Elissa Paukner '17

Stan’s Fit For Your Feet - Brand Coordinator and E-commerce Specialist


Loving fashion, but hating to sew

Growing up, Elissa and her younger sisters had a bin of dress-up clothes and held endless fashion shows in the basement of their home. She filled stacks of notebooks with garment sketches, and as a sophomore in high school, she attended Mount Mary's Fashion Boot Camp – a summer day program that introduces aspiring fashionistas to various career paths in the fashion industry.

It was then that Elissa realized she was NOT going to be a fashion designer, no matter how many notebooks she filled – because she hated to sew! To her surprise, she discovered a side of the fashion industry she never knew existed – Merchandise Management.

Discovering merchandise management

Uncertain of her path after high school, Elissa spent her first year of college at UW Whitewater and her second at UW Waukesha – until her mother suggested she consider Mount Mary. The campus was close to home and also offered affordable loans and scholarships. The idea became reality when she applied and was accepted as a junior in the Merchandise Management program.

"It was probably one of the best decisions I made in the first 20 years of my life."

Remembering the CREO student fashion show

Elissa recalls the 2016 CREO student fashion show as her favorite experience while at Mount Mary. Turner Hall was the venue that year – "which made the show look and feel epic." She has vivid memories of the day as a culmination of "all of our sweat and tears" – the hard work required as prep for the event.

"I still get chills thinking about the first song as it blared over the speakers and caused the audience to come to a hush."

Following the model presentation, Elissa proudly walked the runway with the other Merchandise Management students as recognition for their work planning the production. It was that moment that she wholeheartedly knew she had made the right decision for her future.

"Standing on that runway with other beautiful, talented and motivated women provided reassurance I didn't even know I needed."

When she entered the Merchandise Management program, Elissa discovered planning, buying and marketing isn’t just about apparel. “My professor, Trish Kuehnl, told the class ‘who knows, you could be buying bananas one day.’” It was funny and slightly concerning at the time, but she understands its relevance today.

“Marketing is all about communication, coordination, and creativity – different than what I had imagined – and it turns out I’m really good at it! I owe that to my education at Mount Mary.”

Working as a brand coordinator and ecommerce specialist

Since graduation, Elissa has worked in marketing for Stan’s Fit For Your Feet, and confidently utilizes much of what she experienced in the classroom – and on campus. Collaborative projects with peers and participation in campus groups and clubs was essential preparation for the work she does every day.   

Before she transferred to Mount Mary, the idea of collaborative "group projects" used to make her "want to crawl into a ball and hide under my desk." Her courses in the Merchandise Management program taught her the importance of team work.  "Although it's frustrating when one of the group isn't pulling their weight, it happens in college and in the workplace."

Elissa's professors stressed professionalism and made it very clear that if she had a problem it was her responsibility to seek a resolution. "They weren't going to hold my hand, and although it felt somewhat harsh at the moment, looking back it was probably one of the best lessons I learned as a student." 

Stan’s was founded in 1950 as a local family business and has grown from one store to three Stan’s locations, two New Balance franchise stores, and one Vionic franchise store. Elissa appreciates the message in the company’s longstanding values – “family first, top-notch service, and high quality on-trend shoes that are COMFORTABLE!” She continues to learn on the job – “every day is an opportunity to learn something new or master a skill – it’s kind of like college but they pay me!” 

Elissa’s typical work day focus is marketing for ecommerce – including creative planning, design, and execution of the New Balance and Vionic brands’ Instagram and Facebook pages and direct to consumer email blasts. She designs in store signage and creates promotional marketing packets for each store, and collaborates with the company’s ecommerce team, corporate office team, and the marketing director.

Direct to consumer communication is constant, and Elissa reviews all orders and responds to customer inquiries through online chats or calls. She also manages and processes customer returns and exchanges, monitors online store inventory and even maintains the organization of the company’s server!

Advice to potential students

Elissa has lots of advice for potential merchandise management students. “Hang in there and try to enjoy every aspect of your education. Although it may not feel like it when you’re in school, the time flies by! The Fashion Career Strategies course is particularly important and provided me with tons of useful direction for finding a job and maneuvering and surviving a professional environment.”

And for new graduates “on the cusp of that full-time grind – know your worth and ALWAYS be your own advocate, stay confident and trust your instincts – but don’t be afraid to ask questions – you aren’t expected to know everything right away.”

Know your worth and ALWAYS be your own advocate, stay confident and trust your instincts – but don’t be afraid to ask questions – you aren’t expected to know everything right away.

Elissa Paukner, '17