Women in Management
The Women of Mud Pie
It hasn’t taken any social movement to give women a strong role at the company: it started 30 years ago at the very beginning
For an industry that so relies on women to buy its products, the gift business remains one of the more male-dominated sectors in the American economy.
But not at Mud Pie.
At a company founded by a woman and headed up by that same woman throughout its 30-year existence, Mud Pie has a remarkable track record of not just being another boys club.
From that corner office – actually a space right in the middle of everything at company headquarters in Stone Mountain, GA – through to design, sales, operations and distribution, the company has developed a strong cadre of female managers and employees.
And while there are plenty of men to be found throughout the company, Mud Pie has developed a team that is among the most balanced, gender-wise, of any major company in the gift industry.
“We always want to have the best people doing the job,” says Marcia Miller, the woman who started Mud Pie and remains very much the face of the company 30 years later.
“But I really think women are better at designing the products we make…and selling them too.”
And at Mud Pie, you don’t have to just be a woman to believe that. “Having a female point-of-view is the big difference at Mud Pie,” says Fred Pannek, president. “I’ve worked at companies run by men and it’s just not the same.”
“Working alongside such an incredible team of women, not only in management, but all roles is so inspiring,” said Katie Blazer, director of the fashion division, who joined Mud Pie in 2008.
“Women designing for women creates a sense of connection and empowerment. It reflects in our products and culture as our customer is in the forefront of our minds when creating product – we are the customer!”
Blazer, who overseas the overall direction of product development for the company’s apparel division, said that’s what separates Mud Pie. “Having that ability to relate to our customer is one of the amazing qualities that makes working at Mud Pie so special.”
That culture starts at the top. “I come from a long line of strong women, so it’s no surprise to me that women drive the direction of Mud Pie,” said Lauren Brekke, vice president of merchandise and Marcia Miller’s daughter. “The female perspective creates a great balance of a nurturing environment with a huge desire to succeed.”
“To be alongside Marcia and Lauren on their journey to create the best product in the industry inspires all of us,” said Ashley Schaeffer, director of customer service. “That creates a culture that supports that and certainly instills a passion that we strive to bring to our customers every single day with every single order.”
Inspiration seems to be an overriding theme, the women say. “I have the opportunity to work closely with founder Marcia and next generation Lauren,” said Kristin Burke, director of inventory and logistics, “and it is inspiring to see the innate knowledge they have in understanding the customer’s wants and needs.
Burke also credits the empowering taking-ownership style of management at Mud Pie. “Marcia has created a woman-empowered work place where we can learn and grow as passionate leaders who create memorable life experiences for our customers.”
“It’s empowering to work with so many amazing women,” said Andrea Ouargli, director of eCommerce, who has been with the company since 2008. “It also creates an atmosphere of great role models for young women just starting their careers. I know when I started 10 years ago I was excited to work for a female owned company – Marcia is very inspiring and a wonderful mentor!”
“The team of women at Mud Pie takes ownership in not only their specifically defined roles in the company but maybe more importantly an overall ‘what can I do to help’ approach to anything and everything that the company needs to grow and be successful,” said Gina Cullen, vice president, who joined Mud Pie in 2011. “It is a like-minded, goal oriented, spirit of collaboration and teamwork along with a passion for the brand that keeps everyone engaged and excited.
“The positive ‘anything is possible’ energy starts with Marcia, in turn resonates thru the company employees, the sales force, out to our retailers and ultimately overflows to our end use customer.”
Betsey Eastman, director of independent channel sales and marketing, agreed. “Having the chance to work in an atmosphere where you can share ideas and see them implemented almost immediately in incredible. I don’t know that it is limited to the women in our company, but I do feel that we bring a passion to our products in how we relate to them in the various stages of our life.
“We listen to our customers and are committed to provide the highest level of service possible in delivering a quality product at a reasonable price. We know what we want in the marketplace, and we work to exceed those expectations in what we sell and in the service we offer.”
Added Schaeffer, “To be a part of such a profound female leadership team at Mud Pie is something that keeps me motivated every single day. We say to be a Mud Pie Gal is to enjoy the finer moments in life and that our aim is to add laughter, inspiration, and joy to every day celebrations. Well I am sure I can speak for all of us Mud Pie Gals here at the office, that having the opportunity to be surrounded by strong and successful women who are brilliant in all that they do is at the heart of our daily enjoyment and every day celebrations.”
Of course, as important as culture and a peer co-working environment are, it does come down to Mud Pie’s ability to come up with the right products at the right time for its customers.
“Women account for over 85% of consumer purchases,” said Angie Pfeifer, director of national accounts, who has been with the company for five years. “As a female centric organization we are very in touch with our end consumer’s wants and needs which is a key component to the brand’s success.”
“The women in management and other roles at Mud Pie enhance the company by providing unique perspectives on what our customers enjoy and expect,” agreed Annissia Hanyard, director of distribution. “The positive contribution that we make influences product decisions, company infrastructure, product sales and distribution processes.
“And Mud Pie has a strong culture of inclusivity and one in which women are encouraged to spread their wings and continue to contribute at increasingly higher levels within the organization.”
“Let’s face it, when it comes to purchasing gifts, home decor and apparel, women are the ultimate decision makers,” said Ellen Fruchtman, director of public relations and a Mud Pie veteran since 2012. “Our consumers and retailers are primarily women, so we are designing for women, marketing to women and serving a female customer base.
“As a female-owned business and product-driven organization, it makes perfect sense that women are in key leadership roles within the company. The culture at Mud Pie is very much a family vibe with lots of love, laughter and support.”
Fruchtman has a final word that reflects that company vibe as well as anything. “By the way, the men of Mud Pie are pretty fabulous too!”