UMASS MAG ONLINENavigationMastheadIn MemoriamAdvertiseContact UsArchivesMagazine Home

Spring 2006

Departments

Exchange

Prerequisite

Extended Family

Foundation News

Alumni Association

Zip 01003

Books Received

Alumni Photos

Features

Running on Empty

Fill'er Up

It's Electric!

Getting There from Here

Full Steam Ahead

Beyond the Bluster

Cashing in Her Chips

The Art & Science of Diversity

Twins Be Nimble

Feature

Cashing In Her Chips
Words of wisdom from entrepreneurial alumni

—Charles Creekmore

Stacy Madison
Stacy Madison’s twin daughters, Samantha and Morgan, like their mom’s chips for snacking . . . and playing.
STACY MADISON IS THE COFOUNDER and brand name behind Stacy’s Pita Chip Company. The former social worker built the brand with her partner, Mark Andrus, from a sandwich cart in downtown Boston to a $60-million-a-year business employing 100 people. She has held such diverse jobs as scooping ice cream (in high school), waitressing (in college), and working in a facility for homeless, pregnant, and drug-addicted women. Stacy’s Chips recently experienced two momentous events, suffering a four-alarm fire on December 3, 2005, in which nobody was hurt, and being bought by PepsiCo, Inc. www.pitachips.com/

A Sense of Perspective: As terrible as the fire was, it’s part of the reality of being in business for yourself. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride. After working with homeless women and addicts, I really appreciate what I have, and it gives me a sense of perspective when something like that fire happens. I realize how that sort of thing is just stuff.

Selling Stacy’s Chips to PepsiCo: I’ll be phasing down my involvement of day-to-day operations, but will continue to be involved in upcoming years, serving as a kind of brand ambassador. Even though selling the company is an emotionally difficult process, I am excited about the opportunity it creates for both the staff and the consumers. It’s kind of like when you send your children off to college. Your responsibilities lessen, but you’re still working for their success.

Entrepreneurial Ethos: We were recently chosen as the second-best place to work of any company in the Boston area. You can think of each department as a little entrepreneurial zone that takes ownership over its own responsibilities. This reflects in the brand. All of the employees here believe they have to be good at their job, enjoy it, and love what they’re doing. The end result is that we have the best product on the market across the board.

The Secret of Her Success: You create an atmosphere of employee ownership by allowing people to work independently and make their own decisions. After the initial training period, you just have to let people take it from there and trust them to do their jobs, and then acknowledge their successes. For instance, when we land a new account, like we just did with Kroger’s, which means 1,500 new stores, we trumpet it to the whole organization.

Loving What You Do: My thesis was on job satisfaction. Not only did I put my thesis to work here at Stacy’s, but initially I put it to work for myself. I found out that ultimately I wanted to make money at what I enjoyed doing. That is the difference between work and a career. At Stacy’s I finally make a living at what I enjoy doing.

Stacy’s Relaxed Corporate Culture: I think people are going to give more of themselves and of their jobs if they’re comfortable in their atmosphere. There’s no deep philosophy behind this idea. Take, for example, coming to work in jeans and sneakers. When you’re in your office or on your computer, who cares what you’re wearing, as long as you’re doing your job and holding up your responsibilities.

Food for Thought: Our teamwork is not forced. It’s not dictated. Our teamwork stems from the CFO saying stuff like, “Hey, let’s have Favorite Food Day at the end of the month. Everybody bring in your favorite thing to eat, and we’ll all share.”

No Regrets: I enjoy adventure and spontaneity. The only time you regret something is when you don’t try it. That sense of adventure flows over into our culture at Stacy’s, because the employees are also willing to try something new.

Double the Fun: My twins just turned two. Being a single parent, my corporate life is easier than my twin life. The decision to have children was very much a financial decision. Having worked with so many single mothers, I’m aware that starting a family is a huge financial responsibility. So I needed to be able to take care of myself and children in a manner that I wanted to. That’s why I waited so long, until I was in my late thirties and was financially able. It took me that long to be both emotionally and financially ready.

Embrace Change: What advice would I give UMass students who are about to graduate and start a career? If you don’t have a firm sense of direction, start with the things you like. And don’t look at each job you try as a lifetime decision. People change jobs. People change careers. You have to be willing to accept change in your life until you find what you really like to do. So don’t graduate and assume your first career path is set in stone and this is going to be your life for the next 60 years. It’s not that big a deal.


[top of page]

Cashing In Her Chips

Cashing In Her Chips: larger image

© 2004 University of Massachusetts Amherst. Site Policies.
This site is maintained by lcahillane@admin.umass.edu