Martha, Inc.

MS Martha, Inc. (2003) is the story of Martha Sterwart, arguably one of the most succesful American women entrepreneurs of our time. The movie takes us to Martha’s childhood, her experiences in the family she grew up in, and her sense of competitiveness. It introduces us to her frustrations, her anxieties, and her failures. But, perhaps more importantly, it shows us her willingness to grab at and leverage every opportunity that came her way. The movie chronicles the rise and fall of Martha Stewart, but it is her rise from being a nobody to being an iconic entrepreneur in the country which most viewers of this movie are interested in (I think).

I don’t know how accurately this movie portrays the real life of Martha Stewart. We know that Hollywood movies, even those made on famous people, take at least some liberties with the truth. I admit that as yet I don’t know how much of the Martha Stewart presented in this movie is fictional and how much of her is real. Of course, if any of you know much about Martha, we would love to hear from you and what you think of the movie  


16 responses to “Martha, Inc.

  1. When I watched the movie Martha Inc., I was reminded of the concept of synergy from my Principles of Marketing course. The concept of synergy is essentially cross promoting products. Multiple products would be cross promoted through multiple mediums. In this way, advertised in a catalog is used on television or in a magazine. If the products are made from different companies and are shown to be useful together, this creates an increased demand for the products. This can be a powerful tool to increase sales of products for new businesses as well as existing ones.
    The principal of synergy was demonstrated when Martha wanted her ideas, books, and products to be shown and cross referenced in her television show and her magazine. She wanted to boost the sales of her products by referencing them in different mediums. This gave her ideas and products greater visibility.
    In the movie, Martha used synergy to create a powerful empire based on her name and reputation. She invented herself as a product and promoted herself through books, magazines, television, and radio. This gave her great power and enabled her, through some interesting fund raising tactics, to take over the brand that had been built and turn it into her own company.

  2. Prior to watching this movie I was not a huge Martha Stewart fan, but I did enjoy this movie. I liked how it showed her family life and how she grew up. This showed me where she got her drive…from her father. She always had a desire for success. It began by baking birthday cakes for those in her neighborhood, and continued on when she took a chance on modeling. She found her true success when she began a catering business. This business was the stepping stone for her other ventures, including K-Mart. She took her partnership with K-Mart to great levels, which included her brand name on the items sold, to her own magazine, and eventually, to her own television show. Martha showed that she was a powerful business woman when she got the money to buy out her contract with Time Warner to start her television show. She knew what she wanted, and worked hard to get it even if it meant giving up time with her family, and eventually having her marriage destroyed. Martha did not make the most ethical decisions, which we have all heard about, but she did pay the price for it, and continues to have great success. After watching this movie, I am a bigger Martha fan than I was before.

  3. Mike Stoltenberg

    As Heather stated earlier, prior to watching this move I didn’t like Martha Stewart, and I still do not. I think that Martha Stewart is a very unhappy and smug individual. This movie proved it. However, I did enjoy watching the movie and learning how she built her empire. One thing she did not lack was confidence. Throughout the whole movie her focus was alwasy on herself and how she can become more rich or more famous. The fact of the matter is that she does have a great understanding of the areas of gardening, home decor, baking, etc… And she obviously knew this because it made her more and more stuck up and selfish, which ultimitely lead to her husband leaving her and many conflicts with multiple business partners.
    The one thing I did learn from this movie was that when you have the drive to achieve something, there is not too much that can stop you. Seeing Martha conquer these obsticles, one after another, was very motivating.

  4. Meghan Behrens

    I enjoyed this movie alot. The one thing that was a shock to me was the fact that she was just a mean women alot of her life. I know that it may not be accurate that she was like that but if she isn’t that doesn’t portray her in a good way at all. When you watch her on TV she seems like she is a really nice and thoughtful women but in that movie she was nice on TV but mean behind closed doors. She did very good for herself but I don’t think that I could do what she did to her life no matter what it would be worth. She treated her family like they were second in line and that would not be the life that I would want. I think that even with everything that she was doing she needed to find a way to balance her life together. She blamed it on her husband when he wanted to leave when it was really her fault. And like I said earlier it’s hard to know if all of the movie is true but just by watching the movie I was shocked by the way that she appeared to be.

