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Appetite for Challenge

Written by: 
Kate Hanley

As shooting guard and captain of the first Bentley women’s basketball team to make the Division II Final Four, Lori (Bender) King flowed easily between offense and defense, team player and team leader. She puts the same versatility into play in her career.

“I joke that I went to college to play basketball and luckily I got a great education,” says King, who is chief operating officer for gourmet food purveyor Stonewall Kitchen. Based in York, Maine, the company averages $45 million a year in sales.

Indeed, King is a Double Falcon, having earned a BS in Finance in 1989 and an MBA in 1991. Her professional path started with a short stint in banking and six years as a financial analyst for a utility company. She landed at Stonewall Kitchen in 1998.

“I was hired as CFO, but we were so small that we all did everything,” King says of the company, whose sales at the time were about $5 million and centered in the wholesale market. “It was great because I got to learn from the ground up.”

Rolling Up Her Sleeves
King got to work immediately upon arriving at Stonewall Kitchen. Over 12 years, she has sreamlined the firm’s distribution and manufacturing processes; created human resources and accounting departments; worked on merchandise planning; and led expansion into catalogues, e-commerce and retail stores. The nine bricks-and-mortar shops are located in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maryland.

Her Bentley experience has been valuable every step of the way.

“I learned teamwork from my MBA classes and my time on the basketball team, and I got an introduction to all aspects of running a business, including marketing, management and graphic design,” says King, who lives in Stratham, N.H. “Bentley gave me the confidence to know I could do anything that needed to be done.”

That knack for contributing across the board is still vital. “There is no typical day for a company like ours,” she observes. “I can be testing new jam-making technology one day and knee-deep in budgeting and finance decisions the next.”

If the Culture Fits
For King, creating a strong corporate culture has been a key element of professional success and personal fulfillment. She is careful to articulate company values to potential new hires; fellow alumni are a special draw. 

“I like to interview candidates from Bentley because I know there will be an instant culture fit,” she says, citing technological savvy as an attribute held in high regard by both her company and her alma mater.

The culture at Stonewall Kitchen also embraces work–life balance. “We work hard, but save plenty of time for the family.”

In this regard, the mother of three leads by example. One early August workday found King out of the office, en route to Waltham. Her daughter was ready to be picked up from a basketball camp at Bentley.

 

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