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20 Questions with Dani Schroeder

Nov. 7, 2017

Name: Dani Schroeder
Position/Institution: Manager of Trademark Licensing and Project Communications, Illinois State University
Number of years in your position: 2+ years in University Marketing, just under a year in Trademark Licensing
Alma Mater(s): Sewanee: The University of the South, Illinois State University
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Why did you become involved in ICLA?
When I took over management of the Trademark Licensing program here at Illinois State in January 2017, I knew that it would be incredibly beneficial to have the support and access to shared knowledge and insights that ICLA offers.

What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
Most definitely the willingness of other members to share best practices, wisdom, and personal experiences in this field.

What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?
The fact that no day is ever the same as the last! It makes this work fun and exciting, but definitely keeps you on your toes at all times. Things come up and you may have to throw your to-do list out the window—it can feel like you’re always reacting instead of being proactive, but that’s the beauty of higher education and collegiate athletics.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
We recently transitioned to a new licensing agency in July. Navigating that process in my first six months overseeing the program was a challenge, but we are excited about the direction in which we are taking Illinois State’s brand.

What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
Without a doubt—to listen and see a situation from all sides.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
R.C. McBride was the director of Trademark Licensing prior to me stepping into this role and I was fortunate enough to learn a lot about this industry from him.

What is one item you cannot live without?
Since I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant… my answer is definitely my pregnancy pillow! That thing is an absolute life-saver.

Who would you chose to switch places with for a day?
Although I’m a self-proclaimed basketball fanatic, I’d have to say Serena Williams. She’s the GOAT and it would be pretty incredible to walk a day in her shoes.

What is your favorite sporting that event you have ever attended?
That’s a toss-up. I’d say I have two! I was able to go to a World Series game in 2006 when the Cardinals played the Tigers, which, as a lifelong Cards fan, was amazing. In 2010, I was studying abroad in Spain and was in Burgos when Spain beat the Netherlands to win the World Cup. Watching that game in the city’s plaza with thousands of Spaniards was a sports memory I’ll never forget.

Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
I would say this is a “happy accident” in my career. My predecessor was preparing to take a new position on campus and, since I had a background in collegiate athletics, I was given the opportunity to step into my current role and haven’t looked back since!

In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
Despite being new to this industry, it has quickly become obvious that there are so many talented leaders out there. I’ve benefitted from their experience and expertise already!

How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
Again, as a newcomer to this field, ICLA has been a huge help in becoming more familiar with situations that might arise here on campus and with licensees. The list-serve is always very educational and often gets me thinking about things that I haven’t considered.

What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
I think my experience working in the Illinois State athletic department as well as in University Marketing and Communications has really helped me be able to see this industry from both sides. I have a better understanding of the athletics side of things and how their promotions, schedules, and sales all play a factor in our licensing efforts, all while being able to keep my marketing hat on.

What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
We love that students are excited about using Illinois State marks on their apparel and products. They are proud to be Redbirds and we want to foster that as best we can! The tough part can be trying to rein that in, when necessary. Vendors are fun to work with, but I’ve found that it’s very important to be able to draw a line in the sand and stick to your policies. Our job is to protect the Illinois State brand and having a good working relationship and open lines of communication with vendors is critical to accomplishing that.

Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?
I would say navigating our transition in licensing agencies in my first six months in this role is something I’m proud of. Our team here at Illinois State was very focused on making that transition as smooth as possible and we achieved that by focusing on relationship-building and attention to detail. Learning the industry while handling transition logistics, contracts, and paperwork wasn’t always easy, but we asked questions where needed, reached out for help, and made decisions with confidence.

In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
Looking around the industry, I’m most excited about the future of more branded consumables. It’s very cool to see how other universities have taken those ideas and run with them and I’m looking forward to seeing how Illinois State can carve out our own path in that developing trend.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing?
My dad always taught me to be confident in my abilities, but to stay humble. I think that’s been key for me since I’m so new to this field. Learn as much as you can, make decisions confidently, trust in your abilities—but listen and absorb as much as possible. There’s always something or someone new to learn from at every turn.

What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
From my time spent working on the Athletics side and in events, I’ve learned I need to be more assertive in certain situations. Sometimes, you have to take charge and be the authority figure in a scenario, and I’m slowly working on becoming more comfortable with that.

What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
Too much! Since licensing is just one part of what I do at Illinois State, I’d like to gradually work towards being out of the office more regularly, meeting with licensees, campus groups, and retailers.

What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
I am hoping to be able to attend soon as a first-timer! I’d most look forward to meeting new people, networking, and learning about this industry from experienced licensing directors.