Mary Crafts: The Businesswoman for Whom Ethics Matters Above Everything Else

  • Crafts has reiterated her stand on ethics in later conversations as well. Recently, she was asked in an interview about her journey to becoming Utah’s biggest catering company.
Mary Crafts: The Businesswoman for Whom Ethics Matters Above Everything Else
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“Change happens when the why becomes more important than the fear.” Mary Crafts

For some business leaders, abiding by the rules of ethics is the topmost priority. Yes, the equations of profit and loss and a brand identity are what companies and their leaders strive for, but for the likes of Mary Crafts, ethics is something just as valuable. The Iowa-born entrepreneur, who is the founder of the catering firm Culinary Crafts, wanted to be a home-making mother but fate had other plans for her. And while she earned her fame, Crafts never lost sight of her value-based roots.

In 2014, she received the Kirk Englehardt Business Ethics Award at the Utah Valley University (UVU) and of the various honors she has received in her life, this one has been special. According to her, that award had a special appeal because it spoke about her as an individual and not a businesswoman. She said that all that she wanted to be remembered is a “woman of integrity”.

Crafts has reiterated her stand on ethics in later conversations as well. Recently, she was asked in an interview about her journey to becoming Utah’s biggest catering company. She was asked about her endeavor to make a space for herself in a field which is dominated by men and people who are not known to be generous. Was she prepared for the battle before she got into it? Did her family have a restaurant business or a catering venture from which she came to learn about her journey prior to its beginning?

Mary Crafts wanted to emulate her father’s qualities
To this, Crafts replied candidly. She said having been born in a small town in Iowa with around 250 people, she was not one with a silver spoon in her mouth. But she emphasized that her parents taught her values and principles that have been with her throughout her journey. She is especially thankful to her father for instilling those values in her. 

“They definitely taught me some things, not necessarily the fine art of entertaining, but they taught me the values and the principles in my life that I’ve taken and grown with. You know, my father was just a small-town businessman, but I saw in him the qualities that I really want to emulate. And as he totally was about serving the farmers in that community, he provided nearly everything for them from groceries to appliances, to gas, to plumbing—I mean, you name it. He just kept coming up with new things that these farmers needed. And so being very much of that entrepreneurial mindset even in a tiny town in Iowa, I moved down to Utah to go to school and went to school in social work, sure that that was going to be my grand calling,” Crafts told Margo Lovett, the creator and host of Her Business Her Voice Her Conversation in an interview.

Dean Norman Wright of UVU’s Woodbury School of Business which sponsored the 2014 award that made Crafts really special, said on the occasion that the businesswoman “exemplifies all the service and entrepreneurialism” the award stood for. He said Crafts’ commitment—both personal and professional—has been the hallmarks of her “incredible journey”. 

What makes Crafts’ achievements even more special is the fact that she braved personal challenges and yet followed a life of principles. Revealing them to Lovett, Crafts said that although she worked in the area of social work for five years, her marriage had put her in a difficult situation. She understood soon after her marriage that her husband was not one who would support her in her endeavors. Her partner had a number of disorders—bipolar, rage, and paranoia—and even turned out to be a gay. For Crafts, someone being a gay was not a problem. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay. It’s just, when you are married to someone else who believes they have a different life to find out that they have this life is quite a shock to the system,” she said, adding that she was lucky to have got two chances in life and walked through both.

Crafts, who has served some of the world’s biggest names like American presidents and British royals, to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Diane Keaton, learned her life lessons by heart. She still considers herself as somebody less than perfect and learned from her mistakes. But it is her impeccable commitment to principles that have made her emerge into what she is today, a celebrated businesswoman who is an inspiration for others.

The drive for self-dependency came from a less-than-happy married life

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Crafts’ not-so-happy married life helped her emerge as self-dependent. She had few choices in her life. Either she could divorce her husband and raise her two sons by herself or stay on welfare, but she took it head on and decided to raise her family by doing something. But how could she do it? Crafts considered it deeply. She had to put her children’s well-being first and wanted to do something from home. Since she knew cooking and loved doing it, she decided to do something with cooking that would also entertain people. Hence, dawned the idea of catering and there was no looking back.

A smart thinker makes a smart entrepreneur 

Crafts’ journey has been one with an upwards trajectory from her humble beginnings. The entrepreneur in her never fell short of smart ideas as an innovator. According to her, if she ever fell short of funds, she would go around the neighborhood with her products and somebody would definitely buy something from her, and she made some money through that. But did Crafts really think she would make it this big from such a beginning?

Yes, she said. According to her, one has to dream big to make it happen. She said the first job is to dream about it and then back it up with hard work. It is the hard work and life’s tough lessons that made her grittier and more resilient, just like the clown dolls that spring back right after getting punched. Becoming more resilient has taught Crafts about how to be ready and steady for situations like the ongoing pandemic, when she is no more the leader of the catering company which she has sold to her able children more than a year ago. At a time when the catering business has plummeted because of the pandemic, the pattern of the business has changed, and Crafts is little astonished by the fact. She has the versatility of a veteran to know when to regroup, relook, and reinvent to survive the challenges of life.

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