There's little arguing that TV personality and lifestyle icon Martha Stewart has built an empire with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The media conglomerate includes magazines such as Martha Stewart Living, TV and radio operations like Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius XM, and merchandising such as the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy’s.
Stewart is an entrepreneur through and through. And she thinks the U.S. needs more entrepreneurs like her, creating jobs and spurring the economy. One way she encourages the next crop of entrepreneurs is with the American Made program. Now in its third year, Stewart says American Made celebrates the rising stars of the growing "maker culture" and awards individuals for turning their passion for handcrafted goods into small businesses.
The program culminates with the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Summit, an interview and lecture series taking place this week and open to the public, at the Martha Stewart Living headquarters in New York City.
We caught up with Stewart ahead of the big event to talk entrepreneurship, inspiration and motivation. What follows are her responses, edited for length and clarity:
Entrepreneur: What inspired you to help entrepreneurs with the American Made program?
Stewart: I think one of the most important things we can do in America right now is encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow and thrive in this economy. We don't need [to be outsourcing everything to other countries]. There are so many young people looking for jobs, if they have the opportunity to create great jobs, then they can build a great, interesting business for themselves. That's what we need in this country.
Entrepreneur: How does American Made help these startups get to the next level?
Stewart: Well, we didn't want to give just one entrepreneur so much money to possibly discourage him or her from working harder. We decided to spread the encouragement over a broader group of people. We award $10,000 each to 10 winners selected from different categories.
Each also has the opportunity to be featured on MarthaStewart.com and in the magazine (Martha Stewart Living). They will be able to sell their products in Martha's eBay store, where they can earn more money than selling wholesale.
Entrepreneur: Who inspires you?
Stewart: There's no one person. I think we look to all sorts of successful entrepreneurs and large businesses for ideas. Did they get big by acquiring brands? Or did they expand widely enough to make their own mark? Entrepreneurs who want to be great also want to learn from others about how they can innovate and initiate themselves.
Entrepreneur: What would you say was your defining moment so far as an entrepreneur?
Stewart: Hm, let me think. Probably when my magazine's rate base hit 2.3 million. I remember thinking, "Gee, this is a really great accomplishment. The magazine is good enough to be really big and it's reaching the audience we want to reach."
I had a similar feeling when my merchandise line at Kmart hit $1.4 billion in sales. I was extremely thrilled. It's a lifestyle brand that, once again, was reaching the right customers with the right products.
Entrepreneur: What motivates you and keeps you going?
Stewart: I like to try new things, be innovative and creative. I try to do something that's satisfying.
I write a blog everyday that I hope will teach and inform people. I like to teach. It's what I wake up and do, and it's satisyfing.
Entrepreneur: What was the best advice you were ever given?
Stewart: It was from my father when I was very young. It was simple. He was always encouraging me, telling me I was a bright girl and that I could do anything I set my mind on. This, from someone I looked up to and admired. It made me think to myself, yes, I can probably accomplish anything.
I can't say enough about encouraging children. We need to bolster their dreams and their accomplishments.
Entrepreneur: Your recent book, One Pot, is all about making delicious meals that are easy to prepare. What's one must-make dish you'd recommend for frantic, busy entrepreneurs who never have enough hours in the day?
Stewart: You have to try the "One Pot Linguine." Why? I'm not going to tell you. Just try it. It's easy, delicious and nutritious.