SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Careerspeople

Careers spotlight: Sheree Waterson

Name: Sheree Waterson
New title: President, Speedo North America
Previous job: Vice president of women’s apparel, Levi Strauss & Co.
First job: Waitress
Education: Bachelor of arts (1977), psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Resides: Los Angeles
Grew up: Northern California
Executives most admired: Former Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, Levi Strauss & Co. Chairman Bob Haas
Brand most admired: Apple Computer
Favorite vacation spot: San Felice, Italy
Last movie seen: “Sideways”
Favorite movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
Favorite music: Rock
Typical workweek: 50-60 hours

Speedo North America’s new president, Sheree Waterson, doesn’t see her brand treading water until the next Summer Olympics roll around.

Speedo, a division of the Warnaco Group Inc., grabbed headlines when it promised a $1 million bonus to star endorser Michael Phelps if he won seven gold medals at last year’s Athens Games. Phelps finished with six gold and two bronze.

Speedo’s offer also will be in effect for the 2008 Games in Beijing, but Waterson, a 25-year veteran in the retail and wholesale apparel industries, has plenty to work on until then: She’s looking at taking Speedo far beyond the pool. A new activewear line, called Axcelerate, is slated to launch this spring.

Waterson, speaking on her third day on the job, said she is excited about the opportunity she has at Speedo.

“I am so thrilled to be working with an iconic brand like Speedo, which has 76 years to draw upon. It’s a billion-dollar brand at retail, and we see the opportunity to double the business in the near future,” Waterson said.

What are your initial goals as president?
Take Speedo beyond swimwear and beyond competition and connect it to lifestyle and sportswear. Basically, taking a fresh approach. I now have a chance to work with the world’s greatest athletes. Especially the swimmers like Michael Phelps and Amanda Beard. They are an integral part in developing Speedo’s revolutionary technical products.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Becoming the president and CEO of [online clothing designer] Enfashion.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Levi Strauss & Co. Driving significant change to turn around the women’s business to make it a healthy and sustainable business.

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
Not getting funding for the startup of a virtual fitting room while working at Enfashion. [The virtual fitting room was designed to allow shoppers to try on clothes without having to go into the store. A customer would enter dimensions, and a virtual body could demonstrate how the clothes would look.]

What is your career advice?
No matter what you do, do it with passion. Never, never give up. Surround yourself with talent.

What role did the Olympics swimming and Michael Phelps have last year in building the Speedo brand and company?
The Olympics brought to the front swimming as a sport. I think there is nothing sexier then winning, and Speedo is a winning brand. … Speedo will always be authentic and true to our unique heritage, but we will do it in a way that is increasingly fashion- and lifestyle-driven.

Who are you looking toward to become the next Michael Phelps? How are you scouting for the next big swimmer? Anyone in mind for the 2012 Olympics?
Yes, we are looking. There are no contracts yet. We have a team of people all over the country that are former professional athletes and coaches themselves that are well-connected and know who the next talent is.

As far as growing the company, how hard will you push other Speedo lines compared with the swimsuit?
Our elite portion of the line will continue to be market leading, but in addition to that we have the opportunity to develop a meaningful department-store business and chain-store business based on expanding men’s, women’s, sportswear and shoes.

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