{monday muse: martha stewart...}


first, the details: martha stewart - lifestyle guru - "was born martha kostyra on august 3, 1941, in new jersey. the second of six children, stewart grew up in nutley, new jersey, a working-class community near new york city." [1] stewart attended barnard college and yale law school, and later worked as a stockbroker on wall street. in 1972, stewart moved to westport, connecticut along with her husband and daughter. after restoring a 19th century farmhouse, stewart "trained herself from julia child's mastering the art of french cooking and started a catering business…within a decade, martha stewart, inc., had grown into a $1 million business." [2]

i think it's safe to say that martha started it all, which is to say that she made homemaking chic. she elevated all the things you do in a home - crafting, entertaining, cleaning, organizing, cooking - and took it to the next level. have you ever planned a party or made something by hand only to be complimented with, "look at you, martha stewart!" you know all too well that you've just been paid the highest compliment. it means you took the time to notice the details, to meticulously work out the flaws, to select a color palette that ties all the details together, to make the seemingly ordinary extraordinary, and, most important, enjoyed yourself. 



i wanted to write this monday muse on martha stewart because she has been the inspiration behind so many of my creative endeavors, most notably a stationery business back in 2007. she inspired me to create a business based on my strengths and passions. think of the countless professional lifestyle gurus that exist today, would they be here without martha's blazing trail? as i did research for this piece, i was hoping to find some kind of article that sang martha's praises. i hoped that someone had written an inspiring piece that articulated how martha opened the doors of possibilities for them. perhaps i didn't exhaust my search. most of the articles were very formal and about her many businesses. of course, we all remember martha's insider trading and imprisonment debacle back in 2004. (i found plenty of articles on that sensation.)

whatever you may think or feel about martha stewart, you have to give her credit for all that she has accomplished with her brand, and as a entrepreneurial woman. martha is a woman who blogs, tweets, oversees "two 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." [3] i also learned that martha is an insomniac and gets less than four hours of sleep per night! she is living proof that finding that thing you're good at - that thing that passionately fuels you - is where you'll find your greatness. "build your business success around something that you love - something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you." [4] this sweet spot is where you'll find your life's work and what you have to offer the world.

this post got me thinking, if you could work and learn from any entrepreneur, who would be on your list? who would you love to have as a mentor?


quote source: [1] & [2] & [3] martha stewart biography / in layout & [4] the martha rules by martha stewart
image source: nautical table setting / martha's kitchen / bouquet / young martha modeling in the 60's via styleite / wood bead necklaces


43 Send Me Your Thoughts:

  1. Really beautiful post, T. I'll gladly admit to loving and being inspired by Martha. Drive me crazy though she may, I can't help but admiring all that she has accomplished and being inspired by it. What inspires me the post about this post though are your questions on mentorship. Neel and I just had the best discussion on mentorship. He went to a medical school grand round talk on mentorship last week that he said was wonderful. It was on the history of mentors (I'll check with him on the lineage) and how important it is to have one. Neel has had great mentors throughout his career and is casting about for a new one. I haven't been as lucky, especially lately, and I'd like one of my own. Care to apply? ;)

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  2. Love the colors in that board you created! And yeah, now that you mention it, "Martha Stewart" has definitely invaded our lexicon as a compliment when someone is particularly domestic! Like me, for example. It is a compliment of the highest degree for sure! It's neat that someone with a really good aesthetic for setting a table or preparing chicken can capitalize on her skills and be so widely accepted. She made being domestic chic again. You've mentioned your stationary endeavor a few times, and I'd love to get a full post on that whole part of your life, including seeing some of your work! Happy Monday :)

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  3. That's a good question that you posed at the end.  I'd love to work for a small publishing house, just to see what it's like.  I sort of wish I was in college again so doing an internship type program was not abnormal.  In the Bay area I've met a bunch of very young entrepreneurs, determined to blaze their own path - it's all very inspiring and very nerve-wracking

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  4. She's a good one to highlight as she really started the whole biz of DIY, branding, entrepreneurship, and writing about "pretty things" that bloggers and others aspire to do daily. That's a good question, I would love to talk to Bethenny, Rachel Ashwell, Mickey Drexler, Jenna Lyons, Oscar de la Renta, Grace Coddington...too many to name. Great question! 

