Today’s success spotlight shines a light on Jide Zeitlin, Chief Executive Officer of Fortune 500 company Tapestry, Inc.
Let’s dig in to how Zeitlin reached such a high-powered position.
Jide Zeitlin’s early years
Born in Nigeria, Zeitlin had an interesting upbringing. His family befriended an American family living in Nigeria. The American family took Zeitlin under their wings and offered to take over legal guardianship of Zeitlin. His Nigerian family saw this as an opportunity for Zeitlin to travel and receive a global education. He moved with the American family first to Pakistan, then the Philippines, then finally to Boston, Massachusetts, when Zeitlin was 11 years old.
He attended Amerhurst College to study economics and English, but in his sophomore year, he developed an interest in finance. During his summers, Zeitlin would wash dishes at MacDonald’s to help pay his college fees,. But he quickly became bored of this and was interested in a finance -related office job, while in school. He sent a plethora of applications to financial companies and was rejected by every one. Nevertheless, he persevered and applied to Goldman Sachs. In his rejection letter, Goldman Sachs’ partner mentioned if Zeitlin was ever in New York, he could stop by the office for tea. Zeitlin took this as an invitation, booked a bus ticket to New York, and showed up at Goldman Sachs. The stunned partner had no choice but to entertain a conversation with Zeitlin, who he was impressed by. He offered Zeitlin a summer internship with the company, and so his opportunity at Goldman Sachs began.
After that first summer, Zeitlin returned to Goldman Sachs every summer while he was an undergraduate student. Upon graduating from Amerhurst, he continued to return to Sachs as a summer intern while he was at Harvard Business School. Then Goldman Sachs offered him a full-time position when he earned his MBA from Harvard.
He began at Goldman Sachs in a generalist position but through his intellectual capacity, negotiation skills, and outstanding drive, Zeitlin continuously moved up the ranks to eventually be appointed Global Operating Officer. In that role, he traveled extensively for Sachs, particularly to India, where he met with Indian government officials and businessmen and orchestrated groundbreaking deals. In 2005, he left Goldman Sachs but continued his connections with India.
As of June 2020, Zeitlin is Cheif Executive officer of Tapestry, Inc. and also runs his own company, The Keffi Group, which currently invests in wireless infrastructure, life sciences, and financial services in India, Israel and West Africa.
With 30+ years experience in global financial and operational leadership, he’s well respected as an accomplished business executive.
Impact and inspiration
As head of Tapestry (which owns Coach, Kate Spade, and other subsidiaries), he is at the helm of these luxury fashion brands with annual revenue reaching $5.9 billion. His impact is far reaching. He has influence over multiple brands’ buying, decision making, policy, operations, and public affairs. This allows for him to bring his voice, as a black man, to the table and help shape policy and trends within the corporation he runs.
Zeitlin on diversity in business
In a Face the Nation interview, Zeitlin highlights that ‘diversity is a real business imperative.’
On more than one occasion, Zeitlin has been outspoken in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. When the head of a high-powered head company like Tapestry is visible on matters of race relations, it amplifies the voices of those who are not in such conspicuous positions. This is the power of a person from the black community carrying the torch for those whose voices have been muted.