Harpeth Hall was delighted to welcome Patricia Miller, Co-Founder of Vera Bradley, to campus to speak at an All School Assembly on Wednesday, May 9. Kate Miller '21 opened the Assembly by introducing her grandmother, Patricia Miller, fondly known to others as Pat, and to her as "MiMi". After speaking to her grandmother's many accomplishments from starting Vera Bradley with her partner with $250 each to now bringing in over $400 million in sales a year, Kate also gave her grandmother praise for being "ambitious, hardworking, and genuine."
Patricia Miller thanked Harpeth Hall for inviting her to speak and share her story with students. Miller reflected back on her time as a young girl working in her grandfather's small grocery store learning about finances, customer service, and inventory management, which planted the roots for her life ahead. She went on to college and became a high school teacher, but ultimately embarked on a new career and started her first business with neighbor turned friend, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. Miller told stories of how the two partners met, and the unexpected start to Vera Bradley after an "aha moment" in the Miami airport. Miller recalled the two noticing all of the men in the airport with luggage and garment bags, and thinking "women would like this too, but it has to be pretty." And thus spawned Vera Bradley.
Named after Baekgaard's mother, Vera Bradley was started with $500 between the two partners after Baekgaard talked a textile company in New York City into allowing them to purchase 250 yards of fabric. Since this unexpected beginning, Vera Bradley has grown to produce more than $400 million in sales annually, and became a publicly traded company in 2010.
Once Vera Bradley began to thrive, Miller and Baekgaard established the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, in memory of their friend. The Foundation has raised over $30 million for breast cancer research to date.
Last, Miller spoke to her time as the first Secretary of Commerce for the State of Indiana, and the lessons she learned from her time in government. In closing, Miller encouraged the students to "take every opportunity to have a position in leadership", and applauded Harpeth Hall saying, "your mission is to think critically, lead confidently, and live honorably...what a way to lead the rest of your life."
Harpeth Hall thanks Patricia Miller for being an incredible role model to students as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and public servant, and for taking the time to share her inspiring story. Learn more about Vera Bradley here.