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  5. this is exactly what i needed to hear right now. i have always been ambitious and not happy when I'm not trying to accomplish 1 million things at the same time. sometimes i feel selfish about this, or that i'm doomed for failure. Martha has been and continues to be a role model for me. trail blazing the path for the rest of us female creatives.

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  6. I do have lot of respect for Martha and her accomplishments (did you know she worked as a model, too?) but I can't help feeling that she feeds the quest for perfection that a lot of women are on (especially housewives). I wish she'd loosen up sometimes. Just a tad. :)

    As for mentors, I'd pick David Hieatt (of Howies/Hiut Denim/Do Lectures fame) in a heartbeat! :D

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  7. It's funny how you found tons of stuff on her imprisonment but not on her achievements. That's Media for you.

    Of course she paved the way and I have huge respect for her achievements. Personally I find her too driven but appreciate
    her passion.

    Great photo of her modelling...

    As for mentors, i quite like Alain de Botton. I really admire where he's taken things and it would be good to bounce things of him:)

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  8. your quote is exactly my feeling.  lovely martha photos.  joy to you, t!

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  9. the images that you've chose tie together so beautifully. the colours are divine.
    martha is definitely a woman to be reckoned with... 
    "this sweet spot is where you'll find your life's work and what you have to offer the world." i'm working on it xxx

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  10. Lauren Lester SweitzerAugust 20, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    I love Martha, she's a genius and I think she gets a bad wrap for not being super warm and fuzzy. It's almost cliche to say, but if she were a man, no one would care that she's a bit aloof and would only focus on what a bad ass business person she is.  Beautiful post. I love your question at the end too - I think if I could pick a mentor, I'd pick Ashley Judd. She so seamlessly blends a passion for the arts with a passion for humanitarianism; she's also gracious, intelligent, and a bad ass.  I'd just like to see if some of those qualities would rub off on me too.  :-) 

    Very thought provoking, thanks again fro sharing. xo! 

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  11. I appreciate Martha's determination and well done on her success.  Her brand is a bit too perfect and unrealistic for me though, I totally agree with Chi on this one.

    In terms of admiring mentors that are women in business, of course there's Abigail Ahern.  Plus, because I have seen them speak and they came across so aspiringly in their determination, even though they are pretty hard nosed - Michelle Mone and Karren Brady.

    Lovely mood board by the way.  You must spend a lot of time sourcing images T?  I think my lack of time and patience is my downfall to be able to pull boards off as beautifully as you do x

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  12.  Love your mood board! Martha really paved the way for a lot of women, even though the brands aesthetics might be a little too perfect for me I still admire what she has accomplished. I went to an evening hosted by Apartment Therapy where Kevin Skarkey spoke, who works for her since 1995. From what he told us everyone at the Martha office is very passionate about what they do, maybe that is the secret to her success...

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  13.  I read his book The Architecture of Happiness and really enjoyed it. Maybe I need to pick up another of his books. Any recommendations?

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  14. Hi Nina, he has quite a few out... Religion for Atheists (v good) and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Also he wrote a book part of a series of 6 published by www.theschooloflife.com called "how to think more about sex"
    I can recommend all.

    Also have a look at this: http://bigthink.com/think-tank/anxious-depressed-literate-try-bibliotherapy
    I just love the way he is re-thinking self-development.

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  15. Funny, I've been thinking a lot about mentors, as well...As in, perhaps I need one. I'm going to do some research to see how to find a mentor, what you should look for in a mentor, and (once determined) how to approach that person. It would be nice to have a sounding board. Yes, maybe we could be each other's mentor - would that work? :)

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  16. Hm, you may have just sparked an idea for a post. It would be cathartic for me to get the experience out on "paper." Perhaps, it would even help someone who is thinking about starting a stationery business. Thanks for the suggestion, Erin.

