Not everyone says they love what they do for a living, but Claire Bishop can. “I’ve found a job that [feels] like I’ve never gone to work a day in my life,” she says. Bishop is the president and owner of C.A. Courtesy Demos Inc., a North Andover, Mass.-based firm that specializes in demonstration, event marketing and fulfillment services for promoting goods. Bishop founded C.A. Courtesy in 1987 and M3 Merchandising 10 years later with her late husband, Joseph Bishop.
She recalls that in 1987, there were many firms like C.A. Courtesy, demo agencies that built relationships with manufacturers. The Bishops decided to set themselves apart by forming relationships with retailers. “We determined that it would be a win-win situation for retailers,” she says. Bishop explains that C.A. Courtesy offered retailers one point of contact instead of trying to manage numerous demonstration companies in their stores. It partnered first with DeMoulas and then retailers, such as Ahold USA.
Today, 25 years later, C.A. Courtesy employs a staff of 925 and serves both manufacturers and retailers all along the East Coast. Claire Bishop comments, “Chances are that anything you’ve seen on the shelf has most likely been demonstrated by my staff.”
Additionally, under her leadership, C.A. Courtesy has earned certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a Women’s Business Enterprise. “The WBE has given me the opportunity to work with other women seeking to develop new products and provide services in an environment where funding is limited and dollars need to be stretched,” Bishop says.
After all these years, Bishop says C.A. Courtesy’s business is still exciting. “This is a fast-paced industry,” she says. “You have to be very flexible [with clients] and adjust to their needs.”
She also has worked hard to balance a career and home life. Bishop recalls that when her husband passed away, “I was left with two companies and five children to raise. Keeping both companies running became a necessity, not an option.
But Bishop had good help. “I had some really good mentors in the industry, including my brothers Jack and Dave Laurendeau,” she explains. “I’ve been very fortunate to have relationships with a CEO Bill Grize of Ahold USA, who took me under his wing.”
She also has the good fortune to work alongside her children. Justin Bishop is director of operations for C.A. Courtesy while son Scott Bishop is the director of logistics. Additionally, her daughter Courtney serves as a part-time public relations associate and her son Tyler is account manager of M3 Merchandising. Her VP of Operations, Tarryn Daisy, started 14 years ago as an associate.
C.A. Courtesy’s structure allows its managers to work closely with one another and give personal attention to their accounts. “This is what sets up apart from some of our larger competitors,” says Bishop. “We are a working example of what it means to be committed to our contracts.”
HELPING C.A. GROW
Bishop would like associates to have iPads to send results from consumer surveys to clients in real time. “It’s really important [for manufacturers] to have that link with the consumer and give them something that they might not see otherwise,” she says. “With our new account, Duane Reade in Manhattan, we tweet about our promotions, so customers can find us.”