Sharon started working in her parents’ office-supply plant, Smead Manufacturing Company, in Hastings in 1965, at the age of 19. She began learning the business from the ground up and her responsibilities grew over the years. Working in many areas of the company built her knowledge and confidence. Sharon’s mettle was tested in 1986, when her brother, John Peter, died suddenly. Her mother, Ebba Hoffman, took half a year away from her work as the CEO of Smead to grieve. Sharon had to fill in. In 1998, Ebba officially handed over the title of CEO and president to Sharon.
Sharon’s ongoing innovations have continued to expand opportunities for Smead. Her consistent focus on the long-term has allowed her to manage the difficulties of a changing economy effectively. Today, she is the sole owner of this 100-plus year-old company that continues to be identified as one of the largest woman-owned manufacturers in the United States. Smead’s more than 2,000 filing and organizing products are sold in the U.S. and Canada by thousands of independent office products dealers, as well as by larger retailers like Office Depot, Staples, Office Max and Amazon. The majority of Smead products are manufactured in plants across the United States, including Minnesota, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina and Ohio.
In 2006, Sharon was named the Minnesota Women Business Owner of the Year by NAWBO-MN and she received the Career Achievement Award from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. She received the 2011 Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year Award from the Women’s Business Development Center. Sharon has extensive civic involvement. She has served on the board of directors for Regina Hospital in Hastings, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Hastings School Foundation. Sharon has also been active in raising money for cancer research.