Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO, once said, “The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”
One local family that lives this quote every day is the Coleman’s, of Nelson Coleman Jewelers fame. Their store, located in Towson, Md, is a sixth generation family business. It is only one of 10 family-owned and operated jewelry stores in North America that has been in continuous operation for more than 150 years.
This sixth generation is represented by current UB student Amanda Coleman Phelps. Coleman Phelps began at UB in the fall of 2010 and is majoring in business administration with a specialization in marketing. Her role at Coleman Jewelers has evolved from a jeweler’s assistant, to a graduate gemologist sales professional to a human resource manager. Now she is at the point where she is now preparing herself for future ownership of the business.
“If you ask my dad, I’m on what’s called the ‘owner’s track’,” Coleman Phelps said.
Her father, C. Chris Coleman, B.A. ’70, serves as vice president and COO of Nelson Coleman Jewelers. The elder Coleman transferred to the University of Baltimore in 1964.
“I started in the ‘evening college’ but I completed my coursework by attending courses by day,” Coleman said. “UB was the only school in the area that provided essentially the same curriculum both during the day and in the evening to accommodate employed students and students with families in the business school.”
Like many institutions, UB has a rich tradition of multiple generations of family members who attended the University. Coleman Phelps’s reasons for choosing the University today are remarkably similar to those in her family who preceded her. But for both for both father and daughter, one common reason was the appeal the University has to working adults and students with families.
“I chose UB for several reasons. I liked the intimate atmosphere and that classes are available to accommodate my busy work schedule,” Coleman Phelps said. “I also had the pleasure of meeting several members of the UB faculty and I just felt at home, and it didn’t hurt that I was offered scholarships, too.”
Her reasons don’t stop there: “I have strong emotional reasons why I decided on UB. My father and two of my cousins are alumni.”
With a daughter at UB, the elder Coleman considers what he would he take if he were attending today.
“If I had a chance to do it over I would concentrate more on accounting, finance, and marketing,” said he said. “When I attended I had no idea that I was destined to join the family business. I still might try a course in marketing.”
Coleman Phelps on the other hand is taking much of what she does in the classroom back to the family business. In 2010, she created the store’s HR department to serve the needs of the dozen or so employees.
“I’ve developed a schedule of bi-annual performance reviews as well as monthly and sometimes weekly meetings of each separate department with our general manager. I recognize the importance of communication with our team and how that it helps our business grow,” Coleman Phelps explained. “I have also helped operationally with sales training, staff meetings and software implementation.”
There always elements of working for a family business that each new generation must tackle. Today, the Coleman family is working on a succession plan for the sixth generation. But as Coleman put it, “Where else could I work and be interrupted by my daughter, while making some important decision or waiting on our most important customer, to be shown Amanda’s first sonogram of my newest grandchild-to-be, and perhaps the seventh generation in our family jewelry business? Awesome!”
Coleman Phelps and her husband are expecting their first child in December. She doesn’t expect her life to be any less hectic, and is making plans to advance the business while balancing motherhood, school and work—a story quite common to UB.