Business Profile | Sue Buchta

May 2016 View more

Sue Buchta, CEO of Wilton Industries, for Naperville MagazineWoodridge-based Wilton Brands LLC, a leading supplier in the food, paper, and textile crafting industries, recently appointed Sue Buchta as its new CEO with the goal of spearheading the company’s evolution and positioning Wilton Brands for future growth. Buchta, a seasoned executive who recently served as Wilton Brands’ executive vice president overseeing sales, marketing, e-commerce and product development, talks about her role as CEO and balancing work and family life.

Wilton Brands is considered the largest and most diversified company in the craft industry. Briefly describe the types of products and services you provide.

Wilton Brands has three primary divisions; 1. Wilton Enterprises, which includes Wilton bakeware, cake decorating tools, and decorating/food crafting products such as icing, candy, sprinkles, sugars and confections. Wilton Enterprises also includes Copco, a leading brand in the thermal beverage, tea kettle and kitchen organization categories. 2. Simplicity Creative Group, which includes sewing patterns, sewing notions, Boye knitting products, tapes and trims, Dimensions brand paint by numbers kits, needle crafts, embroidery and other textile crafting kits; Inkadinkadoo stamping products, kits and accessories; Perler craft beads and American Girl Crafts. 3. EK Success/Kay and Company includes paper crafting products, Sticko brand stickers, and scrapbook and photo albums.

What has been your proudest accomplishment so far in your career?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing teams in the course of my career that have brought some great consumer products to market, and I love to see an idea become a real product that helps make people’s lives better. Having said that, my proudest accomplishment will always be the people I’ve had the great privilege to manage, coach, and develop. To watch someone be successful and believe that you may have been part of their success is a wonderful feeling.

In its eighth decade, why do you think the Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art continues to remain so popular?

In a world of evolving consumer products and technology, baking and decorating stands out as an experience that makes it easy for consumers—from the novice to the master decorator—to create amazing cakes, confections and sweet treats to share with family and friends. For 86 years, our mission to help students of all abilities achieve decorating and baking excellence has remained unchanged, but while we’ve stayed true to the Wilton family’s mission, we have reformulated and redesigned classes to capture trends, teach new skills and provide consumers with a wealth of opportunities to expand their baking and decorating skills in new ways.

With your experience in the craft and culinary industry, have you seen any new trends emerging?

One exciting trend—and of course, we have classes for it at the Wilton School—is candy making. From truffles and hard candies with exotic and unexpected flavor profiles to chocolate and sugar art that looks as great as it tastes—the art of making candy at home is growing. In addition to the classes offered at the school, Wilton sells lots of great products to get someone started with, or advance, their interest in this trend, including molds, flavor extracts, Candy Melts™ and ready-made edible candy decorations.

Another trend is knitting. I had no idea how many of my friends were into knitting until I started working at Wilton Brands. I am fascinated in particular by chunky yarn—a yarn so big and chunky some people use their arms as the needles. The results are amazing.

What is your favorite item to make at home?

I love to bake and have great memories of time spent in the kitchen with my mom, grandma and sisters baking all kinds of treats. I have two daughters, one is my baker and one is my crafter. Anytime I can do an activity with them is my favorite thing to make.

Who is your role model when it comes to being a CEO?

I have always looked up to my parents as my role models—my mom was the CEO of our home, which wasn’t an easy job with 10 children. She made it look easy! My dad was a CEO for many years, and I admired how he could run a company and still make it to my basketball games. He was always willing to share advice and counsel with me, whether we were talking innovation and product development or about people management. When my dad passed away last year, his colleagues shared so many stories about what a great leader and man he was, and I often think about those qualities and examples as I think about approaching my role as a leader.

When you are not busy being CEO, how do you enjoy spending your free time? 

I think it’s important to make time for my family, and I love to spend time with my husband and girls. My oldest daughter plays golf and basketball, and I try to make it to her games as often as I can. My younger daughter dances competitively, so I have some full weekends where I’m on hair, make-up and costume duty. We all love to golf, travel, and visit our family and friends in Cleveland, Ohio (where we are originally from). I also love to bring home and try out Wilton Brands’ products. Next up for me: learning to knit!

Photo by Mike Hudson