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R. Shawn Neville '80

R. Shawn Neville '80

CEO of the Aerosoles Group

What is your favorite memory as a student at ‘Iolani?

My favorite memory at ‘Iolani was the time I spent in the Ceramics Center creating art (or what I technically deemed art) and listening to Mr. Robert’s philosophy on life.

Who was your most influential teacher at ‘Iolani? Why?

That is a tough one as so many different teachers impacted/shaped me in many ways. Mr. Masunaga taught me that I would never be as smart as him at math, Mr. Harrison taught me the importance of story-telling and compassion for people, and Mr. Lee taught me the importance of needing a good excuse for having a slipper pass.

In what ways has your ‘Iolani experience shaped your life after ‘Iolani?

Growing up at ‘Iolani taught me to respect and embrace diversity of thought and cultures, as well as the importance of constantly be learning and growing. I was an average student and did not blossom (still actually working on it!) until college and post college. The foundation and principles learned at ‘Iolani started to kick in post graduation! (better late than never)

What influences from your ‘Iolani experience do you bring to your business?

Hopefully the elements noted above. I am fortunate to travel the world and experience many cultures in my work and I try to find similarities versus differences in people to bring them together, and constantly strive to improve and imagine new possibilities.

You've led many different companies in the course of your career. What are you looking for when you take on a new challenge?

Something I am not sure I can do initially, can make a difference for people/society, and see the possibility for the business/employees. A challenge with purpose!

What has drawn you to the footwear industry?

It was in my sole! Actually it was random. I was recruited by Reebok when I was working for Procter and Gamble. Cool shoes and apparel seemed more enticing and fun than toothpaste. (maybe it was just me). It has evolved into 25+ years in different aspects of the apparel and footwear industry. I love the global dynamic, constant innovation, and degree of complexity that must be simplified!

Aerosoles recently launched a new online interactive catalog. What was your goal in engaging the customer with the new initiative?

Consumers today want and expect information at their fingertips that is easy to access, inspiring and relevant, customized to their needs, and never static. This initiative is an evolution of our traditional online and catalog business. We are using it to bring in younger consumers to engage in the brand, and ensure that our traditional consumers have a better experience.

What advice do you have for anyone - business owner or employee - on how best to interact with customers?

My advice to people is to never ask consumers directly what they want or need. Always propose or expose them to new products/services/content in the environment that they would interact with it and get their reactions to the experience. It is the difference between just solving short term problems versus creating new possibilities (real innovation). I personally engage/talk to customers every week in stores, via email, and through our wholesale customers around the world. It hopefully keeps me grounded while still dreaming about what is next!

Shawn Neville is currently Chief Executive Officer, Investor, and Board Member of Aerosoles Group, a global leader in women’s footwear and accessories. Shawn is also on the Board of Zildjian Percussion, a Board of Advisor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and an Investor and Board Member of Boathouse Sports. Shawn has held leadership positions in some of the United States' most recognized companies, including Procter and Gamble, Visa USA, and Reebok North America, where he served as President. He also was CEO and President of FootAction USA and President of Keds Corporation, where he led a brand turnaround and was recognized as Marketer of the Year in the Global Footwear Industry.

Shawn has also been involved in a number of nonprofit causes, including his alma maters, 'Iolani School and the University of Denver, the Avery Dennison Foundation Board, and PE for Life. Shawn currently lives in both Boston and New York City and gets back to Hawaii as often as possible.