for 8 years.
Lavinia: Um, Gilda, you were a badminton Olympian!
Gilda: Yeah, I started playing when I was in high school, and represented the state. I went to college through a scholarship and played in the NCAA, and then I got an offer to represent the Philippines team in the Olympics. At that time, I was in college and thinking about what I was going to do after. Support for the sports in the Philippines is not the same as it is in the U.S., so it was a tough decision. I chose not to go, and just be invited to different Opens instead.
Lavinia: She was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago for the tournament and was too good for the women’s team, so she had to play doubles with the men!
Gilda: That’s a funny story. I was invited for the badminton open over the weekend, and they said the level of the players for the women would not be happy to see me. So they moved me to the men’s doubles.
Terry: No topping that! I go to lacrosse practice, work, workout, go home, make dinner, put kids to bed.
Lavinia: You make dinner?
Terry: I help make dinner every night. When this is on the blog, my wife is going to comment “This man is a liar! He does not make dinner every night!” But I do have to clean up after dinner every night. My wife is the coolest person I know! Make sure that gets in here.