Westchester County's Most Accomplished Women Entrepreneurs
Meet 28 of the county's most successful, move innovative, most respected business women.
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Photography by Toshi Tasaki
Makeup & Hair by Paulo's Atelier Salon: Cindy Payne (makeup), Sandra Sigvenza and Harmonie Josephs (hair)
From fashion to farming, from computers to courtrooms, from new pools to nonprofits, these 28 women founded 26 successful, innovative, and respected businesses—small and large. Most started with an original idea sparked by an innate passion; others decided they could do a better job in their chosen field if they struck out on their own. But, no matter how and why they got their starts, all share the same inspiring qualities: a true entrepreneurial spirit, a winning vision, the courage to take a risk, and a commitment to the company they started.
The Delightful Doyenne of Home Design
Founder and CEO, Chris Madden, Inc.
Launched her own successful brand of home furnishings? Check. Hosted her own TV show for eight seasons? Ditto. Authored 17 lifestyle books and penned a syndicated column that appeared in 400 newspapers for close to a decade? Yes and yes again. Oprah? No. Martha? Nope. We’re talking about Westchester’s own Chris Madden.
Madden, a Purchase resident, has turned great taste and business savvy into a multi-faceted, multi-million-dollar, home-furnishings company encompassing design, publishing, and licensing. Madden’s signature sophisticated but accessible style has been described by Fortune as “like Martha’s, only lower maintenance.”
Says Madden, “Creating a haven is not about money—it’s about your passion, personal collection, and things that you love.”
Madden’s interest in business and design goes back to her childhood. When not publishing issues of her own neighborhood newspaper or redecorating her bedroom to match a new turquoise princess phone, the young Chris Madden enjoyed pretending to run the office of her dad, a sales executive, and even accompanying him on calls to retailers like Macy’s.
After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (today she sits on its board) and spending 10 years in book publishing, in 1977 Madden started her own public relations firm, Chris Madden Associates. Her first design book, Interior Visions, a look at designer showcase houses published in 1988, quickly became a best seller. But it was the book she published a decade later, A Room of Her Own: Women’s Personal Spaces, that prompted a personal phone call from Oprah—and a subsequent two-year gig as her show’s first design correspondent. Oprah’s call affirmed that her company, Madden says, “was on the right track.”
That company gained significant traction in 2000, when Madden entered into her first licensing agreement, with Bassett Furniture, a partnership that generated annual sales of approximately $50 million for Bassett over the next several years. Additional licensing agreements—with Mohawk Home and Austin Candles—followed in 2002, and, in 2004, the Chris Madden for JCPenney Home collection debuted in that mass retailer’s 1,000-plus stores, catalog, and website, becoming the largest and most successful home-furnishings launch in JCPenney’s 100-plus-year history. To date, Madden’s licensed products for the home have generated approximately $2 billion in retail sales for the company’s various retail partners.
The key to Madden’s success? “Chris has a real feel for her customers and an amazing ability to translate trends and her knowledge of the market into the products they want,” says Home Textiles Today Publisher/Editorial Director Warren Shoulberg. “Plus, she’s just a nice person. People like to work with her.”
What’s up next for Madden? She’s wrapping up her 18th book, The E Factor, about the importance of emotional connections in business. In addition to her ongoing pursuit of charitable endeavors, which have included everything from helping to furnish the homes of Katrina victims to providing her plush blankets to wounded soldiers serving in Iraq through Operation Cozy Comfort, Madden is focusing on “what people really need and want in this new economy” in order to continue expanding her brand. “We’d like to be in every room of your home,” she says. Your closets, too. “We’re looking into apparel,” she adds.
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