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Name: Amy S. Hilliard
Title: Founder, President, and CEO
Company: The Comfort Cake Co.
Education: B.S., Howard University; M.B.A., Harvard University
Family: Single mother of a daughter and a son
Amy Hilliard likes to get her hands dirty. She thrives on creating and launching products. She’s been molding hair care lines as the senior vice president of marketing for Soft Sheen Products, directing new product development, marketing strategy, advertising, promotion, and public relations. Hilliard also held executive marketing positions at Pillsbury and Gillette, where she developed the $100 million White Rain Shampoo brand.
As senior vice president of integrated marketing at Burrell Communications Group Inc., Hilliard was in charge of business development. Her clients included Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and The Prudential. “At that time, the whole concept of integrated media was new,” says Hilliard. “We had to battle to change expectations as well as philosophies4especially externally4about [its] importance, and why it just made good business sense to market to African Americans.” Her ivy league and corporate training have paid off. Today, Hilliard is molding batter. As founder, president, and CEO of her second business The ComfortCake Co. (www.comfortcake.com). Hilliard has developed a finger-licking formula for this Chicago-based concern: pound cakes of several varieties sold to the public as well as corporate consumers, including United Airlines, the Chicago Public Schools, and the University of Chicago Hospitals & Health System.
No fear: “My fears have never overtaken me or become an obstacle because I base everything on my faith. I’m doing what I was destined to do. God has given all of us talents. He has blessed me with a gift for marketing. Her first company, the Hilliard Group L.L.C., was a multicultural marketing consulting firm.
As senior vice president of integrated marketing at Burrell Communications Group, I was selling advertising to many corporations and, at the time, they were interested in advertising to ethnic markets, but they wanted to understand the strategic reason why. I saw a need to focus on the strategy of multicultural marketing and decided that would be a way to step out on my own. I’ve always liked to look at niches of opportunity that other people, for whatever reason, may have decided not to explore because I think that’s where the gold is.”
Proudest career moment: “When I was at Pillsbury, I helped create some of the first Pillsbury Doughboy advertisements that were targeted to people of color.”
Advice to corporate ladder-climbers: Strategically plan for yourself the same way that you would strategically plan any business that you are responsible for. Seek out opportunities to broaden your area of expertise, or to broaden your portfolio of experiences, so that no matter where you go, even if you’re specializing, you have enough experience to handle increasingly more responsible positions. The only way to do that is to challenge and prepare yourself to grow. It’s important not to be afraid of growth, and not to be afraid of the unknown. Generally speaking, if you are prepared, you can rise to the challenge even if you haven’t