THE BLOG
11/18/2014 05:55 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

Women in Business: Trish Moreno, President and CEO of Little Giraffe

With over 20 years of business management experience, Trish is known as a creative visionary leader in the fashion, baby, and home industries. Her career focus is strategic revenue growth through brand and product development, creative design direction, and enhancement of brand integrity. Her efforts continue to result in transitioning evolving brands into globally recognized industry icons.

Currently Trish is the President and CEO of an aggregate of brands that includes the core brand, Little Giraffe and it's Baby and Home Divisions, and two recent acquisitions, popular Gift brand Dammit Dolls, and modern Hair Accessory brand, Twistband. With her direction, the Little Giraffe brands have sustained double digit increases year over year, won multiple awards and achieved international success. The brands have an established A-list celebrity following that includes Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Victoria Beckham.

Prior to her five years with Little Giraffe and its subsidiaries, Trish similarly led the team and managed the brand development of Bebe, a globally recognized retail fashion brand. During her tenure at Bebe, her team executed domestic and international expansion, propelling the Bebe brand to the forefront of the fashion industry. Through Trish's creative strategy, Bebe's sales grew from $1 million to over $100 million a year, positioning the company for a successful initial public offering.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am the eldest of three girls, so I've really been a leader since my parents arrived at the door with the first of two new babies. I started feeling like the grown-up when I was two! I was the first to try everything, a brave teenager who was not afraid of new experiences and was very independent. I always believed I was capable of anything I set my mind to. I remember it was always assumed that I would be in business. It was the 70s, and my parents were very supportive of women achieving equality in the workplace. It was expected that I would go to college and get a job and be successful. At the same time, I was very creative and gravitated toward the arts. I watched my Dad, who was a photographer at heart, work a progressively successful career as an IT executive in NYC, and spend late nights and weekends in a darkroom he built in the house. He was always working on something creative, even though he had a demanding day job. So that right/left brain function is just part of my DNA. I was initially drawn to the fashion industry because it was a blend of business and the arts. Little Giraffe calls on every cell of my being, creatively and operationally, and in my spare time I am a commissioned portrait artist. You can guess I am capable of functioning on very little sleep!

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Little Giraffe?
Being the EVP of Bebe was an incredible experience. It was a startup, essentially, even though they had been in business for 17 years prior to my coming on board. We had a vision, and there was never any question that we would execute on it, but much of what we did was a first for all of us, and for me, at a young age, it was a bit like being thrown into the frying pan. I now thrive in that kind of environment and definitely am attracted to making sense out of chaos. I love the challenge of building on an idea. I'm a natural editor, and much prefer taking on businesses that need a little TLC, and turning them around, over starting something new. Key to the strategy: building relationships, empowering teams, setting high standards, and steering everyone on course with transparent direction. Bebe was my first real platform to apply that philosophy, and we had great results. Inspiring people to believe in the dream! It was an incredible ride with an amazing team. All of these experiences shaped my views on leadership and helped form my approach today.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Little Giraffe?
Little Giraffe needed a little support and direction at the beginning, and we quickly set it on course, re-dedicating resources, establishing new distribution channels, expanding product offerings, and really listening to the team and the customers. Over the years, it's been a matter of coming through on the promises we make, standing behind the brand 100%, and keeping it exciting and fresh. We've created an environment where every member of the team believes they are capable of something extraordinary, and every day someone pushes beyond even their own highest expectations. The team also feels a drive to serve the greater good. We have reached out to comfort families who are suffering or experiencing challenges, and have made a difference in lots of little lives- with something as simple as hand delivering a supersoft, cuddly blanket to those in need. Giving back is a big thread in our organization.

How has Little Giraffe changed the baby industry?
Oh wow, I wouldn't say we've changed the baby industry... We have contributed to the industry in fresh ways. We have a team of professionals from multiple disciplines that bring a lot to the table. That has allowed us to capitalize on our collective histories and bring a fresh perspective to the segment. We are just taking it one day at a time like everyone else, focused on creating the best products we can, providing the highest quality, luxury and value for young families. We have a unique niche in the marketplace and we build on that every day.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Don't do it! Haha. All joking aside, I am a huge fan of anyone who takes the leap. It requires enormous stamina, dedication, eye-on-the-ball focus. It's a huge undertaking to start a business or to run one, but passion creates energy, and it can be unstoppable. Remember to put on the oxygen mask when you need it!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Eye contact with Ruby, my teenage daughter, is a pretty big one. We try to share three positives from our days each evening. Sometimes its hard to come up with them but its always empowering! Putting the phone down. Taking a nightly walk. Decompressing by the pool on the weekends. Studio time for drawing. Cooking a great meal with friends.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Even though I can remember my parents talking about Gloria Steinem in the '70s and equal rights for women in the workplace as I mentioned, we are still not there 100% and it's 40 years later. Our industry is a more forgiving environment for women, and we are lucky that there is a considerable amount of gender equality. Generally though, I think working women carry a heavier burden, and feel more anxiety in the workplace because they have more to lose. Women who are earners are still primarily tasked with managing the household and the kids. We still have a long way to go.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am a big believer in mentoring and have a very collaborative management style. I am open with advice and very approachable. When we bring on interns, they leave well-rounded and empowered. I have been lucky enough to have had great influencers and guides in my own life. Now it is especially important for me to have a solid sounding board, someone who helps me gain perspective. My sister, Melissa, and I are very supportive of each other's careers and life challenges. It's really indispensable to have someone like that in your life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Angela Ahrendts, formerly the CEO of Burberry and now expanding and transforming Apple retail, is one of the great iconic female leaders of our time. I have enormous respect for her and share much of her philosophical approach to business. Coincidentally, we both recently shared the same poem on social media, The Desiderata. We both grew up with it on the wall in our childhood homes, and reread it almost daily. Having recently rediscovered it, we both believe it shaped our core beliefs and was a huge influence on our approach to leadership. Synchronicity!

What do you want Little Giraffe to accomplish in the next year?
We recently launched a diffusion brand called LOVE by Little Giraffe. It is available now on Target.com, and in stores at Buy Buy Baby. It will soon reach the full tier of brick and mortar and online retailers. Our goal is to make our luxury, softness and comfort accessible to as many babies as possible, and LOVE is well on the way to accomplishing that! I'd like to walk down a busy street and see LOVE in every stroller, so there's a lot more work in front of us.