Martha Helen Stewart (née Kostyra) / b. 1941 / New Jersey, USA / Businesswoman, Television Host, Author, Publisher
I said, “Oh, my gosh. I know 20,000 people that will buy this book. I think you better print more.” They did. They printed 35,000 copies. It sold out immediately. They had to go back to press. It was a $35 book. It was expensive in those days, too. And yet it was such an instant hit, such an instant gratifying experience for me and I was—I became an expert overnight. And that’s what a book does. I mean when you hear all the authors outside, it’s that first book that makes you an expert even if it’s schlock.
You have to live up to a reputation of excellence. I, of course, was writing nonfiction so I had a grave responsibility to make sure the recipes worked, that the ideas were original, that the inspiration was there, that the photography was beautiful, that the production of the book itself was beautiful. Well, little did I know I was making a brand and that has come much later. I didn’t realize about branding until much later, although I had a natural inclination to create a brand. And that doesn’t happen very often. I have been told that by many advertising executives, by many Madison Avenue types that what I was doing was really making a brand, developing it, nurturing it, building it, protecting it.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
The ability, in your waking existence, to go out your front door and not be obstructed in any way. But there are always limitations, and there are limitations that are set by geographical boundaries, territorial boundaries, political boundaries that you have to live with and you have to understand those. We’re not so free that we don’t have to listen to rules, and laws, and regulations. Those are important. But the spirit, the freedom of the spirit, that’s what I think of American Dream, that we are free here to do what we want to do, what we set out to do.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
Loving yourself is good for your health.Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat: A Baking Book (2009).
Re: Stewart’s inspirations:
. . . in England, the Humphry Reptons, the William Kents, the Capability Browns; and in France, the René de Girardins, . . .Martha Stewart, Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying (2018).
Re: bad behavior by her male colleagues early in Stewart’s career:
You had to keep your cool and just do your thing, and brush them away.Martha Stewart, Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying (2018).
Re: the question whether Stewart smokes pot with her friend Snoop Dogg:
What do they call it? A contact high? That’s the extent of my getting high with Snoop, is secondhand smoke, which is pretty serious, by the way.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
Philosophy of Life
There is no single recipe for success. But there is one essential ingredient: passion.Widely cited; however, attribution unconfirmed.
Without an open-minded mind, you can never be a great success. The great artists have been open-minded, even though they may seem, like Picasso, to be very directed, you can be directed and open-minded at the same time. I think you have to be really intensely serious about your work, but not so serious that you can’t see the lightness that may also involve your life. You have to have that lightness too. You have to not be so heavy-handed and so ostentatious. It’s very important not to be.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
Learn something new every day. If you learn something new every day, you can teach something new every day.Interview with Parents magazine, 2013.
Broaden yourself. You don’t have to focus when you’re 20. I think the broader you are, the better it is. Later you can focus on your real interests and ideas. The ultimate goal is to be an interesting, useful, wholesome person. If you’re successful on top of that, then you’re way ahead of everybody.Interview with Seventeen magazine, 2006.
I’ve said it so many times, but take your life into your own hands. Don’t let other people direct you. Know what you want. I really believe in that.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
I knew I was strong going in and I was certainly stronger coming out. It was a very serious happening in my life. I take it very seriously. I’m not bitter about it, but . . . My daughter knows all the problems that resulted because of that. There’s a lot.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
We had a lot of chores at our house, a tremendous number of chores, but we were always granted the time to read. . . . I read everything from all the Europeans, the Russians, the English novelists. I read an awful lot of biographies that were very inspiring. In the children’s library there were those orange books. I don’t know if you remember those orange biographies of everybody, everyone from Harriet Beecher Stowe to the presidents. I read every single one. So that was a good experience.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
Stewart on Stewart
A: Living. Living. Everyday living. At home, in the garden, around the house, with the kids, um, on vacation, and it has always been for me a very serious subject. But to persuade other people that it’s a serious subject, not my readers, not my, not my followers, I don’t want to call them followers, my friends, but to persuade. . . .
Q: But the world is full of Martha wannabes.
A: Well, that’s great because we’re all trying to do the same thing. Live well.Interview with Charlie Rose, PBS, September 15, 1995; accessible on charlierose.com.
Re: hierarchy in Stewart’s companies:
There is no hierarchy in my life. I will wash the floor if I have to wash the floor. I’ll take out the garbage if nobody else has taken out the garbage. The CEO should be available to everybody at all times, if possible.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
Oh, I love to snowplow. I was out there actually for three hours before I realized it was three hours, and I was semi-frozen to death. But it was fun.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
I’m very inspired by nature—you could say Mother Nature. I look at things around me and get all kinds of inspiration daily. I also look at a lot of art. In New York, I get a tremendous amount of ideas by looking at the paintings and the sculptures, adapting artistic endeavors to crafts. There is a lot of inspiration around us that we can see every day and turn into projects.Interview with Parents magazine, 2013.
I have been perceived as arrogant. . . . I have sometimes probably forgotten, and I know I have, forgotten to pat the back of someone, or said, thank you, you know, enough times, or even maybe once sometimes. . . . I wish I were perfect. I wish I were just, you know, the nicest, nicest, nicest person on Earth. But I’m a businessperson in addition to a creator of domestic arts. And it’s an odd combination. No excuse. But if I were a man, you know, no one would say I was arrogant.Interview with Larry King, Larry King Live, CNN, 2004.
