Martha Stewart is an American entrepreneur and domestic lifestyle innovator who built an international media and home furnishing corporation. Raised in Nutley, New Jersey, Martha grew up in a Polish American household where the traditional arts of cookery, sewing, canning and preserving, housekeeping and gardening were practised. She started planning birthday parties for neighbour’s children while she was in grammar school and paid her college tuition by taking modeling jobs.
She married law student Andrew Stewart while studying at Barnard College and their daughter Alexis was born in 1965. Martha worked as a stockbroker at a small Wall Street firm until 1972, when she and her family moved to Westpoint, Connecticut to restore Turkey Hill a Federal style farmhouse. After launching a catering business with Norma Collier, Martha’s talent for gourmet menu’s and creative presentation attracted a string of prestigious clients. Displaying a knack for self-promotion, Martha enhanced her reputation by pitching stories about her work and home to local newspapers and by contributing articles on food, gardening, and home decor to Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful and Country Living.
Her first book Entertaining, was published in 1972 and featured suburb art direction, gorgeous setting, labour-intensive recipes and decorating projects embellished with photographs of Martha's immaculate Turkey Hill home. This best-selling book established Martha's trademark aesthetic - genteel sophistication merged with casual intimacy and everyday practicality which catapulted her into the media limelight with a national book tour, speaking appearances, and television interviews. Marta continued to publish books on cookery, entertaining, decoration and also an incredibly successful wedding planner.
In 1987, Martha signed a lucrative contract with the discount retailer Kmart to serve as the company's lifestyle consultant. While helping Kmart elevate its down-market image by endorsing and promoting an exclusive line of home products, Martha received valuable national exposure through Kmart's expansive advertising campaign. In 1990, Marta signed a deal with Time Publishing to create a new magazine called Martha Stewart Living, based on the same entertaining and decorating concepts as her best-selling books. Martha was not only the Editor In Chief of the magazine but also the featured personality within the pages. By 2002 it was selling 2 millions copies per issue. Martha’s lifestyle empire soon grew to include further magazines, a checkout-size recipe publication, a popular cable television show, a syndicated newspaper column, a series of how-to books, a radio show, an internet site and $763 million in annual retail sales. On the cover of the May 1995 issue, New Yorker Magazine declared her “the definitive American woman of our time”.
Martha bought the magazine from Time Publishing in 1997. She funded the purchase with proceeds from her merchandinising arrangement with Kmart. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was listed on the New York stock exchange in 1999 and made her a billionaire.
In December 2001 Martha ordered the sale of 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems, a biomedical firm owned by family friend Samuel Waksal. The sale of her shares, occurred one day before public information about ImClone caused the stock price to drop and sparked accusations of insider trading. Marta stepped down as chairman and CEO of her firm in 2003, assuming the title of chief creative officer to distance herself from daily operations as she focused on defending herself against charges of lying and obstructing justice. After being convicted in 2004, she retained only an editorial role with the company. Marta served five months in prison followed by five months of home detention, during which she urged her fans to continue supporting her business.
Martha launched a highly publicised comeback – expanding her line at Kmart to include a line of readymade home furnishings and a paint line available at Sears stores. In 1997, she launched a line of homewares for Macy’s designing 2,000 items including bedding, bath, cook and dinner wear. She returned to daytime television and in 2010 she was appointed chief editorial, media, and content officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The following year, she rejoined the company’s board, and in 2012 she resumed her duties as chairman. Three years later it was announced that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was being acquired by Sequential Brands for $350 million and as part of the deal, Stewart would continue to serve as chief creative officer.
Marta continues to be hugely influential with 3 million twitter followers, over 800,000 followers on Pinterst, 200,000 subscribers to her You Tube channel and 2 millions likes on Facebook. Marta’s marriage to Andy Stewart ended in divorce in 1990. She currently lives in Bedford, New York and has a 35,000 square foot residence called Skylands in Seal Harbour, Maine.
So, why is she a #Houseproud hero?
Martha Stewart is a trusted tastemaker and icon of American domesticity. She skillfully built one of the most recognized and powerful brands through her award winning television programs, bestselling magazines and more than 20 books on cooking, gardening and home décor. Her taste was encapsulated in her trademark epithet "It's a good thing.". She says
“Doing projects really gives people self-confidence. Nothing is better than taking the pie out of the oven. What it does for you personally, and for your family's idea of you, is something you can't buy.”
Want to find out more?