Trevor Edwards is the Former President of a top-performing athletic brand, leading all facets of the $34 Billion business. Reporting directly to the CEO, Edwards managed the Category Business Units, Product and Merchandising Divisions, Global Marketing, Sales, and Digital Technology.
He previously held a variety of roles at the company including Chief Marketing Officer, EVP Global Brand and Category Management, Vice President Marketing (US), and Vice President Marketing (EMEA). Edwards was responsible for creating some of the most memorable marketing campaigns in recent memory, ones including the likes of LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Edwards also served as Global Business Development Manager at Colgate Palmolive, where he worked in various roles from 1986 to 1992.
Between 2012 and 2018, Edwards was also a Director of the Board of Directors for Mattel. The leading children’s entertainment company has an impressive portfolio of franchises including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Thomas & Friends and MEGA.
Edwards grew up in London and at the age of 13, he, his parents, and his siblings relocated to Jamaica. It was there that Edwards fostered a love for sports including basketball, football, cricket and a few others.
He attended Baruch College in New York City where he earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and a Master’s of Business Administration degree. Soon after his education, Edwards worked for Goldman Sachs in finance on Wall Street but soon left to pursue his passion for marketing.
Since starting his career, Edwards has been recognized and decorated with numerous awards. His acclaims include being named one of Sports Illustrated’s 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports 2003-2004, and Black Enterprise magazine’s list of 50 Most Powerful Blacks in Sports in 2005, Fast Company’s Most Creative and was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame in 2015.
Edwards now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Carolyn and the couple’s twin sons.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
The journey to becoming an entrepreneur is a funny one in some respects, because I’ve worked for quite large brands that aspired to grow rapidly. That meant you had to be an ‘entrepreneur in residence’, as it were. So, I had to use the entrepreneurial mindset; that drive to create a new product, a service, or an experience that might not have existed before, in every aspect of these roles.
My journey comes from that passion to bring new ideas to life which I developed at a pretty young age since I always just loved business. Right now, I’m actually working across a number of different industries which is new for me. Before this, I’ve always worked in one industry at a time.
My current new business is in stealth mode so I’m not fully revealing the details yet. However, I can say I am working on a number of different ideas, one of which is how to create products better and more sustainable. We’re making products for people who want to be more eco-conscious and limit their impact on the environment but are finding it hard to make the right choice.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different as I am never quite sure what opportunities or challenges are coming my way. That’s the nature of being an entrepreneur.
My day typically starts with getting a workout in or meditating and then having a good breakfast. I found that I am a lot healthier when I take some time for myself. Next, I scan Flipboard to see what’s going on in the world, in business, in culture, in fashion, in sport, in technology, etc. The day is often about connecting dots, so I’m never quite sure where my source of inspiration will come from. I find myself just enjoying absorbing new information and ideas.
After that, I get down to work. Most of that is advising and helping people I work with solve challenges… steering a product direction, or listening to somebody talk about the experience they’ve had with a product we’re concepting. I’m definitely inspired by being around creative people and also getting feedback from consumers. I feed off the energy of a creative process and I thrive by connecting with others. At the same time, I also like to have my own thinking time too. It’s the balance between high stimulus and the reflective moments that keeps me productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Most often, my role is about bringing new and innovative ideas to consumers and making sure it is done in a customer-friendly way. That can be a challenge but also a lot of fun. For example, there is demand building for products that have a low impact on the environment and, before now, it’s been difficult for people to have transparency into the things they buy.
Bringing this idea to life takes a certain level of panache. It means combining scientific flourishes and design-led work to create a product that ticks every box. It’s about trying to make new innovations understandable and desirable for everyday people. To me, there is a huge opportunity right there.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are quite a few trends that excite me. One of them is Sustainability, the desire to make great products and reduce our impact on the planet. But this is more than a trend – it has become an imperative. This will date me, but back in the 1990s, I did some consumer research in Europe around sustainability and each time we researched it, we got the same answer again and again. Sustainability was important to customers, but they were unlikely to change their buying behaviour to prove it.
Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by this central problem, the notion that consumers have to compromise when they want a sustainable product. There has always been a trade-off …higher prices and lower quality or poor functionality. So, for the consumer to make an eco-conscious choice they have to settle for less — therein lies a challenge and an opportunity.
Today we are seeing an increasing shift toward sustainability across a number of industries and especially with the younger consumer. For me, the opportunity it’s about overcoming the adoption challenge by bringing remarkable design into the picture. That means offering consumers the same level of well-crafted, high functioning products with a sustainable edge.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Connecting the dots…working across many functions and disciplines and tying things together. I believe that entrepreneurship is about connecting the dots. In my case, it’s solved by creating something that is new and better. That could be a product, a service, or an experience. How can we help someone with a problem they can’t quite describe? How do we solve problems on their behalf? How do we develop a solution that is so intuitive that it creates an emotional response? It’s about offering customers a better solution at every feat.
Now combine that with a certain degree of resilience—has allowed me to be productive. The truth is, oftentimes the first solution you come up with can be completely wrong. But making mistakes is part of the process. So, you need to have the conviction to give it another go. When you work in a creative field, you are constantly iterating to find the best solution. This shouldn’t tire you out, it should energize you!
What advice would you give your younger self?
For this one, I’m going to defer to the wisdom from my mom. Follow your passion.
While there are many things I’d tell my younger self should we somehow come face-to-face, it’s really my parents who gave me all I ever needed. Early in my career, I was doing a job I didn’t particularly like. I didn’t tell anyone that I was unhappy. Instead, I’d simply say ‘Oh, it’s great’, it’s a good company. But, when my mom asked; you know, mothers always know. She gave me a knowing look and then said ‘Hey, you didn’t go to college, study, and work as hard as you did, to do something you don’t love.’
It wasn’t judgemental or harsh. She just called it as she saw it. At that moment something clicked for me. It was the greatest career advice: Pursue your passion and do things you love. I have taken that message through my entire working life and it made a difference for me.
I’d always been in such a hurry to get to the next thing. I was always very self-directed. So, if I could give my younger self advice, I’d say ‘stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and look at the amazing things around you’. — I sound like an old guy reflecting on life. I’m only in my 50s, but it’s true. Having the patience to let things happen and come your way in time takes a higher level of understanding. I think we could all do with that.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The thing I do over and over again is trying to know and understand the customers that I am trying to serve. That means focusing on them… who are they? what are they trying to do? How does my product or service help them? Getting real feedback and insight from them is critically important to the survival of your venture. To me, there is nothing more important than that. It is easy to become consumed with many dimensions of in running the business, however, if you and your team are not obsessed with creating amazing products, services, or experiences that exceed the wants and desires of your customer, your venture will probably not succeed.
So, I always create time so that I can hear directly from the customers, whether that is in person, visiting a store, or reading online reviews or asking for feedback. Combining the digital data and information with real life conversations and engagement
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Connecting and collaborating with others runs through everything I do. You don’t have all the answers, there is always someone smarter than you and the power of a team wins out over an individual.
Also find good mentors… I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of amazing people who contributed to helping me thrive. In the early days of my career, Alicia Whitaker, an HR executive at Colgate encouraged and helped me get into my field, and then there was David Metzler, a President at Colgate. He was an incredible guy, who sadly has passed away now. I really appreciated how took the time to mentor me, give me valuable advice including things I didn’t want to hear at the time. I have always strived to pay that forward
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The easiest answer here is launching a product that nobody wanted and being so passionate that I believed in it. It was a shoe that measured how high you could jump. I thought that was going to be amazing so I was hugely behind it and pushed it. Unfortunately, fewer people wanted it than I thought they would.
The lesson there was clear: You can’t allow your personal biases to entirely guide decisions. Whilst I speak about passion a lot, I firmly believe that it can’t be the only measure when it comes to business. Sure, it’s a good place to start but it’s never the place to end when creating ideas. That was a big learning curve.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m probably a bit late with this book, but I recently finished Sapiens. For me, it was one of those mind-opening books because it made you think about the world around in such an expansive way. It’s an incredible read and it puts so many things into perspective.
What is your favorite quote?
Love that question. One of my favorite quotes is ‘The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed’ by William Gibson. It has always inspired me as it reveals the importance of staying curious and connecting the dots or seeing the opportunity of a market through the eyes of the youth who represent the future.
- Follow your passions. When you work on things that you love, it never feels like work.
- Adopt a sense of curiosity in everything you do. What problems can you solve?
- Collaborate and be inspired by creative individuals and teams. It will get you far.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.