Brenda C. Garrand, 57
75 Washington Ave., Portland
Brenda Garrand is the CEO of Garrand, a full service marketing firm in Portland. A graduate of Bates with a degree in art history, she also received a master’s in advertising from Syracuse. Calling herself a “third generation entrepreneur,” Garrand credits her business acumen to the example set by her grandfather and mother.
“My grandfather, Perley Freeman Amidon, was the eldest son of Canadian immigrants who came ‘back’ to the United States right before the turn of the century. Grandpa was a serial entrepreneur, starting a number of businesses including Amidon Brothers Jewelers, now Ward Amidon, in Hanover, N.H.,” said Garrand. “While grandpa died, tragically, at age 36, the store continues today.”
Garrand’s mother, Marian Amidon Garrand, was “smarter than hell and so fast she could out-type the teletype machine,” according to her daughter.
Garrand said Marian’s career as an executive secretary ended when she became a mother. When Garrand was 6, her mother went back to work.
“Within a few months she got her driver’s license, a real estate license, and in a couple of years was one of the most successful real estate agents in northern New England. She was one of just a few women – who in those days due to gender could only be “associate” agents – who actually started her own agency, “Rural Realty,” said Garrand. “She was intrepid, engaging, smart and unfailingly ethical. I owe her so much.”
Garrand followed in her family’s footsteps opening her own business over 25 years ago. Her firm has regional and national clients, including Maine Medical Center and Pinnacle Vodka, and has won numerous awards for its work. Garrand has been acclaimed for her philanthropic work, including the University of New England’s Deborah Morton Award, which recognizes women who have “combined high distinction in their careers with a record of public service, or whose volunteer leadership in civic, cultural, or social causes has been exceptional.”
Garrand is active in the business community, too, serving on the boards of the World Affairs Council of Maine, The Cumberland Club, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, and Maine & Company. She is also on the Maine Community College Foundation Leadership Council.
Garrand made time in her demanding schedule to talk with Maine Women about how she got started, what it takes to succeed and why her work is so meaningful to her.
Q: How did you get into marketing?
A: I was fortunate enough to have an internship at WCBB-TV, then the southern Maine public television affiliate, that segued into a management position in public information. I was subsequently awarded a Women’s Training Grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that gave me tremendous access and exposure to leading marketing communications professionals throughout the Public Broadcasting System. I was named to the national PBS brand development board (the group that worked with a national ad agency in D.C. to develop the first comprehensive brand for the fledging PBS “network”). It was a pretty heady experience for a 23-year-old. I made a decision to grow my career in Maine, which has been fun but certainly not easy. I worked on the media side: radio, newspapers, TV in sales and marketing functions then started an advertising agency in 1988 (with a baby, and a husband in law school). That was 27 years ago.
Q: Did you have a mentor that was helpful to you along the way?
A: There were many. From Suzanne Cohen at WCBB to Dick Trumpler (then of Casco Bank and chairman of the state MS Society) and Bud Stiker, president of Eastport Radio here in Maine; Jim Doyle, sales manager for Maine Broadcasting System, and John DiMatteo, CEO of Guy Gannett Publishing Co. Many talented and caring individuals helped me along the way.
Q: What does it take to succeed in your industry?
A: Talent and hard work. An ability to cope with rapid change. An ability to build strong relationships. Community service and demonstrated professional acumen. Never underestimate the value of board service. I have learned more as part of volunteer boards than almost anything else I have done since graduating from college. The relationships and exposure to different forms of management challenges have been invaluable.
Q: What advice would you offer to women interested in marketing?
A: The same advice I would give anyone regardless of gender: Get a great education. Learn how to read, write, speak and think. Study the liberal arts. Use whatever field of study you’re interested in as a workshop in becoming an educated individual. Make a commitment to continuous lifelong learning. Don’t treat your undergraduate education as “trade school.” In business management, while there are specific subjects that have direct application to one’s professional career – managerial accounting, for example – there is little to be taught at the undergraduate level that prepares one to become a well-rounded executive save a broad, rigorous course of study. Be passionate in everything you do. Read widely beyond required coursework and become comfortable with the metrics of business. Be prepared to work hard and think like an entrepreneur. In hiring, I have always preferred a well-educated generalist to someone with a “marketing degree.”
Q: What is the most meaningful in your work?
A: Having a chance to learn about a wide variety of new and interesting businesses and enterprises every day. Knowing that our work has helped companies achieve their objectives is very rewarding especially here in Maine. Successful businesses hire people, pay them well and provide benefits. Good jobs are the most important part of our civil society. Strong, profitable and successful enterprises help make that happen. The small role we play in achieving these ends is very meaningful to me.