Orange is the new Black?
Ann-Marie Campbell might readily agree and with a myriad of good reasons.
Last month at age, 50, the Kingston, Jamaica-born native was appointed the executive vice president of all Home Depot stores in the United States.
She began working at the home improvement department store in 1985 while in college. The start date was actually April 1, but it was no joke when she was hired as a cashier to wear the orange apron that identifies every employee.
Her part-time position in the North Miami Beach, Florida branch helped pay her way through college where she studied medicine.
As fate would have it “one day in 1989, vice president Lynn Martin came to the branch for a “store walk” with the employees, and when he asked a question, Campbell volunteered the answer.”
“It was a chance meeting in a store. He asked a question, and I was in the group accompanying him on the ‘store walk,’ and I answered the question. He took a particular interest in finding out who I was and he felt I added some value. I probably didn’t think I did at the time, but he did!”
She said, Martin was “impressed by her assertiveness” and became her mentor.
Allegedly, the store boss encouraged the young immigrant to pursue every opportunity for promotions in various store operations encompassing merchandising, sales and marketing.
Since then there was no stopping the ambitious employee.
“I loved the culture of the company, which was a very personal family atmosphere — our founders treasured that — and a company that was listening to employees’ opinions,” Campbell added.
“I was moving, I was growing, I was being challenged, I was given opportunities, and it just kind of worked out for me. That’s how I decided early on that it could go from a job to a career. And when you make that decision in your mind, you operate a little differently. You realize the sky is the limit, and what else you could do if you could accomplish that next step.”
Campbell’s advancement in the company included positions as department manager, store manager, district manager, regional vice president, vice president of operations, vice president of merchandising and special orders, vice president of retail marketing and sales and vice president of vendor services before being named president of the southern division in 2009.
In 2010 Black Enterprise Magazine named Campbell one of the 75 Most Powerful Women in Business.
Two years later, she was named one of Atlanta, Georgia’s 100 Top Black Women of Influence.
Ranked number 38 on Fortune Magazine’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2014 Campbell was well on her way to the pinnacle of success. In the latter position, she was in charge of 690 stores and 100,000 employees in 15 states, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, Virgin Island.
With the most recent promotion to executive vice president of U.S. stores, she is tasked with responsibility for 2,000 stores and most of the company’s nearly 400,000 employees.
Campbell is the youngest of four children and the only girl.
Her father died in a car accident at age 26, when she was just one year and six months.
According to Campbell, her inspiration and source of business acumen is her grandmother in Jamaica who developed a roadside business into a multi-million dollar company.
“I had a strong business lineage, so I was really able to understand and associate the business practices I was learning in class with my environment,” she said.
“School gives you the theoretical knowledge, but the practical knowledge is so important. So when you can apply that in real time and real life, it just makes sense.”
Her grandmother, although a divorced mother of 10, owned Phidd’s Furniture and Appliances in Portmore, Jamaica and was able to help her mother raise her.
As a youth Campbell worked during the summer and school breaks at her grandmother’s store During the school year, she boarded at Kingston’s Holy Childhood High School, a Catholic institution for girls.
After graduating high school in 1981, she, her mother and brothers immigrated to the United States, settling in Miami.
There she enrolled at Florida International University, initially studying medicine and later majoring in philosophy.
In 2007, she graduated with a B.A. She furthered her education at Georgia State University to earn an MBA.