Q: Are you a perfectionist, or is that just the perception the world has of you?
A: I’m a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have this company.
Q: So being seen as a perfectionist is not a bad rap?
A: It’s the best rap! Nobody’s going to fault me for that. I have proven that being a perfectionist can be profitable and admirable when creating content across the board: in television, books, newspapers, radio, videos.Interview with Oprah Winfrey, “Oprah’s Cut with Martha Stewart,” O magazine, April 15, 2000; accessible at oprah.com.
I was married for 30 years. Isn’t that enough? I’ve had my share of dirty underwear on the floor.Interview with Us Weekly magazine.
Oh, I have an experience a day, at least. And it’s not like seeing Jesus Christ in a dream or something like that, it’s not a religious kind of experience that I experience daily. It’s more involving nature, involving natural resources, involving a special quote said by a special person.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
Re: Stewart’s move from New York City to the suburbs in 1971:
I was living two very distinctly different lives. And the life of the homemaker was more interesting to me than the life on Wall Street.Interview with Jada Yuan, “Martha Stewart Is the Original Influencer,” harpersbazaar.com, February 23, 2021.
I was the girl next door. I was the girl that all parents held up as the example to their daughters. Why can’t you be like Martha? Martha is the good girl. Martha is the good student. Martha helps her mom. Martha is the big sister. Martha knows a lot. She can iron a shirt but she can also write an A paper. So it’s that kind of thing, which is — I remember all of that very clearly. And my interests—well, I was a big reader. I still am. I was very curious. I still am. I was interested in many, many, many things and I still am.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
A: I had studied a lot of architectural history at Columbia during my Barnard years and I stayed in that library. That’s where I did most of my studying. And yet the lure of business was also kind of interesting, so instead of going to architecture school I went to Wall Street and I took a job with a small firm, and I learned not only how to do research in business and analyze companies, but I also learned how to be a super duper institutional stock broker.
Q; How long did you do that?
A: For about seven years. I’m like a grasshopper. I metamorphose every seven years.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
I’ve tried to figure out why it happens to a person, because I feel that I’m the same person that I’ve always been. I have grown and become probably smarter in my work, and developed and built a business that’s growing, and growing, and growing. But I’m basically the same person. My likes are the same. My tastes may have gotten a little better, or a little bit more educated. But still, I always get up and clean out the kitty litter. You know, I make sure everybody is home, all the animals. I go down through the garden and prune, and pick, and do all those things. I keep grounded, and by keeping grounded you can then see very clearly what’s happened to you.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
Re: the requirements of success:
For me it’s a dedication to your real interests. It’s an ability to be open-minded. Without an open-minded mind, you can never be a great success. The great artists have been open-minded, even though they may seem, like Picasso, to be very directed, you can be directed and open-minded at the same time. I think you have to be really intensely serious about your work, but not so serious that you can’t see the lightness that may also involve your life. You have to have that lightness too. You have to not be so heavy-handed and so ostentatious. It’s very important not to be.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
I still respect very highly teachers in general and I never allowed my daughter to criticize bitterly her teachers as many students do nowadays. The lack of respect is kind of hideous to me and I think that that lack of respect led to a lot of the problems in the schools and a lot of problems with the occupation of teachers.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
Re: Stewart’s first business, a catering business, based in her home:
That came in about 1979 when I realized that the work I was doing, which was original and creative, the preparation of food, the serving of food, the building of a business from a basement, it was just the time when women were finally thinking, oh boy, we better get back to work. I agreed. I agreed that we could—but I agreed—and I thought that we could probably do it from home.
I had to fight town regulations and rules and laws. I had to persuade the health departments that I could cook from my home. I had to fight very difficult neighbor problems. And yet I was sort of paving the way for a lot of women to go back to work.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
When I got married and had a child and went to work, my day was all day, all night. You lose your sense of balance. That was in the late ’60s, ’70s, women went to work, they went crazy. They thought the workplace was much more exciting than the home. They thought the family could wait. And you know what? The family can’t wait. And women have now found that out. It all has to do with women, or the homemaker leaving the home and realizing that where they’ve gone is not as fabulous, or as rewarding, or as self-fulfilling as the balance between the workplace and the home place.Video, “Martha Bakes,” 2016; accessible at harpersbazaar.com.
Re: Stewart’s first book, Entertaining (1982).
. . . because I stayed at home, because I still went out and picked the vegetables from my garden, and gathered the eggs from my chickens, and used all those things and the flowering roses and the lilies and everything from my garden, I created a style that I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t been organically interested in what was going on around me. And that is what gave me my edge and gave me the opportunity to realize that what I was doing was art. It was a kind of art that I could create a book from, and I wrote that landmark book.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.
I could write. I was prolific. I could write a book a year. To great advantage, I could get it on the bestseller list. My publisher was very happy. And I just kept writing, writing, writing, writing. Working so hard on these books but having the greatest time. And gradually becoming very well known in the country and again what everyone says, you know, she’s such a self promoter, but it wasn’t about self promotion. It was about filling voids. Every time I wrote a book it was to fill a void that I and my friends had to have filled. So when I wrote a book about hors d’oeuvres it was because there wasn’t a great book about hors d’oeuvres.Interview, “Discovering Everyday Good Things,” Academy of Achievement, June 2, 1995.