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Women in flooring: Krista Eliason – Success comes from staying true to yourself

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14

Prestigious career brings valuable insight to Int’l Design Guild

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.07.16 PMLike many successful people in the world of flooring, Krista Eliason, president of International Design Guild (IDG), a division of CCA Global Partners, came into the industry without any previous knowledge or background. In fact, her focus in college was psychology and photography, and she didn’t get a call about a flooring-related position until she was working in another field.

“I’m not from a floor covering family,” she said. “I actually had never really given floor covering a second thought. I got a recruiting call in the mid-1990s for a job with Wools of New Zealand in marketing and advertising, and that was my entrance into the industry.”

The knowledge Eliason gained while working for Wools of New Zealand helped her hone the skills that became so valuable for her move to CCA. Plus, she was able to travel internationally and see the world in new ways. “That was an important part of shaping who I became.”

Eliason maintains her interest in wool, and as part of collaborating with Elders New Zealand to create the Just Shorn brand five years ago she had the opportunity to work with influential women in the industry in New Zealand, including respected growers such as Anabel Tripp and Wynn de Lautour. “It is one thing to learn about wool, but when you sit in someone’s kitchen and talk with them, hear their passion, it brings the journey to life. In addition to my work with Wools of New Zealand, I have had the honor to work with Bridgette Kelly on the Campaign for Wool. I have had the opportunity to meet with Prince Charles on three separate occasions over the last couple of years.”

After working with Wools of New Zealand for a few years, Eliason was recruited by CCA in 1999 to serve as IDG’s director of marketing and advertising. “When you look at the Wools of New Zealand and IDG communities, it’s a similar group of people. In some ways there really wasn’t a big a change for me, but in other ways there was a huge change. Culturally, the two companies are very different.”

While the cultures varied, Eliason appreciated the differences and how the two organizations approached the flooring industry. “I really didn’t realize what an important factor CCA is in the retail community. When I joined CCA, I was surprised at how progressive the company was, even back then. I immediately was just enamored with CCA’s mission, which is to do what’s best for our retailers.”

Eliason quickly moved up the ranks at IDG to executive vice president and then president, a position she holds today. She attributes her growth to the lack of internal politics at CCA along with her hard work, perseverance and integrity—all of which have been generally rewarding. “It’s more that I wanted to grow. I wanted to see success in what I was doing.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.07.21 PMIn terms of being a woman in the floor covering industry, she said she has, in fact, seen much change during her tenure. “The whole industry has become more progressive, even in just 15 years. Some of it has to do with how CCA has grown and matured over the years as well. There are many senior-level executives at CCA who are women, vice president and above. We talk internally a lot about how the target consumers are women and how we represent them. In IDG there is a lot of female ownership—good, intelligent women I respect.”

On her personal journey, despite CCA’s impressive progression, Eliason said she has encountered some issues as a woman along the way. However, staying true to herself and continuing to develop as a person have helped guide her. “I’ve just matured and learned to be true to myself and be comfortable with my own style and personality. I have worked for people who have tried to manipulate my style, and that just doesn’t work for me. You can’t be someone else; you have to be who you are, and you have to leverage the things you bring to the table. It took me a little while to figure that out, and I’m not sure that’s even a female or male thing—maybe it’s a maturity thing. As you mature as an executive and find your own way, you can make a difference, whether it’s within the company you work for or the community you serve.”

Serving the design community has been a major part of Eliason’s efforts with IDG, particularly through its Design for a Difference initiative. Design for a Difference is an interior design contest that gives the winning designer(s) the opportunity to make over a space for a local charity, positively impacting the winner’s respective community.

“Design for a Difference is a great representation of how doing the right thing will come back to you,” Eliason said. “It’s not just a charity initiative because it’s also about community building. People running small businesses can’t survive if they don’t work well in their communities.” She is currently working with the IDG team on moving Design for a Difference from a contest platform to more of a general movement within the design community.

For those women looking to establish a place like Eliason’s in the industry, she suggests finding the right people for support and guidance. “Surround yourself with good people. Work for people you admire and who can mentor you. I think a good mentor is really important for furthering a career. Everyone who rises in some capacity has some champion for them; finding that person is very important. To get [where I am] you need people to help you get along.”