Excellence in Action

Maureen Stockton ’86

Photo of Maureen Stockton

Maureen Stockton ’86 is the Founder and Inventor of Formé, the world’s first shoe shaper and stretcher. Maureen invented Formé for women to have their shoes and wear them too. With a shoe collection that rivals Carrie Bradshaw’s, Maureen insists on keeping Formé in all of her shoes so they are shaped to perfection for her own use or to maximize their value at resale thereby prolonging their life and minimizing her environmental footprint. Maureen is a Los Angeles native with a successful +25-year entrepreneurial track record. At UCLA, she currently serves on the UCLA Foundation Board and the Chancellor’s Oversight Committee for UCLA Technology Development Group. Maureen and her husband Bryan have also been actively involved in supporting the Mattel Children’s Hospital.

Interviewed by Monique Beals • November 25, 2019

To start, will you please describe your career path from UCLA to your current role?

My passion and career as an entrepreneurial inventor started at UCLA when I cofounded the Entrepreneurs’ Association. I was recognized by the Economics department as leader of the year. During my senior year, I pitched my first invention to the founder of Harper House. It was a paper calendar management system called the “Day Runner.” He rejected my idea outright, but graciously took the time to share invaluable insights on the importance of the patentability of a product.

After I earned my degree in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration, I began my corporate career in commercial real estate, where I directed the marketing and leasing efforts of several premiere office buildings in Chicago and Los Angeles. After that, I honed my skills at Jakks Pacific, the publicly traded toy company, where I created $250 million in new revenue through innovative products and new retail merchandising techniques. Subsequently, I created and launched a new category of children’s holiday decorating products under the Disney Princess and Barbie brands. Collectively, these products generated $20 million in retail sales and earned me “Inventor of the Year” recognition from Toys ‘R’ Us.

What I love about what I do now is that it changes every day. At Formé, we are past the development and testing phases and now in the scaling stage. As Formé Shoe Shapers seeks to grow, we are testing new marketing and distribution channels. Both really challenge my creativity. We create all our ad campaigns in house including developing digital ad campaign content, placement strategy, images and art direction. Once the content is complete, I tap into a more analytical mindset looking at the marketing spend, where we are putting dollars, where they are performing most effectively and efficiently so we can scale them.

What inspired you to choose this career path?

At UCLA, I learned what I did not want to do. After my freshman year, I was a clerk at a big law firm in Century City, because my ambition since elementary school had been to be a lawyer like my father. That first-hand experience helped replace the illusion of what I thought that job would be with the reality of the daily grind. At that point, my step mother was earning her MBA, and through discussions about her classes, I realized business was more interesting to me. When I graduated, I worked for a small company selling computer software. I loved the fast pace and the high growth environment. That was my first exposure to the startup mentality, and I continued seeking out similar experiences until I launched my own companies.

How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?

I think UCLA is the perfect incubator for an inventor mindset. It’s a big place with no coddling. UCLA is very different from private colleges with all of their hand-holding . The sheer size of UCLA makes it difficult to stand out, yet the public mission mindset attracts professors and administrators who genuinely care about helping a curious student. The combination of being surrounded by really smart, ambitious students in a highly competitive environment where I created my own opportunities to stand out is exactly what I do every day at Formé.

In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?

I think the greatest secret resource for forging strong post graduate relationships is attending Bruinwoods. It is so immersive, fun, interesting and exhausting in the best possible way. For one week, you are with fellow Bruins 24/7. The whole family makes connections in ways you could never imagine as an undergraduate. I would absolutely recommend tapping into this resource to build your Bruin family after graduation.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

To me, if I’m not pushing, I’m not growing. I view challenges as an opportunity for growth with the understanding that the answer to the question “why is this happening?” might not be immediately evident. I will share something quite personal on this topic. I was at Jakk’s Pacific making a lot of money and travelling constantly. My marriage was in a state of emergency so I walked into my boss’s office and tendered my resignation. He looked at me and said, “You’re going to be miserable staying at home. You’re so good at what you do.” But I also knew that to give my marriage a chance, I had to put my career on hold and focus solely upon it. I also knew that when my young sons grew up, I had to be able to look them in the eyes and say I did everything I could to make the marriage work. Ultimately, I ended up realizing my greatest fear by getting divorced, which was painful for all of us. Yet the transition set the stage for me to launch my first company. At that point I was a single mom with a mortgage, school tuition and no outside support. Necessity was truly the mother of my inventions!

What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in your field?

Use your UCLA undergraduate status as a golden ticket to meet as many people as possible. When you introduce yourself as a UCLA student, it opens doors, because people immediately want to help a student. Especially one from UCLA, because they know you are smart and hard working. You have access to anyone you’d like to meet just using the university as your calling card. This is the time to make as many connections as possible, and meet as many people as you can. Some students are hesitant to do this and think that they may not have as much to offer in return, but that is a great misconception. You are offering an intelligent, vibrant and fresh perspective.

How do you participate and support in the UCLA community now?

I currently serve on two advisory boards which keeps me informed about what is happening at UCLA and keeps me engaged in the Bruin community. I’m fortunate to serve on the UCLA Foundation Board where we oversee the payouts from the UCLA endowment to the university. This board has incredible leadership and commitment from each member. The meetings are among my most favorite to attend because everyone is passionate, kind and engaged. I am also on the Technology Oversight Board which advises Chancellor Block on monetization of IP for the university. I’m humbled by the knowledge and thoughtfulness of that group especially when it comes to making decisions about how opportunities to make money for the university are balanced with our public mission. It has been inspiring to see that our public mission is front and center in every discussion.

What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?

UCLA’s best in class philosophy grounded by a public service mentality in almost every field I engage in makes me really proud. The current undergraduates are really inspiring with their intellect, drive, and social awareness. I try to fill Formé internship spots with UCLA students. Their intellectual bandwidth and energy are breathtaking. The generous and visionary philanthropists (The Luskins and Fieldings in particular) who support UCLA inspire me to be a better member of my community either by sharing my expertise or supporting different areas within the university ranging from the Start-Up Lab, Mattel Hospital, Luskin School, or Anderson.

And finally, what’s next?

Formé Shoe Shapers have really taken off and exceeded my expectations. We are launching a new product next year and it is showing great promise in early testing. In addition to UCLA, I serve on the board of St. Anne’s, an organization that has really touched my family. They are a premier social services organization which provides services to pregnant and parenting foster youth including mental health counseling, transitional housing, and early education. I will be the first chairman in the organization’s 130 year history that was born at St. Anne’s.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Monique Beals is a Communications major and UCLA College Honors student from Memphis, Tennessee. She has previously interned at the Office of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Orange County Register, and Tegna Inc. She has also worked as an Urban Fellow for the City of Memphis. At UCLA, Monique has been involved as Marketing Director of the Community Service Commission in addition to working as a Student Recruiting Assistant for UCLA Athletics. After graduating from UCLA, Monique intends to pursue a career in journalism or law.

Interested in learning more about UCLA alumni who are creating lasting impressions and impact in their industries? Visit Excellence in Action for the full collection of interviews.