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  17. Working at a small publishing house would also be a dream job for me. I would love to see the inner workings of the book industry. Not exactly the same, but when I lived in New York I worked for Bookspan (remember the mail order book club owned by Time Inc.?) We were surrounded by books and it was neat to visit the editor's offices downstairs, which were filled floor to ceiling with books. There was even an employee shelf where you could buy popular titles for .50! The Professional Chef? Yep, got that for .50!

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  18. You listed some very good ones! Funny story about Rachel Ashwell. Many years ago, my husband dragged me to a Tony Robbins seminar and as Tony surveyed the crowd and asked about people's issues/difficulties, Ashwell stood up. She only introduced herself by her fist name, but as soon as I heard her voice I knew it was her. See, even mega lifestyle gurus are working through issues. ;) Just proves, you never stop working on yourself.

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  19. So happy that was helpful for you, Amanda. You know, it was good for me to research her story and write this post, as well. You can't deny she has immense passion for what she does, which is very inspiring. 

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  20. Great Monday Muse.  I also admire Martha Stewart, although her style does not exactly fit mine. She is an exceptional person, with a very interesting story. 

    As for your question .... I don't think I've ever thought about that, funnily enough. I have to give it some more thought.  :)

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  21. Yes, I did know she worked as a model. That black and white photo above is a modeling Martha from the 60's.
    Ha, you read my mind, Chi. I had written a sentence describing how I wished Martha would go a little crazy sometimes...Less inhibited, but I later decided to take it out while I was editing. She is who she is, I suppose.
    Your mentor pick is a good one. I know you've written and spoken highly of Hieatt in the past.

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  22. Tina, that's exactly what I was thinking: That's media for you. Oh well, perhaps this post can serve that purpose [wink].
    I've never heard of Alain de Botton. Will have to look him up. I see Nina and you provided some great recommendations. Thanks girls!

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  23. Thank you, Noreen! It's a really great quote.

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  24. So am I, Leah. My feeling is I will never stop working at it, either. I'm forever a work in progress...The journey being the best part, right? :)

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  25. :) Martha is pretty bad ass. You bring up an interesting point about the man vs. woman and how no one would expect a man to be warm and fuzzy. I've heard this same argument for woman who are aggressive in the work place and termed *itches. A man with the same drive, wouldn't be anything less than a brilliant business man. Sadly, there are so many double standards in the work place. Someday the playing field will be leveled.

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  26. Abigail Ahern is another great example, Sam. I've not heard of Michelle Mone and Karren Brady. After this post, I've got some research to do. ;) You all have given me so many great recommendations.
    Actually, this moodboard was the easiest to make. Most likely because all of the images Martha uses speaks to my aesthetics. However, my monthly moodboards are the most time consuming posts I put together, if you can believe that. Searching and trying to find the perfect image to convey how the month is going to shake out is quite the challenge. Who knew? ;)

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  27. Oh, I would have loved to go to that event hosted by Apartment Therapy to hear Sharkey speak. My girlfriend used to work for MSLO. Your comment got me thinking that it would be interesting to do a little interview with her to see what it was really like to work for Martha. You're right, my girlfriend is full of passion and drive.

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  28. Holly, if after giving it some thought you think of mentor, please share. I bet you would come up with a good one. Thanks!

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  29. well there are definitely a few people i could list as mentors :) – martha has definitely accomplished a lot!

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  30. Martha doesn't get much exposure over here, I don't know an awful lot about her. I think there's a bit of an impression that she's a mental stepford wife but she clearly has another side, a ruthless business woman. I think it's interesting that she can combine both, I really like the absence of saccharine cupcakeness about her. I love that she went to prison, doesn't that give her a bit of edge? And I admire that she took it on the chin, took her punishment and got on with her life. Doesn't seem to have affected her does it?

    For me, currently, it would be Kelly Wearstler. The woman has forged her own path, put herself at the top of her game, found time to publish books and design her own fashion range whilst seemingly having a very well balanced family life. I think she finishes work at 6pm every day?

