Martha Stewart Reveals Success Secrets at HBS
Women's Business Leadership Conference draws crowd of 820
Business sense, along with five-layer coconut cakes and 100 percent linen sheets, "is a good thing," according to Martha Stewart.
Stewart proved she is a sharp entrepreneur as well as a domestic goddess as she described the secret of her success with her housewares business empire at the eighth annual Women's Business Leadership Conference yesterday.
The conference hosted 820 students, professionals and community residents for an all-day series of lectures on "Women Enriching Business," according to conference co-chair Elizabeth R. Caputo '94, a second-year MBA student. The Women's Student Association (WSA) of Harvard Business School (HBS) sponsored the conference along with the Committee of 200, a group of top women entrepreneurs in the nation.
HBS Dean Kim Clark kicked off the conference with a brief address, then turned the floor over to the keynote speakers, Stewart, chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and Sharon Patrick, president of the enterprise.
Stewart and Patrick's speech described Stewart's lucrative business empire, from television programs to a line of K-Mart products, and catalogued the reasons for Stewart's success, including limiting her sleep to four hours a night, according to Danielle A. Hootnick '99. Stewart also displayed a variety of her products for the audience.
Hootnick, the undergraduate coordinator for the conference, attributed much the conference's success to Stewart. The attendance doubled last year's.
Eliza W. Harrington '00, one of the 50 or 60 undergraduates who participated, said Stewart's presence is what attracted her to the conference.
"I really went for Martha Stewart and then I hung around the rest of the day. Business is not something I'm interested in," she said.
Harrington said Stewart did not disappoint.
"I thought it was great because she's my secret idol. It wasn't too enlightening, but just inspiring. She's planning to take over and redecorate the world," Harrington said.
Caputo said the crowd was responsive to the speech because it is an empire dominated entirely by women. She praised Stewart's commitment to support the members of the conference; Stewart stayed an hour after her speech to sign autographs and take pictures with participants.
Conference Marketing Director Melissa Grigorieff, a second-year MBA student, said WSA's emphasis on outreach, to the media and to area schools, was also responsible for the record crowd.
After the keynote address, the conference broke into sessions with topics including "Launching Your Career" and "Women in Business: A Historical Perspective."
Participants then attended panels dealing with several business-related industries, like consulting, public policy and health care.
Several other business luminaries also spoke at the conference, including Laurie Younger, chief financial officer of ABC; Joan Helpern, president of Joan and David Shoes; and Pamela Thomas Graham, a partner at McKinsey & Company.
According to Hootnick, the luncheon that followed gave the younger women an opportunity to talk with the older women about their experiences in business.
"You could sit at industry-specific tables," Hootnick said. "Conferences like this one form an informal support structure for women to see women who have succeeded while still having families."
The organizers strove to teach partipants about balancing business and personal issues with a series of "Business and Life Skills" sessions on topics such as communication skills, running a family business and cross-cultural issues facing women entrepreneurs.
Mentoring is integral to the Committee of 200, whose members own businesses with annual revenues of more than $10 million in annual revenues or manage corporate divisions with more than $50 million in annual revenues.
"They're constantly looking for ways to improve the role of women in business," Grig- The conference ended with a cocktail reception,a presentation of artwork to commemorate the 40thanniversary of female students at HBS and aperformance by "The She-E-O's," HBS's female acappella group. Grigorieff said the conference provedespecially important to HBS because its studentbody is only 29 percent women. "Women came out of this conference excitedabout the opportunities and they saw really greatrole models," she said
The conference ended with a cocktail reception,a presentation of artwork to commemorate the 40thanniversary of female students at HBS and aperformance by "The She-E-O's," HBS's female acappella group.
Grigorieff said the conference provedespecially important to HBS because its studentbody is only 29 percent women.
"Women came out of this conference excitedabout the opportunities and they saw really greatrole models," she said