Licensing Career Stories: Susan Meek, Elvis Presley Enterprises

What were the career moves that brought you to the licensing business?
I have a degree in Labor Relations and I was working for a company that had a union. I would hear grievances and negotiate contracts for the company. I decided after a few incidents at work that his line of work was too rough for me, so I applied for a position at Hallmark Cards Inc. Since I had quite a bit of experience in negotiating I got a job in the Licensing department and stayed in the industry for my entire career.

What is a typical day in your current position?
We have quite a few Licensees visiting Graceland, so I may spend part of the day in business meetings working on strategy and showing Licensees around the property. Also, negotiating contracts and reviewing products with my staff.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you address that challenge?
Since I am new at EPE my biggest challenge is getting up to speed on Elvis and the company’s history. With over 1,700 books written about Elvis and the incredible effect he had on our culture, I have a lot to learn. I address it by reading and asking a lot of questions. I am so fortunate to work for Jack Soden who started the company back in 1981. He is a great teacher and I learn new things every day.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Coming up with new product ideas and working with Licensees to actually see them in stores.

What are the most significant trends or changes that you have seen?
The electronic age has lead us to new products like apps and on line gaming. I can remember a time when we didn’t have email. Also, Facebook and Twitter really helps brand owners communicate to the fans. Did you know Elvis has 7 million Facebook followers?

What are the biggest challenges facing the Licensing business in the next three years?
I am concerned about retail today and in the future. I love to be able to touch and try the products and see them up close. With shelf space shrinking and buyers taking fewer products and Licenses, I am concerned many great brands and products will not get a chance to be on a shelf for consumers.

What advice would you give to students or young professionals wanting to pursue a career in Licensing?
I would say spend as much time as possible networking with the people in our industry. There are many trade shows and LIMA events to help you grow and learn. I have learned so much from the people I have met in the industry and so many great business transactions have come about because of this connection we have with each other.

Any advice for mid-career professionals looking to expand their competencies?
My advice is to get experience on both the Licensing “In” and Licensing “Out” side of the business. It is so beneficial to understand both sides.