Fashion icon Stuart Weitzman discusses career at Rice Business event


Stuart Weitzman – best known for his iconic, A-list shoe brand – spoke at Rice Business’ Shell auditorium Feb. 12 about his work and career. Rice Vice President for Innovation Paul Cherukuri opened the event introducing Weitzman as a world renowned “innovator, a founder and entrepreneur.”

Stuart Weitzman

After selling his multimillion-dollar brand and company in 2019, Weitzman has been touring business schools to share his “entrepreneurial journey on the road less traveled.” Weitzman said he’s always been inspired by the Robert Frost poem about taking new paths.

“Risk is not a four-letter word,” he said. “Risk is really your friend. Without it, you’re not an entrepreneur. The advances on this planet have been helped so much by the risks that people have taken.”

Entrepreneurs can take risks and they need imagination to do it, he said.

“The risk I took when I started off, after I left (another) company, was to build a little factory. Set up to make one pair of shoes at a time. Custom made. I recognized that once you have your goal, you have your market, you need a niche to get into. How am I going to get space on those shelves?”

Weitzman realized no one was making custom shoes for celebrities on the red carpet. His big break came from creating a custom pair for Aretha Franklin at the Grammys. When she won her award, she took off the shoes, held them up and thanked Weitzman – and it put him on the map.

When addressing the question about the best business lesson he’s learned, Weitzman explained the value of learning from others.

“It’s always the same answer because it’s so true,” he said. “If you have an idea of what career, what kind of industry you want to be in, find a company that does it so well that you want to work there first.”

Weitzman and the crowd

Weitzman continued that there is about a 90% failure rate for people who start businesses right out of school. Those who work for companies in their target industry and then try to start their business have a 75% success rate, he said.

The lecture was brought to students, faculty and staff by The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Rice Business and Rice’s Office of Innovation.