March 06, 2014
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox
CEO and Co-Founder, Stampin’ Up!
Shelli Gardner takes her cues as a leader from her experiences as a mother. “I remember when I was teaching my girls to make their beds; I could teach and show, but at some point, I had to step back and let them make the beds by themselves,” she says.
“That’s the philosophy I have about leadership—as long as our employees are remaining true to our values, I try to let them do their jobs. I know mistakes will be made, but lessons will also be learned.”
Like everyone, Gardner’s faced challenges in her 25 years at Stampin’ Up! In the early days, her lack of a college education and business experience weighed heavily on her. “I occasionally felt that people sometimes judged me on that. I was certainly conscious of it, and maybe wasn’t as confident as I might have been—but clearly it didn’t stop me!” It’s not so much that Gardner overcame the challenge, she says. “It’s simply something that time and experience have taken care of.”
In fact, it’s amazing how time changes things. Gardner says, “The first time I walked into a bank looking for a loan, the loan officer looked around and asked me where my husband was! That was 20 years ago, and I doubt—or certainly hope—that wouldn’t happen today!” It’s the only incident that she remembers when she ran into an obstacle simply because she was a female businesswoman.
Today, she is thrilled to mentor her own daughter Sara, who is now part of the Stampin’ Up! corporate team. “I love working alongside her, discussing business opportunities and challenges. Envisioning the future of the company and making decisions together has been a rewarding, fulfilling experience,” Gardner says.
The company takes personal development of all its employees seriously and provides companywide training and incentive programs in communications, physical fitness, emotional health, and education. More and more, Gardner finds herself drawn to her colleagues at Stampin’ Up! for her own personal development, rather than outside leadership conferences and classes. “I trust the people in our organization to understand our vision and values and to do their jobs. I learn from and am inspired by them every day!” she says.
Admittedly, Gardner is not captivated by the entirety of her job—she is grateful for people who are drawn to logistics, operations and order fulfillment. “I recognize that each of those pieces are incredibly important, and I certainly have a high-level understanding of those things, but because I trust the people who are overseeing those areas, I don’t have to worry about them,” she says. What she is passionate about is the creativity associated with Stampin’ Up! “I naturally gravitate toward the look and feel of our products, the projects that can be made from them, and the creativity we explore and express when we use them.”
Growing, stretching and innovating are what 2014 is all about at Stampin’ Up! After an economically challenging past few years with flat-line and declining numbers, Gardner says, “We’ve worked hard to stay viable where we could be positioned for exciting growth when the time was right. We feel like we’re moving forward toward stronger economic growth. We’ve discovered lots of challenges and opportunities as we’ve looked at how we can find the new—new customers, new demonstrators, new leaders—and we’re committed to supporting our existing demonstrators in their efforts to grow and strengthen their businesses in every way we can.”
Shelli Gardner on executive challenge No. 1…
“To find the right people and make sure they’re in the right place at the right time.”
Shelli Gardner on her personal development wish…
“To spend more time reading books and eating Rocky Road ice cream!”
In 1988, two sisters had a dream to enjoy meaningful relationships and express creativity. Stampin’ Up! fulfilled that dream, and 25 years later thousands of demonstrators around the world use Stampin’ Up! products to create handmade cards, scrapbook pages, craft projects and home décor, while making their own dreams come true.
Stampin’ Up! celebrated its 25th anniversary last year with a yearlong campaign aimed at renewing the company’s mission to make a difference. Service projects were woven into Stampin’ Up! Events, and the company increased its philanthropic efforts with Ronald McDonald House Charities from a national to an international sponsorship.
Stampin’ Up!, headquartered in Riverton, Utah, is an international company with distributors in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Austria and the Netherlands. Most recent revenue numbers indicate in excess of $100 million in annual sales.
Cover Story | Women’s History | Sheryl Adkins-Green | Claire Bancino | Meredith Berkich | Lori Bush | Dr. Oi-Lin Chen | Doris Christopher | Angela Loehr Chrysler | Kathy Coover | Shelli Gardner | Jessica Herrin | Wendy Lewis | Candace Matthews | Sheri McCoy | Cindy Monroe | Kay Napier | Joani Nielson | Meg Sheetz | Pam Sowder | Jill Blashack Strahan | Connie Tang | Heidi Thompson