MARCIA MILLER, MUD PIE FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
When you tell Marcia Miller her name is mud, it’s a compliment. Since 1988, Miller’s Mud Pie brand has stood for bringing gracious gifting to the retail audience. Mud Pie designers, led by Miller, identify cultural trends – from coastal themes to fresh tabletop ideas – interpret them for a wide audience and then design uniquely styled gifts, suitable for a myriad of specific occasions. Mud Pie helps consumers mark memorable milestones with quality gifts that uniquely match the moment and delivers to retailers products that sell – even when the economy strains to move forward.
Miller, a mother of two educated at the University of Georgia, draws on her early roots in sales. She honed her skills as a trim-a-tree trainer for the Jordan Marsh department store chain, and, later as a showroom manager and southeastern sales manager representing gourmet products.
Building upon those experiences, Miller and another female executive founded the first female owned representative firm, or “rep firm,” in the Southeast in 1982. Judd Miller and Co. marketed and distributed some of the largest household brands, including Braun, Salton, and All-Clad, and exclusively managed product lines for the top retailers of the day, including Macy’s, Rich’s and Service Merchandise.
Eventually, Miller wanted to transition out of the rep business and started a small gift company that specialized in ceramics. Mud Pie, named for the ceramics that were painted brown to resemble clay, was born.
“I wanted to control my own destiny,” said Miller, who started with 20 faux terracotta products and a simple catalog created at a local photo store. The line was continuously oversold.
By 1989, after just one year in business, Mud Pie was Macy’s No. 1 domestically produced giftware line. Miller at that time recognized the potential in the market for custom-crafted gift products and divested the company’s rep division. She soon acquired her partner’s share of the business and became CEO – bringing in a sales manager who introduced her to manufacturing in China.
In the last 15 years, Mud Pie has taken off as a result of the introduction to China. Miller was no longer limited to public domain molds that dominated the U.S. industry and could create her own designs with the help of talented Mud Pie designers.
Miller suffered a setback in 2007. While in a crosswalk near the Atlanta Merchandise Mart, a dump truck accidently struck Miller as it backed out of its spot. She’s endured a long recovery process – marked by surgeries and physical therapy – but the business has not missed a step, even in the throes of worldwide financial downturn the Company has never suffered a setback in terms of revenue. Mud Pie is a leader in the gift, baby and women’s accessories sectors of the fragmented giftware and home accents market.
In April 2010, Mud Pie announced it had entered into a partnership with Lineage Capital, a Boston based private equity group, whereby Lineage has acquired a non-controlling equity position in Mud Pie. Miller will continue to lead the company and maintains a controlling interest in the business.
Recently, Miller has been featured in local and national news outlets as a respected CEO and driving force in the gift industry, most notably are recent articles in the New York Times “The Boss” section, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. In January 2011, Miller was awarded the inaugural “Trailblazer Award” by Gift for Life, a charitable industry organization, for her contribution to the gift industry for over the past 20 years. She also shared her knowledge and experience with female entrepreneurs and business owners at The Little Pink Book’s “Spring Into Ownership” event and was a keynote speaker at Tory Johnson’s Spark & Hustle conference in Atlanta.
For the past three years, Mud Pie was named as one of Georgia’s Fastest Growing MiddleMarket Companies by Georgia Trend. In 2011, Business to Business magazine selected Mud Pie as a “Top 300 Small Business of the South;” and Mud Pie was named a “2012 Bulldog 100: Fastest Growing Bulldog Businesses” by the University of Georgia Alumni Association. Marcia is a supporter of the Gateway Center, Mary Hall Freedom House, Gift for Life, National Breast Cancer Organization and The Gift and Trade Home Association.