Tervis Tumbler CEO Laura Spencer, 44, hit one out of the ballpark when her company signed a licensing agreement in June with Major League Baseball that allows Tervis to add MLB team logos to its expanding line of insulated plastic drinking glasses. Spencer predicts that, along with a licensing agreement she signed last October with the National Football League, and flourishing partnerships with such national retailers as Bed Bath and Beyond, L.L. Bean and Dillard’s, Tervis Tumbler is poised to become a $100 million company. “Our strategy is to continue to aggressively grow,” she says.
A 1982 graduate of Sarasota High, Spencer earned an accounting degree from the University of Florida and worked for Kerkering, Barberio & Co. before joining Tervis Tumbler as controller in 1997. That year, the company sold $5 million worth of insulated drinking glasses. Last year, it earned $34 million—a number Spencer confidently says will be exceeded by the end of 2009.
Since she became CEO in 2006, she’s grown Tervis from 165 employees to 215 and added an executive management team consisting of vice presidents in sales and marketing, human resources, finance, IT, retail stores and production. “That’s been key in helping us grow,” she says. The company moved to a modern manufacturing plant just east of I-75 in Venice in 2005.
Asked occasionally to address businesswomen’s groups, Spencer speaks compellingly about the professional—and personal—growth that comes from venturing outside your comfort zone. She recalls that, when Tervis owner Norbert Donelly asked her to become CEO, “I didn’t know if I wanted it; I wasn’t sure if I would be particularly good. He sent me to an operations conference at Harvard, where I learned there’s no right and wrong in business; that a lot of people in really big companies make mistakes and you don’t have to be this perfect person to do this. It gave me more confidence.”
Spencer says being the sole female CEO of an area manufacturing company is irrelevant. She rattles off a list of accomplished local women leaders in banking, hospitals, real estate, publishing and charitable foundations. “We have many great women leaders; I’m not singled out,” she says.
When asked for a wish list, Spencer was brief and blunt: “More hours in the day,” she says. “We have a lot of great opportunities going on. It’s a matter of trying to on focus on the biggest and best of them.”