A household name with lifestyle books, television shows and a lifestyle company under her name, Martha Stewart is a force to behold, and she is acutely aware of this having launched products that have resonated with audiences globally. Her secret though lies in utter confidence, knowing her worth and always staying a step ahead of her consumers. “When I started out, I really did have some pillars of excellence that I wanted my company and my products to reflect. And it has to do with quality and innovation as well as real function,” said Stewart. She was speaking at the second day of keynotes speeches at the Qualtrics Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City.
She continued by saying that the formula is simple and that businesses just need to figure out what people need. “I always ask myself, what do I need? What do I need out of a product? That may be style, or a specific product and I just watch that trend. So simple. It's a simple formula. But so few companies use such a simple form,” she noted, speaking about her influence over the public as to what other people should want in life. Stewart added that this is the age of influence where businesses have to reach the broadest possible audience with authentic, creative ideas and ideas that catch their eye and catch the spirit.
Stewart also acknowledged that she was an influencer before social media even came about. She added that technology is always moving fast, and as someone who relies on tech to get her opinion out there, she is always looking to figure out what’s next to stay ahead of the curve. “First you had Pinterest, then Instagram and now TikTok. I try to meet the founders of all these social media apps so I can understand what they're trying to get out [and why] and it works.”
She added that it is also important for brands to stay relevant in this fast-moving world. “You have to think about what might be rolling in next week or next month or next year,” she said.
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Besides staying ahead, it is also important that businesses are innovative and in order to innovate, according to Stewart, you need to fail. “If you are not failing, you are not pushing the limit. If you don’t innovate and evolve, I think you are not going to make it.”
How women can confidently break into the space
Moving seamlessly from talking about how brands need to innovative, Stewart began talking about how women can stand up to culture and convention in order to get their voices heard and to be successful voices in the world.
One of the most disheartening aspects of a woman's life is to figure out how to stand up to convention, culture and people in the office. It's a really hard thing to do.
Being brought up in home with three boys and three girls, Stewart added that she was always encouraged by her father to learn as much as she can, be a good person and to be strong. This foundation that allowed her to be "choosy" and bold in business as she started to break into the industry.
One of the most horrifying things that ever happened to me was when I was 16. I was a model, and I was called into an advertising agency to do a commercial and they asked me to bring a bikini.
She went on to say that she was under the impression that they were going to go to the beach for the commercial or that they would be needed for the work. However, she was horrified when she was told to put on the bikini just so the men in the room could have a look.
“I said well, thank you very much but I will be moving on. And that was very hard to walk away from an opportunity, but you can never be too desperate,” she said, adding:
That's another thing that I learned. Never, ever show desperation. You can always do something else.
She then acknowledged that as a woman, many can feel that despite their best efforts, there are still very limited opportunities at the top for them so when something comes, the best option may be to just grab it. However, Stewart adamantly insisted that confidence coming in knowing yourself and knowing when to walk away.
“You know there was once, I was trying to raise money for my company, and I went to a very prestigious banking group to ask for what I needed. And they said that sounds good, but they were insisting that they take 60% and I take 40%. And again, I had to get up and walk out of the room. It's hard to do that but you have to believe in yourself,” Stewart said.
She concluded her keynote by saying that she is currently working on her 100th book as well as on a documentary on her life in relation to her life and career and that she is excited to inspire more women with the documentary which should be coming out at the end of the year or early next year, according to Stewart.
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