Stephanie L. Pullings Hart

32 Factory Manager – Nestl? Purina PetCare Co., St Joseph, Mo.

Stephanie L. Pullings Hart has been the factory manager at Nestl? Purina PetCare Co. since 2003. Effectively, she is the business leader of the world?s biggest food company?s ?wet pet food? facility, overseeing 41 salaried and 100 hourly employees and funds for capital investment in excess of $10 million for line expansion. Pullings Hart, who mentors and coaches future managers within the organization, has achieved $2.1 million in savings through continuous improvement in safety, efficiency and performance and in raw and packaging materials.

Pullings Hart, 32, was recruited into Nestl? USA Inc. in 1995 just prior to graduating from Florida State University and quickly rose from production supervisor to operations manager. She has been responsible for strategic planning and cost-reduction initiatives in various divisions and has controlled budgets as large as $50 million. With all that, she managed to return to school in 1999, to graduate with an executive M.B.A.

In 2001, Pullings Hart, then 29, accepted a position as factory manager at the Confections & Snacks Division in Modesto, Calif., becoming the first African-American woman and the youngest individual ever named to the position. While it was a tremendous opportunity to grow within the organization, Pullings Hart had to leave her husband in Missouri and move to California with their 4-month-old daughter. This, she says, was both one of the greatest trials and greatest triumphs in her life. ?Caring for a child, managing a factory and living in a new city is no easy task to overcome,? she says.

Pullings Hart credits her family for her success: Her husband constantly challenges her to excel; her parents instilled in her the values of family and treating people with respect; an uncle inspired her to major in chemical engineering. She is a member of St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Junior Achievement of Mid-America. Every day, Pullings Hart reminds herself ?the race is not won by the swift or the strong, but by the one who endures.?