Carried Payless to Japan

“What kind of a life would you have after moving to Witchita, with 344,000 inhabitants, after the metropolis of Istanbul?” she thought. Kansas, in the heart of the US, the most windy state of the country.
“I’m going only for six months,” she had told her mother, when she left to learn English and to finish her masters. As with many other immigrants, that six months before returning back never come to an end!
Ms. Funda Cerit, who, with perseverance and determination, shaped her career herself, knew how to make her dreams come true, even in a small town. First she had to learn English, and finish her graduate degree, then she had to find a job related to her profession.

Funda Cerit.

She was born in Ankara, grew up in Istanbul. She finished Anadolu University, Department of Economics, in Eskisehir. As with many other new-comers in the US, she first worked as a babysitter. This helped her to improve her English. She has interesting recollections from when she was improving her English. “One day I was supervising two boys, aged 8 and 10, at the pool. The older boy was bullying the younger in the water. I turned to him and asked, in English, ‘would you like me to scratch your back?’ He replied to me, ‘No thank you, my back is not itching’ and continued harassing his younger brother.” She says, this way she learned that you can not translate idioms from Turkish into English.

After working as a babysitter and as a waitress, to continue her education and find an employment related to her profession, Ms. Cerit moved to Lawrence, the sixth largest city of the state with 60,000 inhabitants. She sent her resume to different companies all year long. Although unsuccessful, she didn’t become disheartened.

She asked for help from the president of Payless ShoeSource Inc., who came for dinner at the restaurant where she was working as a waitress at nights. The president recommended that she apply for a job at the company. After several attempts and interviews, she was offered a position as a distribution. While working in this position Ms. Ceren learned the general operation of the company, and the details of the job, and started to look for an opportunity to cross over to the international trade department. It wasn’t easy to enter this small and competitive department.

At a meeting after several months when she learned that Payless was planning to enter the Mexican market, but due to import restrictions on Chinese goods, could not, she thought about the Turkish market. Would there be some possibility of bringing goods from Turkey? After contacting several Turkish shoe manufacturers, Ms. Ceren prepared a presentation. Her first presentations did not attract much notice.

She worked more on the subject, and prepared more presentations. She also wasn’t shy about expressing her desire to join the department for development of international trade during her presentations. She paid frequent visits to the head of the department, she bargained. Finally, not only was her project accepted, she also joined the department. When Payless decided to move the department to Dallas, she moved as well. In the meantime she completed her MBA. After two years the company policy changed and she was offered a job at Topeka, Kansas. So, Ms. Cerit returned back to Kansas to work for Payless.

Cerit with Payless executives in front of first Japan Payless store.


During her employment at Payless over five years, Ms. Cerit was in charge of different positions. She was responsible for the opening of the Payless store in Japan, establishing a company there, and evaluating investments in new markets. Currently she is the manager responsible for international sales and development. She is working on strategy, planning, and system installations.

Having set as her future career goal the establishment of her own business, Ms Cerit is planning to assist Turkish brands entering international markets by combining her knowledge and experience with the necessities of Turkish companies, or to assist foreign companies entering the Turkish market. “As far as I could observe, Turkey is producing quality goods, but the chain stores and branding is not at the desired level. Besides, Turkish companies do not have many projects for the US market, although having projects for Europe, the Near East, and the Turkic republics. In reality, in my opinion, the US market is a bigger market and it is easier to enter. I hope that we can overcome these difficulties.”

Traveling, watching movies, creating business ideas, following business news and politics, and reading are some of Ms. Cerit’s hobbies. She admits having mixed feelings about returning to Turkey, and says “I definitely want to go back to Turkey, but at the same time I know that I am not the same as I used to be. I made my own synthesis, choosing and combining aspects of both cultures. I hope that I have chosen the best aspects of both sides.”

Payless ShoeSource Inc, is the company which owns the largest chain of  shoe stores. The public company’s annual turnover is close to $2.7 billion and it sells over 187 million pair of shoes each year. Payless has stores in all 50 US states and in 13 countries around the world. All the stores are managed by the head office in Topeka. The company, employing 26.000 people worldwide, has no plans for Turkey. Ms. Cerit states that she is striving to make a project come to fruition. “I hope to see Payless stores in Turkey in the near future.”
(May 2006, 20th issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07