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Living the Good Life: Stewart Creates an Empire

“All the things I love is what my business is all about,” says Stewart. After the success of Entertaining, she continued to pursue her passions through different avenues. Stewart branched out into videotapes, dinner-music CDs, television specials and continued to author books relating to cooking, baking, entertaining, holidays and house restorations. With appearances on television shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Stewart was making both her face and her brand instantly recognizable.

In 1987, Stewart signed a $5 million advertising and consulting contract with Kmart, becoming the spokesperson for their home department. Three years later, Stewart released another successful book called Weddings. Ironically, it was released on the same day her husband filed for divorce. While her personal life might have been deteriorating, Stewart did not let that stand in the way of her growing success.

Just one year after her divorce, Stewart launched the premiere issue of Martha Stewart Living, her own magazine that focused on the domestic arts. Initially a quarterly magazine, the magazine quickly reached a circulation of 1.3 million and was expanded into a monthly publication. But, Stewart’s most successful venture would come in 1993, when she created a weekly half-hour television show featuring similar homemaking content as her magazine. With Stewart as the host, the show’s popularity soared and it was expanded to a full hour show to be broadcast daily.

The extent of Stewart’s success was obvious in 1995, when New York Magazine declared her “the definitive American woman of our time.” Two years later, she founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), which would be the umbrella company to all her business ventures and would give her greater control. In 2000, MSLO went public on the New York Stock Exchange and by the end of the first day, Stewart’s net worth had become an estimated $1.27 billion. Today, the company has over 650 employees and generates revenues of over $200 million.

Stewart continued to enjoy success for another two years, until in 2002, she became involved in a stock scandal. Accused of insider trading, Stewart was found guilty of lying to investigators and was sentenced to five months in minimum-security prison. She resigned as Chairperson and CEO of MSLO and the company suffered with her absence. But, that would not be the end of Stewart.

After serving her time in prison, Stewart was determined to bring her company back from the brink. She refocused her energy on her Martha Stewart Living magazine, expanded her contract with Kmart, launched an interior paint line for Sears, and began to make a comeback on television. In 2005, Stewart teamed up with reality TV icon Mark Burnett to produce Martha, a daytime show much like her previous one, and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. While her version of The Apprentice achieved little success and was not renewed for a second season, Martha continues to rise in the ratings. Stewart also released a book called The Martha Rules, a guide for entrepreneurs on how to start up and manage a successful business.

Stewart continues to branch out into different avenues, namely real estate, launching a line of houses throughout the US that will be based on her own homes in New York and Maine. She also hosts a weekly call-in radio show on a satellite radio network that MSLO co-owns. One would be hard pressed to find today a medium in which Stewart has not made her presence known.

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