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Business INTERVIEW

CEO Interview: Tips for success with Davey Napoli, founder of Ambassador Retail

By Aileen Yu

Jun 20, 2019

Ambassador Retail is a New York-based consulting agency that specializes in training retail staff and turning them into ambassadors for brands and retailers. In today’s volatile retail landscape, the customer experience is enhanced by the relationship established with brand ambassadors and personal style curation by in-store experts. Ambassador Retail focuses on providing their clients’ shoppers with one of a kind buying experiences. The agency services brands such as Lee, Zimmerman and Wildfox. FashionUnited recently asked Davey Napoli, the founder and CEO of Ambassador Retail, his tips and advice for success in the fashion business.

What can you tell us about how to succeed as an entrepreneur in New York City’s fashion and retail industry?

I believe in expanding before you’re ready. The secret to growing fast is not waiting until you’re ready. Jump fast and run for the finish line.

What words do you live by?

Advice that I live by is from the amazing businesswoman, Barbara Corcoran. She says, “every successful entrepreneur expands before he or she is ready. It’s the best way for aggressive growth and the best way to be the market leader. Good entrepreneurship is about staying on the move. It’s easy to follow the pack, but the best turf is already claimed by the time you get there.”

Do you have any tips for people who would like to work for you?

  • Setting your tone for the day. I always ask during interviews if candidates make their beds. I learned this from my mother and it’s never left me, making your bed in the morning sets the tone for your day.
  • Listen and don’t be too shy to follow up, persistence always pays off
  • Be prepared. Never walk into a meeting without a notepad even if you don’t end up taking a single note.

What does your workday look like?

Two days are rarely alike. In addition to running the day-to-day for Ambassador Retail, I’m a partner in two additional companies that also service fashion brands. Designer Network NY/LA is a multi-brand sales agency. The Space is a co-working environment which hosts back office operations for Ambassador Retail. It also serves as a showroom and back office for Designer Network and for a mix of other brands and fashion professionals. These three businesses all support each other.

How do you tackle challenges that arise?

I have a lot of little sayings, one is “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I’m not afraid to follow up, I start my day getting in front of anyone that I’m waiting on for any given reason. I’m also very accessible to my team and clients, even if they’re not working directly or reporting to me.

What does it take to be the CEO of Ambassador Retail?

I think to be a CEO in general, one’s focus should be on their people. I love to be involved. I founded the company and built its operations. At this stage in the companies’ growth there is no one that knows the intricacies like I do. A day behind the computer can feel like a day lost because missing out on what’s happening in the field and with my people is what drives me.

I have an excellent partner in my Director of Brand Relations, Whitney Eaton. She’s my right hand and is in the field as much as I’d love to be. We have a large and growing team of field merchandisers at Ambassador Retail-32 today, and a back office team of 4. I’ve always valued my people, they’re what keeps the machine going!

Did you always want to work in the fashion and retail industry?

Yes, for most of my life! As a young boy I felt more creatively driven than by business; however, through the course of my college education I shifted my interest to be more business oriented.

These days my calendar is often filled with conference calls and meetings about the bottom line, but being innately creative helps me maintain my desire to be involved in the “fun parts” like resetting a retail floor. For me, it’s about staying balanced by fueling both sides of my brain. I can’t spend 12 hours of every day on a spreadsheet, which is why I’m generally in the mix with all departments-whether they’re creative or analytical.

If you weren't the CEO of Ambassador Retail, which career path would you have chosen and why?

Over the years I’ve had different ideas on where my career was headed. What I learned was that I wasn’t interested in following a path I’d set up for myself and rather focus on working hard while remaining fulfilled with the work I was doing and let my career path unfold. It’s a strategy that’s served me well.

Which piece is a must-have in every closet?

A perfectly tailored navy suit. You can wear it with a t-shirt and be casual but presentable, or you can wear a collar shirt and tie and be ready for a board meeting.

Ambassador Retail is a New York-based consulting agency that specializes in strengthening the in-store experience with branding, merchandising and training clinics for their brand ambassadors.
This interview was created in cooperation with Ambassador Retail to promote working in fashion.
Photos: courtesy of Ambassador Retail, Davey Napoli