    I have a suspicion from reading Abigail Ahern's blog, as you've alluded to here, that the only way to produce so much great work is to not sleep very much at all. I get the impression that all of these women are on a relentless mission to churn out as much great stuff as they can before they die and that the set number of hours in the day is a huge limitation for them.

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  31.  How was the Tony Robbins seminar?  I'm interested in your thoughts as we have friends that go and do his seminars/bootcamps regularly.  It's their time out to work on getting back into flow. They are now vegetarians too and look healthier than they have done since we have known them.  His trainings seem to work.

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  32. Oh, now you've piqued my interest. :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Jennifer!

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  33. While I was writing the post, I was wondering if Martha is as popular in the UK as she is in the sates. She really did handle that whole prison debacle rather well. She writes about her prison experience in her book. She made the most of the experience and didn't look back. That's what you call resilient.
    I've got a little Monday Muse list started naming who I would like to feature, and Wearstler is on it. It will be fun to do the research for that post and learn more about her.
    Ah, Passion and no sleep - the secret ingredients. ;)

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  34. I would say that he is a personal preference. There's no doubt that he's a great inspirational speaker and motivator. However, you definitely need to be open to his approach. At the seminar I attended, we walked on hot coals which is suppose to be a mind over matter exercise. Also, on the last night of the seminar, he conducted an emotional baggage dump session. All the lights in the (huge) conference hall were turned off and every person was supposed to stand and say aloud all the things holding them back from their dreams, all at the same time. The session lasted for 30 minutes (?) with everyone shouting over each other and it got pretty emotional with many people starting to cry and/or get angry. As with anything, the experience can definitely be helpful and cathartic if a person is open to it.

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  35. Whoa, is that Marta in that B/W picture? I was lucky enough to meet her last year when she came here for a book tour and a cooking demonstration in SF (here was my post... http://shopsweetthings.com/in-the-city/martha-stewart-macys-san-francsico/) ... she's a really smart lady and everyone just seemed so charmed by her quick wit and humor. Would die if she was ever my mentor! 

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  36.  Thanks for the recommendations Tina! I will check them out...

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  37.  After Sharkey's speech I felt like I want to work for her ;) I would love to read about your friend's experiences  working for MSLO...

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  38. Hi Nina, he has quite a few out... Religion for Atheists (v good) and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Also he wrote a book part of a series of 6 published by www.theschooloflife.com called "how to think more about sex"
    I can recommend all.

    Also have a look at this: http://bigthink.com/think-tank/anxious-depressed-literate-try-bibliotherapy
    I just love the way he is re-thinking self-development.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Funny, I've been thinking a lot about mentors, as well...As in, perhaps I need one. I'm going to do some research to see how to find a mentor, what you should look for in a mentor, and (once determined) how to approach that person. It would be nice to have a sounding board. Yes, maybe we could be each other's mentor - would that work? :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hm, you may have just sparked an idea for a post. It would be cathartic for me to get the experience out on "paper." Perhaps, it would even help someone who is thinking about starting a stationery business. Thanks for the suggestion, Erin.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Working at a small publishing house would also be a dream job for me. I would love to see the inner workings of the book industry. Not exactly the same, but when I lived in New York I worked for Bookspan (remember the mail order book club owned by Time Inc.?) We were surrounded by books and it was neat to visit the editor's offices downstairs, which were filled floor to ceiling with books. There was even an employee shelf where you could buy popular titles for .50! The Professional Chef? Yep, got that for .50!

    ReplyDelete
  42. You listed some very good ones! Funny story about Rachel Ashwell. Many years ago, my husband dragged me to a Tony Robbins seminar and as Tony surveyed the crowd and asked about people's issues/difficulties, Ashwell stood up. She only introduced herself by her fist name, but as soon as I heard her voice I knew it was her. See, even mega lifestyle gurus are working through issues. ;) Just proves, you never stop working on yourself.

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  43. So happy that was helpful for you, Amanda. You know, it was good for me to research her story and write this post, as well. You can't deny she has immense passion for what she does, which is very inspiring. 

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