  5. When I watched the movie Martha Inc., I was reminded of the concept of starting small with your business and expanding later. This concept was talked about in this class, Entrepreneurial Foundations. You see this happen with several entrepreneurs and their businesses. For example, many people start their businesses with only a few customers: family and friends. They do this because sometime it is their only choice when they don’t have a large budget for marketing. A lot of times their family and friends will do the marketing for them by word of mouth and already established friendships. Not only do most of these start-ups have a small client-base but they also have a relatively small product/service offering. This often happens with time and experience. Many entrepreneurs start out doing what they are good at and expand with other products as they come up with new ideas along the way of their business.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and learned a lot about Martha Stewart that I had never known before. I think she has a huge amount of talent and will be around for a very long time.

  6. billwickes0420

    Before watching the movie Martha Inc., I didn’t care or have any respect for Martha Stewart. However, after watching the movie, I noticed a different side to the lady. A side that consisted with rudeness and the go for the jugular type of attitude. In her personal life, I thought that she held herself on a platform above her family and friends. In the business work, that go for the jugular type of attitude is what allowed her to become the person she is today: “the queen of cooking and house hold creations.”

  7. Trevor Luchsinger

    I watched Martha Inc. and i was very impressed at how intense this woman is. She has a lot of ambition that will carry her much farther than she has aready gotten. This movie showed that she does care about herself and will put herself above others, but she has a real heady ambition in her work. All in all it was a good movie though.

  8. This film is an excellent portrayal of what it takes to become a member of top management in a company. While some individuals may work their way up in the ranks of an already established corporation, very few build an empire from the ground up, as Martha Stewart was able to. This film highlights the struggles that she went through in building that empire and the price that she had to pay for her fame and success.
    The movie is shown in a “flashback” mode as we jump back in time to see how Martha’s beginnings were and how she developed into the marketing mogul that she is today. There is no doubt in the opening scenes that she has made it as a top management executive of the empire that she created. With all the dinner parties, photo shoots, book signings, and other obligations the audience is given a brief glimpse into the busy and demanding life of an executive officer of any empire. The movie quickly shifts focus to the implication of insider trading and the dumping of shares by Martha Stewart. This is where we begin to see where Martha’s drive to become a brand begins.
    We see that Martha has a competitive drive to succeed at a very young age, as she bakes her cakes and sells them to neighbors. Likewise she puts a effort above and beyond everything that she does, even planning for the decorations for her high school prom. A hint of her family life is also shown as we are introduced to her mother, siblings, and father who had the most profound impact on Martha’s personality and determination to succeed. The father says that if you “want something bad enough, you have to go out there and get it yourself,” and that is just what she is determined to do.
    With some encouragement from her father and a realization that she had marketability, she begins her pursuit of being someone in this world. She starts working in commercials and even pursuing a modeling career. This is all halted when she marries Andy Stewart. Money is an issue at the forefront of their marriage from the beginning and Martha consistently seeks to better herself and her family. Though life is going well as Martha has become a stock broker, the first instance of unethical action comes into light, when Martha takes part in an insider trading and market rigging effort.
    After a loss from the trading scandal, Martha and her family are forced to relocate. Martha is still determined to make something of herself and focuses on what she is good at, attention to detail. She fixes up her antique house and begins selling pies at the local grocery store. When crossing paths with an old friend they start up an “Uncatered Affair” and Martha’s road to stardom has begun.
    From here Martha’s career skyrockets into places beyond that which she or her family could have imagined. She gets her own personal assistant, and begins writing books and hosting Christmas specials on television. However her success is not without a cost, she slowly begins to lose that which is most important in her life, her family. Money again seems to be the issue as Martha believes that Andy just wants money. She echoes her father as she tells Andy that “you don’t get it, it’s all my money!”
    Using the success that she developed, she becomes the spokeswoman of K-mart and demands that they offer products that are up to her standards of beauty. A scene that shows the depth and breadth of Martha’s brand is when she enters into negotiations with Time Warner regarding the start-up of a magazine called “Martha Stewart Living.” She throws around marketing terms such as the synergistic nature of her brand and how she will strengthen the brand with her name. This just goes to show how she has placed herself above that of those companies and sees herself as a brand in itself.
    Once the magazine has become a success Martha believes that she is now entitled to her own television show. Wanting control of the entire process herself she buys her way out of the contract and signs with a new company. She successfully negotiates a new contract with K-mart stores and fulfills her quest to become a media icon.
    Ultimately the movie is left in suspense as the notions of her insider trading are really left on the outskirts of this film. They fail to dig into that unethical nature of her actions and the fact that she was sentenced to jail time for her misdoings. These points, which should have been included in the film, are not something that should not be made light of; they need to be taken seriously and are important lessons to future business personnel. Although she became a huge celebrity and achieved a position of top management that is beyond that of many, one must think was it all worth it? In achieving her dream she lost her family and may have damaged her reputation and tarnished her name and for what, some towels and sheets with her name on it. I think that it is important that those in top management positions or seeking to one day be in such a position, examine what happened to Martha Stewart and take it as a lesson to the heart. Though some may be happy with the path that Martha took I feel that the majority of people would feel empty and unsatisfied in the end. After all what good is a big office and a bunch of money when you have no one to share it with?

