Katie Jamieson – Herschel Supply Co.
Imagine you’ve just settled into your seat. The flight attendants finish their safety briefing as the jumbo jet pushes back from the gate. You take out some headphones and an iPad or a magazine and prepare for the 3,000-mile cross-country journey.
Then you hear those dreaded words from the person sitting next to you: “So, where are you from?”
While Katie Jamieson admits those conversations can be painful, she recalls one instance where the chitchat wasn’t only helpful; it changed her life.
“I was in my in my second year of undergrad and sat next to the dean of the law school at my university,” says Jamieson. “He started talking about the law and spoke so passionately about it. He set me up with an admissions advisor to understand the application process, and the rest is history.”
Now senior vice president, legal, for Herschel Supply Co., a travel brand that makes backpacks, duffels and other essentials for life on the go, Jamieson supports the growth of a company that had around 70 employees when she started in 2015, and now has over 200 worldwide.
“We’re a travel brand, and while people aren’t getting on planes or commuting to work like they used to, we’re adapting to our customers’ new way of life and how that’s changed how they travel on their everyday journeys,” she says.
License to deal
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for Herschel Supply, especially since it sells its products in over 90 countries. When company-owned retail stores and departments stores were closed, Jamieson and her legal team of three used crisis management skills to give advice to Herschel departments like finance, human resources and marketing.
Policies, procedures and agreements are living documents for the legal team that evolve as the company does, she says. As the company evolves, so does its use of technology, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, that Herschel Supply employees used even pre-pandemic to stay connected to satellite offices around the world.
“There’s nothing that can replace meeting face-to-face, but these technologies have helped us keep in touch with our teams and employees across the globe,” Jamieson says.
One of her favorite parts of the job is striking licensing deals with iconic companies like the NBA, Disney, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball.
“These brands identify Herschel as an innovative brand, making innovative products, and the legal department works very closely with our product team on these multi-faceted licensing agreements,” Jamieson explains.
Marketing, sales, finance, distribution and logistics, legal and e-commerce groups are all involved, she notes, working together on travel products like luggage and backpacks, totes, apparel and accessories.
“We’re a democratic brand—we have a product for everybody,” Jamieson says. “And what we have is something we want to share and something we have to protect.”
Protecting the brand
Just as with any company that manufactures and ships products around the world, protecting the brand image and the company’s intellectual property is paramount—and it’s a big part of Jamieson’s role with Herschel Supply.
Brand protection initiatives include everything from anti-counterfeiting and monitoring for gray market goods to curbing the production of knockoffs (nearly identical products with a slight change or alteration). The stalls of global counterfeit markets used to be the biggest perpetrator for a company like Herschel Supply—now, anyone with the internet can sell fakes or knockoff merchandise, and ship small or large quantities.
“There’s a fine balance of ensuring our proper brand image and ensuring there’s not counterfeit Herschel products around the world. But we have to do that within a reasonable budget,” Jamieson adds.
Herschel Supply is a member of brand alliances that pool resources to do joint raids on large-scale counterfeiting operations, and Jamieson keeps a dialogue with colleagues at other brands to discuss brand protection measures.
“It’s a fight and a struggle, and we’re fighting every day to protect Herschel,” she says.
In addition to that work, Jamieson says tasks like reviewing and revamping CSR initiatives are planned for 2021, and include taking a deeper, company-wide look at continuing to develop sustainable solutions.
The legal journey
Jamieson got a degree in management and organization studies from Western University in Ontario and her law degree from the University of Alberta. Upon graduation, she worked as an associate for five years at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP until 2015.
Coming from a family of non-lawyers, she thought working for a large national firm was the best career path and the way her legal life was destined to go. While with her firm, Jamieson was external counsel for Herschel Supply and, on a whim, mustered the courage to approach the founders in response to the company’s legal job posting.
“It’s the only other law job I’ve ever applied for,” she jokes.
She started at Herschel Supply as head of legal and corporate secretary and was promoted to her current position—senior vice president, legal—in 2018.
Everyone in the company believes in the brand and the company’s products, Jamieson says, and she’s been inspired by the Herschel Supply vision and its founders since she started almost six years ago.
“There’s so much room to grow and so many things we can still do as a company,” she adds. “Herschel is just starting to really take flight.”
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