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The First Noelle

Noelle Heffernan, publisher, Footwear Plus

It is with great pleasure that I formally introduce our new publisher, Noelle Heffernan. While she is relatively new to our industry—having first dipped her toe into our waters officially about two years ago by working on select accounts before being promoted to sales manager a year ago—she has been a business associate of mine for 13 years.

Thanks to my elephant-like tendencies, I remember the very first days after she joined our company as an account executive for our sister publication, Earnshaw’s, a 106-year-old magazine that covers the childrenswear industry. This was back in the days of office cubicles and employees toiling away at their desks five days a week! You really got to know your coworkers, particularly in terms of how they worked or, in some cases, didn’t. What struck me about Noelle right away was that she worked. Each day, I’d overhear snippets of her conversations as she methodically worked the phones. She was friendly, professional, informed, and determined. There was never a whiff of (cheesy WKRP salesperson) Herb Tarlek wafting over our shared cubicle wall. What’s more, her conversations always focused on what the magazine could do for the particular brand on the other end of the phone. She never used a one-pitch-fits-all approach, nor did she ever take a careless quick-sale approach. Noelle is all about building long-term business relationships; many of hers have blossomed into genuine friendships. That’s because she truly wants what’s best for her clients, which is also what’s best for the magazine. It’s a win-win business philosophy that is rare these days.

It’s not surprising that Noelle’s extensive resume is stacked with sales experience. Publishing stops prior to Footwear Plus have included Primedia Business & Magazines (Catalog Age), Fairchild Publications (WWD), and Business Journals Inc. (Accessories Magazine). She is a seasoned publishing professional who has navigated the alleged death of print and the social media-driven digital revolution. Since assuming the role of publisher of Earnshaw’s in 2011, she has spearheaded the evolution of the publication to meet the changing needs of that industry. While Noelle remains a steadfast believer in the power of print, she knows digital can be layered on for a powerful and exclusive mix of coverage. As a B2B publishing expert, Noelle also knows that the quality of the readership is far more important than overblown and off-target digital claims. A trade magazine only survives—in our case for decades—if the target audience reads it. She is laser-focused on making sure that continues.

Not to be overlooked in all this is the fact that Noelle is a woman. While this is by no means a first for Footwear Plus publishers (more on that in a bit), it makes her an outlier in the male-dominated C-suites of both publishing and footwear, not to mention a host of other fields. It’s high time my gender allowed more women to have a say in how things are run, especially taking into account the less than stellar job we men have been doing in the business and political realms. Surely women can do better than the countless crypto bro frauds, tech titan creeps, and bloodthirsty dictators, both real and wannabe.

I also take great delight in featuring the newly named president of Dansko, Kitty Bolinger, as the subject of this issue’s Q&A (p. 10). She not only puts another crack in the glass ceiling, she also proudly notes that Dansko’s entire day-to-day executive team is now made up of women! That is rare. Then again, leave it to a company steeped in progressive actions ever since Cofounder Mandy Cabot came onto the scene. By the way, it happens to be the same year Footwear Plus did.

Speaking of our publication, Noelle is the ninth publisher in our esteemed 33-year history. For those keeping score, five held the title for what amounted to cups of coffee; one (Michael Atmore) built a solid foundation over a six-year span that included the sheer genius hiring of me as Features Editor way back in 1993! He was followed by the late Thomas Hudson, Jr., who had the brilliant vision (some might argue blind faith) to name me Editor-in-Chief in 1996. About a decade later, Caroline Diaco officially took the reins as publisher after serving nearly 10 years as our resident sales dynamo. Associate Publisher Jennifer Craig, another sales dynamo, joined the team shortly before that. Together, the three of us grew the business exponentially over a 15-year span. Caroline, Jenn, and I were on the same page, always wanting what was best for our clients and readers, which we firmly believed would also be best for Footwear Plus. The cherry on top was that we loved our jobs, especially getting to know so many passionate and talented players, past and present. We took our work very seriously, but not ourselves. We laughed a lot and learned a ton along the way.

Noelle was a close colleague of ours for most of that run. She comes from the same school of thought: Always do right by clients and readers, and it’ll work out well for the magazine, too. That’s why I know she is the right person, at the right time, to take the publisher’s mantle of Footwear Plus. I hope you will all welcome her into our crazy, colorful world of shoes. You’re in good hands.

The February 2024 Issue

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