Business Leader of the Week©
Margaret Fogarty Rudkin
“There isn’t a worthwhile thing in the world that can’t be accomplished with good hard work. You’ve got to want something first and then have to go after it with all your heart and soul.” Margaret Fogarty Rudkin
Margaret Rudkin was born in New York City on September 14, 1897. As a ten-year old child she spent significant time with her grandmother who taught her how to cook. She learned how to make biscuits, cream sauce and chocolate cake. It seems that this early influence must have had some impact on her subsequent business fate later on in life. After marrying Henry Albert Rudkin, they purchased 125 acres of land near Fairfield Connecticut. They named the estate Pepperidge Farm. When her husband suffered a serious injury after a polo accident, Margaret was forced to adjust her lifestyle from one of immense opulence to one of greater practicality. She dismissed her servant, sold apples from the apple farm and started to become interested in healthy and wholesome food when her son suffered from asthma. These adversities led to the birth of Pepperidge Farm products, and her success is now legendary.
Using her grandmother’s recipe for whole-wheat bread with old-fashioned ingredients, she came up with a loaf of bread that eventually helped her son’s health and after initially making small batches, she was producing 4000 loaves a bread weekly. By 1940, when she was 43, she was producing 50,000 loaves of bread a year and by 1967, when she died, she was selling about 70 million loaves of bread annually. The average annual growth rate for the company was 53%.
Pepperidge Farm developed some product diversity-a frozen pastry line, cookies, Melba toast and several other products that all became part of the company’s success. The firm employed mostly women at a time when it was not common to see women in the workplace. In 1960, she sold the company to Campbell Soup for $28 million. She became the first woman to serve on the Campbell Soup board.
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