NEW YORK (AP) — There's no place like home to start a business, according to Martha Stewart, but being an entrepreneur can also pressure your personal life.
She would know. Stewart left a stock trading career in the 1970s to launch a catering business from her home. That business led to a book, a magazine and a media and home goods company that was worth nearly $2 billion at its peak. The company's value has fallen since and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. is now in the process of being sold to brand management company Sequential Brands for about $353 million. Stewart, who is currently on the board of the company she founded, gave up her CEO role more than a decade ago before serving a short prison sentence for lying to prosecutors about a stock sale. She now serves as chief creative officer.
Stewart is gearing up for the company's annual American Made event, where the lifestyle guru has been giving out cash prizes to small companies that sell hand-crafted products. Stewart also uses American Made to take questions and dole out advice to all kinds of entrepreneurs during a daylong summit. (This year's American Made summit takes place in New York on Nov. 7 and costs $300 a ticket.)
In an interview with The Associated Press, which has been edited for clarity, Stewart talks about how she got her start at home and the challenges of balancing a business and family.
Q: Why do so many small businesses fail?
A: I think because the entrepreneur gives up or the idea wasn't good enough or there was too much competition or they are lazy. You cannot be lazy and grow a business. Passion has to be accompanied by the willingness to work really, really hard.
Q: Some business owners have families, can they do it all?
A: You have to. I think balance is a really hard thing to find. Hopefully, you find a strong partner who will help you with the kids. I had a husband, a daughter, a beautiful home, animals; I still have all that, but no husband. The husband was the casualty of my business. I don't think balance is the right word anymore. It is much more about cooperation. Your lifestyle has to cooperate with your business.
Q: Is the home a good place to start a business?
A: I started my catering business in my basement. And that catering business led to a media empire and to a merchandising business. It's been a real fantastic thing for me and my company. You can start somewhere and without a huge amount of money. That's were most people get stymied, finding the money to grow their businesses. We talk about that at the American Made event.
Q: When did you feel like you had made it?
A: When I wrote my first book I realized that I do have a voice and the power to encourage others to do good things.
Q: So was getting the book deal when you realized you made it, or was it the reaction to the book?
A: Well, I knew it was a good book. Entrepreneurs have more faith in themselves than other people. You have to have faith in yourself; you've got to have confidence in yourself. I think it's terribly important to believe in your passion, and if you believe in it, you can develop it into something worthwhile.
Q: Your company recently agreed to be sold. How did you get to that decision, and how are you feeling about it?
A: I wanted to grow our business and I investigated many different things to do. We struggled in the last couple of years with less earnings than I would have hoped. This deal with Sequential Brands will be very good for our brand. We have a brand that is so strong and known worldwide and we have just not been able, with the management of Martha Stewart Living, to grow that business to match the brand. I think the expertise of the new team will help us grow it in many different ways. So I am very enthusiastic about it, and I hope that the deal closes very soon. I will be on the board of Sequential and be creative director, so my job is only getting bigger.
Martha Stewart American Made: http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade
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