From the moment I met Gloria Smith, I knew she would be a valuable voice as a member of Bay Path’s Board of Trustees. Indeed, since she joined the Board in 2007, my instincts have proven correct. Her life’s journey and her success as a businesswoman have been inspirational to our students, particularly to our adult women. As a single woman raising two daughters and balancing a new and growing business—Gloria knows the challenges our students face because she has been there. Her support for the One Day Program and now The American Women’s College has been unwavering. Just as important, Gloria has been generous with her time and talent. Inducted into Bay Path’s 21st Century Women Business Leader Hall of Fame in 2007, she has served as the emcee for the Women’s Leadership Conference, been a spokesperson for adult education on the University’s behalf, and provided financial support through the Gloria Smith Endowed Scholarship Fund. I am privileged to know and count as a friend this entrepreneurial, passionate, resilient, and most of all, incredibly kind person.
Could you share a bit about your life journey and career?
My personal journey began in East Hartford, CT. After graduating from East Catholic High School in Manchester, CT, I attended Salve Regina College, an all-women’s liberal arts college in Newport, RI. It was my dream come true. However, after completing two years, this wonderful college experience was interrupted for personal reasons. At that time, I promised myself I would indeed one day complete my degree. Later, as a married, adult woman with a child, I graduated from Central Connecticut State College with a bachelor of arts in education.
My first professional position was in education. Responsible for developing a new curriculum for English as a Second Language (ESL) in the East Hartford School district, I had the privilege to teach the English language to eager students for seven years. In the next step in my life’s journey, I chose an entirely different career path in computer sales. This was a challenging and highly technical field, which at the time, was a predominately all-male environment. After five years, I realized my true passion was to operate my own business. With an energized entrepreneurial spirit, I was fortunate to have found a beautiful and functional pottery line from Poland. For thirty years, I was able to utilize my creativity to enhance the product and marketing distribution of Polish Pottery, grow my business, and in turn, the business for the many women and men who are members of this artistic co-operative in Poland.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Prior to the end of communism in Poland, I was blessed to have found an artist co-operative of brilliant women who created and painted beautiful works of functional art, known as Polish Pottery, or Polish stoneware. With a handshake agreement, a unique partnership was established, based on mutual respect, trust, honesty, and integrity. Throughout my thirty years, working very closely with each of the design artists and art directors, the decorations and the broad range of functional products grew exponentially. For nine successful years, I appeared on the QVC television show, which provided an opportunity to create a national brand for Polish stoneware. The unique breadth of the line, which during this time expanded to over 1200 shapes and 5000 decorations, allowed for the presentation of new products for each on-air show without duplication. This created a win-win situation for QVC sales and ultimately the QVC customers who were able to create individualized collections of Polish stoneware for their personal use, sometimes reaching hundreds of pieces for the most passionate collector. My combined experiences as a wholesaler, retailer, and a highly successful QVC vendor has provided me the basis to share business knowledge and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs who are presently operating successful businesses.
What is one regret that you have in your career?
I have no regrets in my personal and professional life. I remained focused and I believe I made the best choices to be happy and truly enjoy my life. Some mistakes were made along the way, but these were important learning experiences, not regrets. I have valued each step taken to achieve success.
What advice would you give to students at Bay Path who are setting out on their own life journey?
Your personal life’s journey awaits you. Remember we all are teachers and students simultaneously. Here is my teaching moment. Follow your dreams, stay true to yourself, trust your inner voice, face your fears, be okay with adversity, create the right environment for success, do what you love and love what you do, be thirsty for knowledge, choose your friends wisely, be vulnerable, kind, compassionate, giving and patient, share love, and always live in the moment. Finally, find the profession for which you will remain passionate. You will wake up every day excited to go to work. I know, because I found my true passion.