The Martha Stewart Story: How Martha Became a Household Name

Martha shares how she turned her passion for all aspects of everyday living—cooking, gardening, entertaining, decorating, collecting, and crafting—into a thriving business empire that has made her a household name around the world.

When I'm asked how and when I knew I would build a very strong and influential brand, I always say that it just "happened." It happened, but not without years of hard work and dedication, not without constant retooling of my peculiar and intense self-education in all things that pique my curiosity, and not without complete immersion in the idea of home and the vast subject of what I call "living."

Having a formal education was extremely important when I was starting out. Even if one had no specific career path, a college degree and even a graduate degree in law, architecture, or business were acknowledged advantages. I attended Barnard College, in New York City, majoring in history and architectural history. I also studied art, economics, and literature. After college I got a job on Wall Street, where I became an institutional stockbroker. The job taught me so much about what it takes to build a real business, a real company—a meaningful and useful enterprise.

Yet it was not until I left Wall Street that I discovered my true entrepreneurial bent. I loved ideas. I loved building. I loved creating. I loved making things that would enhance everyday living. And I loved making money as a result. I had established a thriving catering business, and less than a decade later published the best-selling book Entertaining. By 1990, I was the 49-year-old mother of a grown daughter, a divorcée, and I knew that I was onto something big. I've been dubbed a "late bloomer," and I love the moniker. I published the first issue of Martha Stewart Living that year, and have been pursuing my dreams ever since.

I have always considered myself a teacher, and I firmly believe that I had to learn in order to teach. If I was to teach the art of quilling, for example, I researched the subject thoroughly to find out what quilling was and why it existed in the first place, and to discover why anyone would create veritable works of exquisite art using tiny strips of paper carefully rolled and glued into amazing shapes and forms. I apply this same level of rigor to everything I do. I get the greatest satisfaction when I hear that someone has learned a simple "good thing" from me, or a more complex procedure, such as how to plant a shade garden or rewire an antique lamp.

My curiosity knows no bounds. I continue to learn each and every day, and will continue to teach what I know to as many people as will listen.

The Road to Success

Never one to be content with the status quo, I am always looking for the next great idea and opportunity. Here's a timeline of some important moments.

The Keys to Success

These are the words of advice I share time and time again. For more, pick up The Martha Rules.

  1. Build your success on something you love.
  2. Focus your attention on the basic things that people need and want.
  3. Create a business plan that allows you to stay true to your big idea and focus on the details. Then be flexible to change as it grows.
  4. Teach so you can learn.
  5. Use smart, cost-effective promotional techniques.
  6. Strive for quality in every decision, every day.
  7. Build an A-team.
  8. So the pie isn't perfect? Cut it into wedges.
  9. Take risks, not chances.
  10. Make it beautiful.
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