  9. The movie “Martha, Inc.” shows that the qualities that make a good leader can also break you as a leader and role model. The movie also shows how a gain in success and power can change one’s actions, attitudes, and priorities.

    There is no question that Martha Stewart embodied many of the great characteristics that make a strong leader. She is highly motivated, has a “don’t take no for an answer” attitude, is never content with achievements, and is extremely goal oriented. Throughout the movie you can see that Martha’s number one goal, which started at age 9, was to make money. She started baking for her neighbors at age 9, she took up modeling in high school, and she was constantly reading Business Weekly and researching successful women in her day. She knew that she wanted to have money and live ‘the good life’, the only question was how.

    You can see the toll that power takes on Martha’s actions and attitudes once she starts to become successful with her catering business. Before she is well known, even though she is very committed to modeling and making money, she makes some decisions based on feelings…like a human being. For instance, even though she worked so hard to go to Paris for modeling, she did not want to leave Andy, so she decided to follow her heart and stay to marry him. However, once she gained public attention and power, you can see her actions and attitudes change for the worse. Her decision making process switches from following her heart and doing what is best for her family, to only worrying about money, her empire’s growth, and public perception. In the early stages of her catering business she even chooses to cater one party knowing that she would probably lose her business partner and best friend. It eventually got much worse when she basically chose her work over her daughter and husband.

    Basically, a good take-home lesson from Martha, Inc. is that no matter how successful you are or how much power you have, you are not above the law. You must always know your boundaries and always keep your priorities in order. No matter how successful you become, always remain grounded.

  10. I found Martha Inc. very interesting and informative. It also made me realize how ignorant my view of her was. I had not realized how ambitious, competitive, business savvy, deceitful, and well, neurotic she was. It seems evident that her drive and competitiveness were in large, influenced by her environment growing up, particularly because of her father. It also seems ironic that as portrayed by the movie Martha became everything she never wanted to be. For example, early in the movie Martha’s mother made the comment to Martha “you’re just like him” (referring to Martha’s father) and Martha’s response was “don’t ever say that.” At the same token, when Martha is confronted with the possibility that she might be pregnant she tells Andy that she doesn’t want to end up in the suburbs raising a family like her mother. In the end Martha ended up being exactly her father and her mother.

    Although Martha does end up letting her power, fame, and wealth control her, I very much envy her persistence and reluctance, for lack of a stronger word, to accept “no” for an answer. Martha new what she wanted, had dreams and goals, and was determined to accomplish them. Martha’s great business sense allowed her to achieve her goals. She was persuasive and demonstrated to her employers why and how she would make them and herself profitable. She incorporated valuable business ideals such as cross-promotion and synergy, which allowed her create great liaisons. I found this very admirable. However, I did not always care for the means in which she tried to advance herself. Martha developed what I would consider a bad habit at a very young age. That habit is that of being deceitful. This habit is shown when Martha was younger, by giving an incorrect cake recipe to her “friend,” all the way through her adulthood when she gives her “friend” a poor advice for investing and then goes behind her back after they set-up a catering “partnership.” I also think Martha is exceptionally sad and pathetic. She went from having dreams and goals to just wanting absolutely anything and everything that would make her wealthier, in monetary terms anyhow. Like when her husband, Andy, mentions writing a book about gnomes, Martha thinks it’s a completely ridiculous idea, however after it turns out to be a great success, Martha thinks it’s amazing.

