A L L Y N. C. M A G R I N O H O L M B E R G 89
The following feature story appeared in the campus publication Mosaic in February, 1999.
THRIVING ON THE CHALLENGES AND RISKS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
When Martha Stewart invited a select group of journalists to her home in East Hampton, N.Y., for lunch and a preview of her new line of merchandise for Kmart two years ago, colors and patterns were foremost in her mind. Allyn C. Magrino Holmberg 89, however, was concerned about patterns of a different sort weather patterns.
"The event involved a lot of logistics that were worrisome," said Holmberg, who, as the co-founder and executive vice president of a Manhattan-based, public relations and brand development firm, worked with Stewart and her staff to organize the national press launch of Stewarts "Everyday" line at Kmart. "The weather was a big concern because we were flying people in from New York City in small planes," Holmberg recalled. The location proved to be all-important. "The press were invited to lunch at Marthas house to see the product she created in the environment she had had in mind for it when she conceived it," Holmberg explained. The event not only provided the media with an inside view of Stewarts artistic sensibilities, but also produced next-day coverage in such important news vehicles as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. It also let Americans know that Stewarts Living Omnimedia -- a megabusiness consisting of a high-gloss magazine, syndicated television and radio shows, a newspaper column, books, and a mail-order catalog was expanding once again.
In addition to having Martha Stewart as a client, the Susan Magrino Agency, which Holmberg operates with her older sister and 15 other employees, also represents such media giants Harpers Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine. According to Holmberg, "We like to think that we represent people who are the best at what they do. For example, Harpers Bazaar is the best fashion magazine; Martha Stewart is the best teacher and the best source of information about things for the home and everyday living."
Holmberg considers Stewart not only a client, but also a mentor and friend one who made her wedding bouquet and drove her to the church when her limousine was delayed. "Marthas a real role model," Holmberg says. "Shes been very supportive of my sister and me as women in business. Well run ideas by her. Shes just got a wonderful business mind, so she has been a great supporter in that respect, too."
Stewart is equally enthusiastic about Holmberg. "Allyn works with a thoroughness and an attention to detail that is very important to Martha Stewart Living," Stewart said. "She has been as conscientious in her business dealings as she is in her friendship."
Liberal arts and entrepreneurial skills
Holmberg discovered her aptitude for public relations while working as a campus tour guide at Trinity and while spending school breaks working alongside her sister in Crown Publishings publicity department in New York. At Trinity, she majored in French but explored a variety of other disciplines. She credits Trinity with helping her to build the confidence necessary to become an entrepreneur. "To be an entrepreneur, you really have to believe in yourself, and I think confidence-building of this sort is a big part of a Trinity education," she contends.
Immediately following graduation, Holmberg bought a one-way ticket to Paris. There she got a job as an administrative assistant in the American law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton to test the waters before applying to law school. At the end of the three-month stint, she decided against law as a career and returned home to New York, where she was hired as an administrative assistant in Donald Trumps organization. The timing proved to be especially propitious.
"My boss was an attorney who often handled the press calls," Holmberg explained. "Since I worked for Trump during his divorce from Ivana, I saw crisis management from the front lines," Holmberg recalls. After six months at Trump, Holmberg followed her boss to Macmillan Inc., which had just been purchased by British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. From this vantage point she continued to have a first-hand look at the world of big business. In 1990, she accepted a position as an account executive at the public relations firm of Clement-Petrocik Co. and for the next two years honed her public relations and language skills, leading journalists on trips to Guadeloupe, St. Barthélemy, and St. Martin in the French West Indies. When her sister, who was already successful in promoting books, expressed an interest in expanding her operation seven years ago, Holmberg gladly joined forces with her.
Operating her own business suits Holmberg perfectly. "Being an entrepreneur, you have no precedent to go by," she observes. "Thats what I like about it. You really have to create things. The exciting part is that its a little scary, too. Is this going to work or isnt it going to work? It gets back to confidence. If I put my best effort into it, whats the worst that can happen?"