“I admire the courage and self-reliance it takes to start your own business and make it succeed.”
Martha Helen Stewart (née Kostyra; born August 3, 1941) is an American businesswoman, writer, and television personality. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, merchandising, and electronic commerce. She has written numerous bestselling books, is the publisher of the Martha Stewart Living magazine, and hosted two long-running syndicated television shows, Martha, which ran from 2005 to 2012, and Martha Stewart Living, which ran from 1993 to 2005.
In 2004, Stewart was convicted of charges related to the ImClone insider trading affair and sentenced to prison. There was speculation that the incident would effectively end her media empire, although Stewart began a comeback campaign in 2005 and her company returned to profitability in 2006. Stewart rejoined the board of directors of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2011 and became chairman of her namesake company again in 2012.
Martha Stewart was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is the second of six children born to middle-class Edward “Eddie” Kostyra (1912–1979) and Martha Ruszkowski Kostyra (1914–2007), and is of entirelyPolish heritage. When Stewart was three years old, the family moved to Nutley. She adopted the name “Grace” for her confirmation name.
When Stewart was 10, she worked as the occasional babysitter for the children of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Gil McDougald, all players for the New York Yankees. Mickey and Merlyn Mantle had four sons, for whom Stewart watched and organized birthday parties. She also began modeling. At 15, Stewart was featured in a television commercial for Unilever. She went on to appear in television commercials and in magazines, including one of Tareyton‘s “Smokers would rather fight than switch!” cigarette advertisements. During her college years, she supplemented her scholarship money through “modeling jobs at $50/hour — which was a lot of money at that time”. Her clients included Chanel.
Stewart’s mother taught her how to cook and sew. Later, she learned the processes of canning and preserving when she visited her grandparents’ home in Buffalo, New York. Her father had a passion for gardening and passed on much of his knowledge and expertise to his daughter. Stewart was also active in many extracurricular activities, such as the school newspaper and the Art Club.
Stewart graduated from Nutley High School. She originally planned to attend Barnard College with a major in chemistry. She switched to art, European History, and later architectural history. To help pay for her college tuition, she did fashion modeling for Chanel. During this time, she met Andrew Stewart, who finished his law degree at Yale Law School. They married in 1961. She returned to Barnard a year after their marriage to graduate with a double major in History and Architectural History.
Andrew and Martha Stewart moved to Westport, Connecticut where they purchased and restored the 1805 farmhouse on Turkey Hill Road that would later become the model for the TV studio of Martha Stewart Living.During the project, Stewart’s panache for restoring and decorating became apparent. In 1976, Stewart started a catering business in her basement with a friend from her modeling days, Norma Collier. The venture quickly became successful, but soured when Collier alleged that Stewart was difficult to work with, and was also taking catering jobs on the side. Stewart soon bought her portion of the business. Stewart was also hired as the manager of a gourmet food store, the Market Basket, but after a disagreement with the owners at the mini-mall she was forced out and opened her own store.
Andrew had become the president of prominent New York City publisher, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.. In 1977, he was responsible for releasing the English-language edition of The Secret Book of Gnomes series, by Dutch authorsWil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet, which quickly became a blockbuster success and was on The New York Times Best Seller list. He contracted Stewart’s company to cater the book release party, where Stewart was introduced to Alan Mirken, head of Crown Publishing Group.
Mirken was impressed by Stewart’s talent and later contacted her to develop a cookbook, featuring recipes and photos from the parties that Stewart hosted. The result was her first book, Entertaining (December 13, 1982),ghostwritten by Elizabeth Hawes.
Following Entertaining’s success, Stewart released many more books under the Clarkson Potter publishing imprint, including Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook (1983), Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres (1984), Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts (1985), Weddings (1987), The Wedding Planner (1988), Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus (1988), and Martha Stewart’s Christmas (1989), among others. During this time, she also authored dozens of newspaper columns, magazine articles and other pieces on homemaking, and made numerous television appearances on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live. Andrew and Martha Stewart separated in 1987 and divorced in 1990.
In 1990, Stewart signed with Time Publishing Ventures to develop a new magazine, Martha Stewart Living, for which Stewart would serve as editor-in-chief. The first issue was released in late 1990 with an initial rate base of 250,000. Circulation would peak in 2002 at more than 2 million copies per issue. In 1993, she began a weekly half-hour service program based on her magazine, which was quickly expanded to a full hour, and later to a daily format, with half-hour episodes on weekends. Stewart also became a frequent contributor to CBS‘s The Early Show, and starred in several prime time holiday specials on the CBS network.
On the cover of the May 1995 issue, New York Magazine declared her “the definitive American woman of our time”.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
In September 1997, with the assistance of business partner Sharon Patrick, Stewart was able to secure funding to purchase the various television, print, and merchandising ventures related to the Martha Stewart brand, and consolidate them into a new company, named Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart served as chairman, president, and CEO of the new company and Patrick became Chief Operations Officer. By organizing all of the brand’s assets under one roof, Stewart felt she could promote synergy and have greater control of the brand’s direction through the business’s activities. That same month, Stewart announced in Martha Stewart Living the launch of a companion website and a catalogue business, called Martha by Mail. The company also has a direct-to-consumer floral business.
On October 19, 1999, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MSO. The initial public offering was set at $18 per share, and rallied to $38 by the end of trading, making Stewart a billionaire on paper and the first female, self-made billionaire in the US. The stock price slowly went down to $16 per share by February 2002. Stewart was then and continues to be the majority shareholder, commanding 96% control of voting power in the company.