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Martha Stewart smiles in a screenshot of a phone message wearing a suit, Masterclass

How to Build an Empire: 5 Key Lessons from Martha Stewart

Trying to figure out how to build an empire like Martha Stewart but don’t really know where to start? This post is for you!


One of the big questions we always get asked about successful women is, but how does she do it?

Martha Stewart is clearly an unstoppable force behind multiple awe-inspiring businesses that have captured the hearts of millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe. Hers isn’t just a success story though. It’s also a testament to her passion, grit and the kind of savvy thinking that can turn the things you love – your hobbies and interests – into a hugely successful business. Or businesses, in Martha’s case.

So how exactly did she do it? What made Martha stand out amongst the rest and become a household name? And how can you do it, too? Here are five key lessons to consider if you’re just starting out on your entrepreneurial journey:


1. Find what you love, and do it: Martha Stewart had several careers before becoming the businesswoman and media icon we know today. She worked as a stockbroker, the manager of a gourmet food store, and a model. After marrying (her now ex-husband) Andrew Stewart in 1961, she helped restore a Connecticut property with him and it’s often said that this is where Martha’s love for decorating became quite clear. She catered a book release event where she also served as hostess, and it was because of her standout talents in this area that Martha was contacted later on to develop a cookbook (and several more since!). She wrote newspaper columns and magazine articles on homemaking, food and decorating. Martha dipped her toes into many, many different spaces before finding what she loved, what she was good at and what she knew she could further develop.

Consider what your strengths are and what you enjoy doing?


2. Connect with your customers: From the very beginning, Martha Stewart had a clear understanding of what people want. She didn’t just build an empire, she created a movement that resonated with the very soul of her audience. Over the years, this has involved deep dives into market research, directly engaging with her fans through public appearances, sell-out shows and events, and creating offerings tailor-made for them – from cookbooks to homewares to merchandising ventures and collaborations generating multi-million dollar deals. She made people feel at home and personally connected to her, all while being her authentic self. In her Masterclass – Think Like A Boss, Martha – who is now 82 years old –  talks about the importance of not being afraid to embrace new technology, because that’s how to embrace new audiences too.

Think about who your audience or customers are and how you can best connect with them?


3. Embrace standards: Martha Stewart is known for her unwavering dedication to timeless quality. She has built a reputation around this very idea leading to high consumer satisfaction, soaring sales and industry accolades left, right and centre! That’s the power of Martha Stewart’s brand, and it’s certainly something to behold.

Consider what standards or ethics you want to apply to your business and how you want to differentiate yourself in your industry?


4. Innovation is key: Perhaps one of Martha Stewart’s most significant qualities is her ability to evolve and innovate. At 82, she is still as relevant and successful as ever. In her Masterclass – Think Like A Boss, she talks about the importance of engaging “people who are brimming with talent”, taking on feedback, reframing setbacks as moments of learning and adjusting to new expectations. When you stop evolving, you stop learning and Martha is still constantly learning.

What new lessons are you taking on for your business and how can they help you explore new directions?


5. Resilience: Yes, believe it or not, even Martha Stewart has faced challenges and set backs (umm, remember that stint in jail?). But she didn’t just weather the storm, she kind of thrived in it. She dusted herself off and perhaps emerged even stronger than before. Sure, it’s easier said than done. And certainly much easier when finances aren’t necessarily an issue. But it is a skill worth developing. How do we do this exactly?

Consider questions like, what are your strengths? What is your purpose and value to your audience? What problem-solving and coping strategies can you use? Are you being kind to yourself? Are you seeking help when you need it?


If you’d like to learn more about Martha Stewart’s roadmap to success, check out her Masterclass – Think Like A Boss, available now!

(Feature Image Credit: Masterclass)

Nehal is an award-winning news presenter, the author of "A Kids Book About Kindness Online" and the founder of CelebrityKind.