    I think the movie did an excellent job of victimizing Martha.

  11. “Thank you for this award, I would like to thank all the small people I stepped on to get here”

    While I do not know how accurate this movie was in depicting Marta Stewart, I do believe the quote above depicts how she got to the top. The sense of entitlement that Martha Stewart has in this movie is about the same as 16-year-old girls in the show ‘My Sweet 16.’ Martha used family and friends to get to the top and when they were no longer useful, she threw them away. It is wrong to think that this is the only path to the top.

    Do not get me wrong, many people have reached the top of the corporate world with this mentality. However, I believe they are the same people who turn out lonely, depressed, and never find true friendship.

    I was going to continue about how there are better ways to reach the top of the corporate world. However, I read an article in business week about Generation Y and thought about how they were describing our generation. Does anyone find similarities between the characteristics of Generation Y and Martha Stewart in this movie?

    You cannot read an article in the news about Generation Y that does not include the fact that employers find them self-absorbed. Generation Y, like Martha Stewart, wants it all and they want it yesterday. The WSJ reports on a study done by Jean Twenge, “The average college student in 2006 was 30% more narcissistic than the average student in 1982.” (

    This trend is also carrying onto the workplace. Employers are finding that if they do not continually complement young employees they will think that they are not doing a good job. It gets to the point where young employees are being complemented for coming into work on time!

    While I would like to continue, I rather bring this up in class and hear out other peoples opinions. Looking back, I guess I am guilty of ‘calling the kettle black.’

  12. Jennifer Gilligan

    The movie “Martha Inc.” shows how Martha Stewart started the great empire she is known for today. Martha started at the young age of five, baking cakes and selling them to neighbors. She was motivated to be successful from early on. She continued on to make her own clothes and modeling. The need to be successful drove everything she did. When she felt that her husband was not bringing in enough money to support them properly she made a career change and became a broker. It seemed as though she would not be happy until she reached the top.
    Martha had many qualities that made her an effective manager. She was very good at negotiating and selling her ideas. Because of her need for perfection and knack for persuading she was able to host her own show, start her own magazine, and start a brand line of Martha Stewart products. She became an icon in the eyes of many consumers and they were willing to buy anything she put her name on. Although she was not always the friendliest to those close to her she knew what she had to do in order to be successful. Martha Stewart drove away most of her friends and family in her climb to the top but in the end she gained the empire she’d always wanted.

  13. ‘Martha, Inc.’ reminded me of a lesson I learned a long time ago, but is nonetheless worth recalling. The lesson is that, as often as necessary, we each need to reevaluate what success is worth. I think (read: I hope) we all understand that to get something of value you need to sacrifice something – whether this is time, a relationship, or anything else of value. Some of you will undoubtedly call me naïve for this, but I know that success is not worth much when it only comes at the price one sacrifices when you get to the top clawing over hundreds of people you’ve left behind for dead. Maybe, just maybe, if the only way to the top is by doing it Martha’s way, well, that might not be the place some of us want to get to.
    Maybe you can’t put a price on being part of a happy, loving family. I suppose if you are one of those who view a family as a ‘marketing ploy’, or otherwise dispensable, this rant will fall on deaf ears. Just watching Martha scream at her family to ‘have a good time’ at Thanksgiving likely speaks louder (sorry for the pun) than anything I can write.
    I initially thought I would use my blog in an effort to refute Mr. Pereira’s claim that Martha was the original Gen Y-er. However, after reviewing the facts, and thinking about the Martha’s incredible entitlement complex, I had to rethink my position. Perhaps Martha does fit in relatively well with some of these new entitlement problems we discussed in the first week of class. Maybe her belief that anyone who does not do things her way, or can’t make tartlets like her, actually proves that they are not as good a person as she, does fit into our generation’s beliefs.
    Maybe we don’t have to win the corporate rat race with a pile of skeletons, each one with a former friend’s name attached to its toe, to be ‘successful’. I’m thinking only Martha’s version of success includes a thousand skeletons in the closet…but certainly not any success I would want.

