Before I met Shelli Gardner on the phone I imagined that our interview would be formal and to the point because of its brevity. We had earmarked half an hour and most interviews for Meet the Artist profiles ramble for much longer. l envisioned that I would mainly describe her accomplishments – which are numerous. But because I already had her official biographical sketch in front of me, the interview became a cordial conversation. We chatted about what is important in her life and how she spends her time when she’s not wearing the hat of a corporate CEO.
Shelli is funny and warm and open. As successful as she is, Shelly said she has never done anything solely for the money; that it has always been – and always will be – about people. “My motivator, passion, and focus is people,” she said. “When I’m working, it’s people; when I’m not working, it’s still people. When I have free time I help someone, I’m with someone.” Family is first; church and temple work are a high priority, a peaceful balance in the equation. The Sterling and Shelli Gardner Foundation (“we’re not as big as Bill Gates,” Shelli joked) supports programs like Courage Reins, devoted to therapeutic riding; Ronald McDonald House Charities, and other causes – a different group each year – and Stampin’ Up! demonstrators are encouraged to be involved in their local communities with enormous support at the corporate level. “We have been blessed, we want to give back,” she said.
Shelli loves chocolates and sweets in general. “I like food,” she admitted. Sterling, now retired, does a lot of the cooking and they go out to eat a lot, too. Bikram Yoga is high on her list. She loves the grueling workout and feels it helps her keep pain-free while she deals with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. “I watch and value my body more now that I know why I hurt, and I’ve started to get enough sleep lately, too,” she reported.
After twins were born in May 2012, Shelli and Sterling now have 16 grandchildren. With five daughters, Sterling was outnumbered for many years, but with sons-in-law and the grandchildren “males now outnumber the gals.” Shelli loves to go antiquing and is especially fond of the kind of store where “you have to walk through three times to see it all.” The cabin she and Sterling are building is giving her an excuse to look for collectibles. An hour from home, it is a place for the family to get away and a place where they can all eat in one room, unlike their current Sunday dinners where no one goes into the formal dining room and they are casually spread out at various tables.
The family travels together and loves each other’s company. By the time we finished our interview I was wishing I were related so I, too, could go to Lake Powell with them. Once a year Shelli and her daughters share a “Gardner Girls Gathering” in their home, or sometimes at a hotel – but never too far away so they don’t reduce their precious time together by spending it on planes.
Shelli is an avid reader, enjoying articles that help her to be a better person. “I read in snippets,” she said. With so many roles to fill and so many tasks to juggle, it’s a wonder she can find time to read at all.
I’ve left Shelli’s day job for last, not because being the CEO of Stampin’ Up! is least important to her, but because I thought it would be fun to introduce her as wife, mother, and grandmother, devoted to her church, her community and her country first. She could not be the kind of CEO she is, committed to her staff, the demonstrators who sell her products, and her customers, without being the kind of woman she is outside of that day job.
What follows is straight from Shelli’s official biography, enjoyable on its own, but richer, I hope, because you now know who else she is.
“…Shelli began to imagine the possibilities of beginning a stamp company that offered a wide variety of stamp styles, high-quality accessories, and an ongoing commitment to customer service and sharing the art of rubber stamping through home workshops with family and friends. Shelli and her sister envisioned the company working much like a family, where each demonstrator could participate at whatever level worked best for her personal circumstance.
“In 1988, with little college or business experience, Shelli invested her family’s nest egg (intended to finance building a new home) to launch Stampin’ Up)…
“The initial product line – made up of stamps produced by other companies – fit in a 64-page catalogue. Shelli filled orders out of her living room…
“In 1993, the business moved to Shelli’s hometown – Kanab, Utah. The company opened a manufacturing plant to produce Stampin’ Up!’s exclusive rubber stamp sets and has since become one of the largest private employers in the community…
[other expansions have taken place since, the catalogue is now more than 200 full-color pages; in 1998, when her sister moved on to pursue other interests, Shelli became the privately held company’s CEO, facilities include an 80,000 square-foot-manufacturing plant…and a 300,000-square-foot corporate office, distribution center, and demonstrator support call center…]
“Ernst & Young recognized Shelli with its prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1999.
“Currently, tens of thousands of demonstrators from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom teach the art of stamping…”
To learn more about Stampin’ Up! products, contact me! I am genuinely blessed to be a part of the Stampin’ Up! family and the friendships I have made have enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined!