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'A Marvelous Career'

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  • | 12:31 p.m. October 28, 2011
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When Roxie Jerde applied for a job at Hallmark in the 1980s, she had already run a sales department at a bank and completed management training at J.C. Penney.

But the greeting card company rejected her. A few years later, Jerde, armed with an M.B.A. in finance and organizational behavior from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, was hired. She worked at Hallmark for 11 years. She helped launch the firm's popular and profitable Shoebox Greetings unit, and she also worked in its mergers and acquisitions department.

Says Jerde: “I had a marvelous career there.”

Jerde now brings that business experience to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, which named her president and CEO earlier this year. She replaces longtime executive Stewart Stearns, who retired last year. The foundation has assets of at least $182 million, which is spread through more than 700 charitable funds.

Jerde comes to Sarasota with recent experience in foundations. In 2002, she helped the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation set up an online program for residents, community leaders and donors to research 175 area nonprofits. After that project, Jerde was appointed senior vice president for donor relations and education at the foundation, a $1.2 billion organization. “I came from a high-performing, creative, entrepreneurial nonprofit,” says Jerde.

Jerde recently sat down with the Review to talk about her business career, Hallmark, and what she does for fun.

Don't force it: Hallmark executives, says Jerde, long thought there should be a way to combine flower purchases with greeting card purchases. But despite lots of hours, and money, the theory never worked in practice. “Sometimes you think something is a natural fit,” she says, “but it just can't work.”

Ride a champion: The Shoebox Greeting division at Hallmark, which Jerde helped launch in the late 1980s, was a huge success. It created popular characters who live on today. “It was like printing money,” she says. “We couldn't make enough of those cards.”

Innovation is essential: Hallmark, says Jerde, studied all kinds of demographics, from how divorced parents buy cards for their children to what age group puts the highest premium on birthdays. But while Jerde discovered data is useful, she realized a company needs a stable of innovative employees to execute a strategy. Says Jerde: “I learned how important creative thinking is regardless of your discipline.”

Bottom line worries: Jerde hears regularly from people who have good nonprofit ideas, but she doesn't always hear it supported with business sense. “So many people think you can just start a nonprofit and do good,” Jerde says. “But it's a business too, and you have to run it like that.”

Favorite work saying: “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

Roughing it: Jerde has completed a bike ride across Iowa 16 of the last 17 years. The ride, Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, RAGBRAI, goes west to east, with stops in at least eight towns along the way. The average route is 470 miles. “I'm hooked,” says Jerde. “It gets in your blood.”

Downhill Executive: Jerde is also an avid skier. She has been to Colorado, Utah and Canada to ski, and she's going to Breckenridge, Colo. this winter with her husband. “We like to try different places,” says Jerde.

More athletic pursuits: Jerde has completed triathlons and marathons, but the pounding on her knees led to a new passion: yoga.

School Spirit: Jerde also follows many sports. She and her husband, a fellow University of Iowa alum, root for the Hawkeyes on Saturdays and the ones who made it to the NFL on Sundays. She's also a tennis fan. She has traveled to New York City the past six years for the U.S. Open.

Book club: Jerde was in a vibrant book club in Kansas City, and hopes to find one in Sarasota. Books she's reading now include “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand, and “Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World,” by Leslie R. Crutchfield, John C. Kania and Mark R. Kramer.


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