Linda Conrad Shares Commitment to Ingenuity

Courtesy Of Leadership Akron
Story by Debbie McKinney


conradfiumewebJon Fiume, Mustard Seed Market COO and
Linda Conrad, President and Executive Director Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens



Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens gained a leader with a life-long passion for ingenuity in Linda Conrad, President and Executive Director since 2009. Linda shared her vast experience and expertise in team building at December’s Leadership on Main.

arialviewPhoto Courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens


“My parents were trailblazers in the Christmas tree buying experience,” she began. As educators, her parents took a leap of faith and purchased a 500 acre tree farm in the 1950’s. At age six, Conrad began her career working alongside her parents and sister at the family business. By age 13, she was managing crews spread over the mile-wide property. Her creative spirit came from learning at a very early age how to prioritize, problem solve, and team build.



Following college, Linda married and struck out in the corporate world, landing at Walt Disney World. Her role was to re-strategize merchandising at Epcot Park. Realizing that all attractions must have a focus on family and fun, she quickly began implementing the now widely utilized Disney experiences, Photo Pass and Disney Pin Trading programs. She feels this is her greatest career accomplishment; a time when she was coached by her mentor current Walt Disney World President, George Kalogridis, who was Epcot Vice President at that time. Conrad described his leadership model as doing the right thing, making the right decisions, and breaking the mold by taking risks.



jonfiumeJon Fiume, Mustard Seed Market COO



Jon Fiume, Mustard Seed Market COO, moderated the morning session. He asked Conrad to share similarities and differences in the for-profit vs. non-profit world. She feels they are strikingly similar; the difference being the number of zero’s behind the numbers in the budget figures. The same skill sets are necessary for success in either area, likely more in the non-profit arena.  “Risks must be taken and wise decisions must be made, but with fewer resources,” she explained.


housegroundscloseupPhoto Courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens



The transition from Walt Disney World to Stan Hywet took several turns beginning with three years at Coca Cola in Atlanta, where Conrad led the creation of the new World of Coke Museum. Conrad applied her sustainability strategy from Epcot to this new endeavor. Ensuring the best 200 people were hired to work at the museum, a dance party was a portion of the interview process! “We had to make sure employees had personality and were fun, since they would be interacting with the public,” Conrad shared.


outsidepondPhoto Courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens



After a year hiatus in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Conrads decided to move closer to aging parents in Cleveland and Michigan. She felt Stan Hywet offered a little of everything she had done and the opportunity would be a great role for her.  Quickly setting a goal to sustain the Stan Hywet brand and history, Conrad learned it needed to be a desirable destination; fun and accessible for families. Many new programs were implemented, including the play garden and annually changing theme.


lindaconradLinda Conrad, President and Executive Director Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens



Conrad believes in being 100% transparent with everyone involved with an organization to inspire positive change. Staff, board, and volunteers are treated equally, with all ideas taken into consideration. Nothing is implemented until the entire team discusses, researches, plans, and commits to the success together. Achieving success includes all issues being resolved prior to moving forward with an idea. The goal of all is to ensure Stan Hywet is shared and lives on.



treelinePhoto Courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens


Stan Hywet operates annually with a small paid staff and 500 volunteers. Each volunteer belongs to one of thirteen teams, represented by team leaders who meet monthly to share information.  Conrad’s philosophy is being focused and compassionate about the Stan Hywet team. Inspiring, thanking, and recognizing staff and volunteers builds loyalty. “You must always lead people, but never push them.”


Her advice in achieving success in any work environment is to set a purpose and a path to reach goals. The quality of the total experience must remain innovative and focused on the target audience to avoid stagnancy and drive positive results.  “If a visitor doesn’t love it, they are not coming back!”

For more information go to:  Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

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