  14. Martha Stewart is the perfect example of how NOT to behave when in a position of top management. While demonstrating great ambition (more on this later) and intelligence, she was completely lacking in interpersonal skills. She alienates and betrays everyone she’s close to, friends and family. This is made quite clear when she did on-the-side catering behind Norma Collier’s back and pocketed the extra cash. Unlike Norma, Martha forsook her family for her career. Whether this was done for greed or ambition is unclear. Personally, I think it was too much ambition.

    Her childhood, specifically her father’s expectations of her, provide a good context for Martha’s behavior in adulthood. The constant pressure to be perfect followed her into adulthood and manifested itself in a form of ambition so great it destroyed Martha’s personal and, almost, professional life. There is such a thing as too much ambition, and Martha exuded it to a point where she became so sick she could not see what she had become.

    What I take away from the movie is to beware of the sense of entitlement that is sure to go hand-in-hand with achievement. Climbing the ranks of management imbues one with a sense of accomplishment that, more often than not, creates delusions of grandeur in which managers fancy themselves gods. This behavior is so common among top managers, one has to wonder: Has top management become the current practice of the Divine Right of Kings’ philosophy of old?

  15. Understanding that certain scenes were certainly dramatized and her character flaws exaggerated, I believe that in spite of this the movie still created a closely accurate depiction of what Martha is and was really like. When watching this movie with a scope focused on top management, it points out some of the most difficult real world issues that these people deal with. Individuals in top management positions like Martha at the head of her empire are often cut out in the mold that she is – containing certain attributes such as being cut throat decision makers, having the ability to sacrifice family, hobbies, and other interests in order to pursue business success, and containing an overwhelming drive to achieve the pinnacle of success in their particular profession. Whether individuals are born with such sentiments or influenced by their environment like Martha by her father, Martha Inc. clearly displays the point that this particular type of personality oftentimes dually leads to business success coupled with personal problems with an inability to balance the two present. Additionally, Martha’s progression ( or regression ) throughout the movie from a young model to a small businesswoman to a top manager develop hand in hand with harsher and harsher negative ramifications on her family and personal life. Whether these situations are exaggerated or not, in reference to top management, the point is that with more success comes more responsibility and sometimes the reach of such success can influence those who aren’t directly involved in the business and its ventures. Without a support system around you in the form of family and friends who can check and balance one’s decisions, the lifestyle that being a top manager of such a massive and powerful business creates is debilitating. Martha Inc. demonizes Martha to an extent, but most importantly sends the message to proceed with caution when entering such a cut throat business world, because a healthy personal life and proper decision making will almost certainly hold the largest positive impact on an individual and their extended family and friends when compare to the financial success which can only create happiness to a superficial extent.

  16. After reading many posts, it seems as though many people have similar opinions thus far. When thinking about the top management skills that Martha presents, there are a variety of positives, her drive, determination, motivation; as well as negatives, in a broad sense, how far she was willing to go to achieve her goals. I would agree with most that in many instances the portrayal of Martha as a “by any means necessary” type of individual makes for a poor, even unethical, manager.

    However, one point that I have yet to read mentioned in detail, is the beginning of the movie, referencing the accusations of Martha Stewart’s insider trading, and the insignificant reward that she was pursuing through the act. Most of the movie in fact avoids this occurrence, and portrays Martha’s life up to allegations of insider trading, presenting an evident picture of Martha’s “succeed at all costs” attitude. However, most of the acts depicted also show Martha as advancing her career. When she was nine, she sabotages someone else’s cake so she would have all of the business available, she eliminated a threat. When she sews herself a coat, she does so to compete to be the best. When she is pursuing a sponsor for a magazine and television show, she is explaining synergies and developing a brand, competing yet again.

    But, once she has achieved all of this, her own show, magazine, and home accessories line, as the film continues, she attempts to get a little bit more, presumably letting greed set in. I do not want to come across as defending her every action throughout the movie, but to say that in most cases, her actions were motivated by success. Any high ranking individual in a company, in any organization, should want to see his or her group succeed, but suddenly, when Martha is closer then ever to being as successful as possible, she makes a small, needlessly risky, decision. Personally, forgetting about whether any of her actions were unmoral or unethical, risking a multimillion dollar “brand” for two hundred thousand dollars seems to be the best example of poor skills for a top manager.

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