Martha Stewart - History of Business in the U.S.Identification: Media mogul and entrepreneur
Born: August 3, 1941; Jersey City, New Jersey
Significance: Martha Stewart successfully transformed her interests in cooking, home decorating, gardening, and entertaining into a multimillion dollar business. By marketing herself, she established herself as an enormously lucrative domestic arts brand name and created a profitable domestic lifestyle industry.
In 1963, Martha Stewart graduated from Barnard College in New York City with a degree in European and architectural history. From 1965 to 1973, she worked for the brokerage firm, Monness, Williams, and Sidel. In 1976, Stewart started her own catering business, and by 1986, her business had grown into Martha Stewart, Inc., a million-dollar enterprise. In 1982, she published her first lifestyle book, Entertaining. The success of the book, which sold more than 625,000 copies, transformedher company into an enormously popular domestic style brand.
Throughout the 1980’s, the Martha Stewart name became synonymous with a particular vision of home style. Stewart showed her viewers and readers how to make their homes elegant economically, selling a version of the upper-middle-class lifestyle that was available to lower-middle-class consumers. She continued to publish domestic arts books and videotapes, host numerous television specials, and conduct lectures and seminars around the country. In 1987, the Kmart Corporation hired Stewart as a lifestyle consultant, and she started to market Martha Stewart brand-named bed and bath products for the discount store chain.
In 1999, Stewart took her company public on the New York Stock Exchange. By then known as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the company saw its stock price double on its first day of trading. The initial public offering sold for $129.6 million, and as the stock’s value rose, it made Stewart a billionaire on paper.
In 2004, Stewart was involved in an insidertrading scandal. She was convicted of obstruction of justice and served five months in prison. Observers noted that, because Stewart herself was synonymous with her brand, the company stood to lose far more than an average corporation whose owner was the subject of a scandal. Released fromjail in 2005, Stewart returned to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and worked successfully to rejuvenate her brand.
Bernadette Zbicki Heiney
See also: Book publishing; insider trading; Magazine industry; Television broadcasting industry; Tupperware.