Women in Management

The Women of Mud Pie

It hasn’t taken any social movement to give women a strong role at Mud Pie. It started in 1988 at the very beginning. For an industry that 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 three and a half decade existence, Mud Pie has had a remarkable track record of championing women in leadership roles.

From that corner office – actually a space right in the middle of everything at company HQ – to design, sales, operations and distribution, the company has developed a strong group of female managers and employees.

While there are plenty of men to be found throughout the company, Mud Pie has cultivated a team that is among the most balanced, gender-wise, of any major company in the gift industry.

“Simply put, we always want to have the best people doing the job,” says Marcia Miller, who founded Mud Pie and remains very much the face of the company today. “In all honesty, 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 president, Fred Pannek. “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 in all roles is so inspiring,” said Katie Blazer, director of women’s fashion, who joined Mud Pie in 2008. “Women designing for women creates a sense of connection and empowerment. It reflects in our products and culture; we are the target customer, after all!”

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, 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 Shaeffer, director of sales and customer experience. “Working for strong women instills a passion in us as employees and managers—and that trickles down to our interaction with the customers on a daily basis.”

Inspiration seems to be an overriding theme, the women say. “I have the opportunity to work closely with founder and CEO, Marcia, and next generation, Lauren,” said Kristin Burke, director of planning and logistics. “It is exciting to witness the innate knowledge they have in understanding the customer’s wants and needs.”  Burke also credits the entrepreneurial style of management at Mud Pie to Miller. “Marcia has created a woman-centric work place where we can learn and grow as passionate leaders who create memorable experiences for our customers.”

“It’s empowering to work with so many amazing women,” said Andrea Ouargli, director of Ecommerce. “It also creates an atmosphere of great role models for young women just starting their careers. I know when I started in 2008, I was excited to work for a female owned company – Marcia is very inspiring and a wonderful mentor!”

Gina Cullen, vice president of product development notes, “The team at Mud Pie takes ownership in not only their specifically defined roles in the company, but more importantly an overall ‘what can I do to help’ approach to grow the business.” Cullen, who has been with the company since 2011, says, “The ‘anything is possible’ energy starts with Marcia, and in turn resonates with the employees, the sales force, the retailers and ultimately overflows to the end consumer.”

“Women account for over 85% of consumer purchases,” said Angie Pfeifer, senior national account manager.  “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.”

Michelle Labovitz, director of public relations, notes, “The entrepreneurial spirit at Mud Pie is something that Marcia has been passionate about since day one—it’s truly a part of the brand DNA. One of the things that drew me to the company initially was the sheer amount of women in leadership—I wanted to learn and grow from strong women whose footsteps I could follow in.”

In an era when women are rising to the top of the workplace hierarchy, it’s thrilling to see Mud Pie continue to champion women in a way that’s been done since 1988.