The Cort Story

What is a Cort? Who is Cort? Oh yes, there is a story here!

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See the little girl with dark hair? That's me, Carla. Happy to have my Grandpa Abe over my shoulder.

When I considered establishing my own consulting practice, I felt a special inspiration and motivation from very deep inside. It’s in my DNA! My grandfather plus three important mentors in my life are at the foundation of the businesswoman and entrepreneur I am today.

My mother’s father, Abe Cort, came by boat in 1904 to America from Lithuania through Ellis Island. At age 10, with only a sixth-grade education, he began doing menial chores in a Cleveland, Ohio shoe store to help support his family.  After winning a $1,000 war bond by buying a raffle ticket, in 1919 he struck out on his own.  With a desire to build a legacy with his own hands, he started Cort Shoes, a business that, with the help of his brothers and sisters, grew into a 55-store chain across the Midwest. I named my firm The Cort Group to honor the legacy of my grandfather, Abe Cort.

Grandpa had that special sparkle in his eyes (I’m told I do too!) I still so clearly remember him teaching me as a young professional – be friendly, be honest (don’t sell a pair of size 7.5 shoes to someone who really needs an 8 – true story!) and work really, really hard, but don’t forget to have fun while doing it!  His success was built on key principles that live on today at The Cort Group.

 
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Abe Cort
The Business Man

Abe lived by "Change is Inevitable. Growth is Optional." In the 1960s, Grandpa pressed for what became an example of a monumental change. Cort Shoes added argyle socks to its inventory of black-only socks. This change caused much conflict within the team, however, my grandfather persisted.  He knew consumers wanted more sock options, so he maneuvered a successful inventory pivot to meet the needs of the changing customer. This was one of many changes that allowed the company to continue to grow.

In addition to Grandpa Abe, I was lucky to have continuous exposure to entrepreneurial success from these amazing people, whose business principles also guide the Cort Group and myself today.

  • My father, a son of immigrants, founded an auto parts warehousing and distribution company that grew into a successful national brand. 
  • My uncle, from a small town in Wisconsin, founded and grew a law firm that now has more than 600 attorneys in locations across the United States and in London and Shanghai.
  • My professional mentor, an entrepreneur/scientist (yes, they do exist!) and I created a company in 1996 to manufacture and sell a revolutionary, new technology to hospitals and industries. Initially, he handled the manufacturing; I handled the sales - literally from a plastic table and chair (true!).  Today, our equipment recycles and reuses chemical wastes across the globe – saving customers’ money while helping them do good!

These amazing individuals and role models still guide me today.

To see how Grandpa Cort's story and my other mentors have shaped our company's values click below.