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September 01, 2008

Exclusive Interviews

Executive Connection with Shelli Gardner, Co-Founder, CEO, Stampin’ Up!

image In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming spoke to Shelli Gardner, Cofounder and CEO, Stampin’ Up!, about Stampin’ Up!’s growth, culture and much more.

JF: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being top executive of Stampin’ Up!?

SG: Definitely not the lack of sleep! It’s the people. I’m surrounded by fabulous people both at the home office and when I’m with our demonstrators. For me, it’s about all the people I get to work with. I love our products, but I’m a people person.

JF: What has been your greatest challenge since assuming this position?

SG: In the early years when we were growing rapidly—now it has flattened out some—the challenge was managing growth. Now, the challenge is finding the right people. I look for people who fit the culture and understand the business model. We’re not retail sales. I want to be surrounded by people who love Stampin’ Up! like I do. They have to care about the people more than the bottom line. We have to make the bottom line, but it’s critical to understand that what makes us successful is the people. Revenue follows.

JF: How would you describe the ideal Stampin’ Up! demonstrator?

SG: I don’t know that there is an ideal demonstrator. Every one of them has a place at Stampin’ Up! Some are successful because they’ve paid off their starter kit and can now support their hobby. Another is Demonstrator of the Year or earned an incentive cruise. I love to watch them grow. I love to see them become more than they intended to.

JF: What is your vision for Stampin’ Up!?

SG: To see us all around globe. I see us making a difference in service as well as creatively and monetarily around the world.

JF: What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make at Stampin’ Up!?

SG: It wasn’t hard a decision for me, but for a lot of other business it would be. It was the decision to keep our manufacturing in Kanab. Stampin’ Up! should be manufacturing somewhere else, but the community needs our company. But that’s not logical in the business world.

JF: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at Stampin’ Up!?

SG: Integrity. Our principles are not stated in order, but integrity is at the top for a reason. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. But integrity guides us the most in our everyday decisions. I want employees, demonstrators and customers to feel they’re dealing with a company that’s honest, fair and does the right thing.

JF: Leaders usually draw on something or someone for inspiration, guidance and direction.  Do you have a hero or heroine?

SG: I have lots. My husband and family are who I go to and look up to more than anyone. I know my heart, the business and what we’re trying to accomplish. But I go to them often for counsel and advice. They give me insight I couldn’t see otherwise, because I’m too close to the situation. I hope and pray that as the business grows, my grandchildren will want to be involved, even if just to go to a convention and meet the demonstrators.

JF: Which other direct selling company or person do you admire the most and why?

SG: I love Doris Christopher, The Pampered Chef founder. I adore her. We have so much in common. We both started a company in our homes. She seems very stable, personable, real and genuine. She stands for integrity. I’m proud to say that I’m part of the direct selling industry along with companies like The Pampered Chef.

JF: What do you see as our industry’s greatest challenge?

SG: The Internet. It has been and will continue to be challenge. Demonstrators want to offer the personal touch. But we have to look at the Internet, because the world is turning to it. How to you keep people engaged with demonstrators as well as tapping into the convenience of going online? It’s one of our biggest challenges. Our industry has been personal and one-on-one for years. The Internet is changing our world, whether we like it or not.

JF: What is your favorite way to relax?

SG: Spending time with my family. I can never get enough of my family. From my sweetheart to my grandchildren. But I also love stamping. It’s therapeutic and relaxing. One of my favorite times is when I’m sitting in my stamp studio creating—usually in the middle of the night.