Women to Watch 2013

Women to Watch: Sally Grimes, Hillshire Brands Co.

Chief Innovation Officer, Age 42

By Published on .

Sally Grimes
Sally Grimes

Can Sally Grimes do for meat what she did for markers?

Ms. Grimes, who took Sharpie to new heights while at Newell Rubbermaid, moved to Hillshire Brands last year where she oversees innovation on brands such as Jimmy Dean and Ball Park.

As a Newell marketer she expanded the iconic Sharpie brand into pens, liquid pencils and gel highlighters while moving the brand beyond its utilitarian focus with buzzworthy print and digital campaigns.

She's already made waves at Hillshire, helping to launch products like a new line of Jimmy Dean Delights frozen breakfast sandwiches on flatbread that are marketed as low-calorie. One variety even comes without meat, which would have been unheard of a few years ago for a brand so synonymous with sausage.

"We understood based on our research that the majority of 'egg eatings' aren't necessarily always paired with a meat," Ms. Grimes said. "And so why not give the consumer what she is looking for?"

Best advice:
"I have such sharp memories of my late father advising my sister and I to 'seek first to understand, then to be understood.' Growing up, I had no idea that advice would be so core to my career in brand building -- where it starts with consumer empathy and intimacy -- and also my role as a leader -- where thinking 'you, not me,' and acting with humility have been at the center."

Chicago metro area

Jeans in the office?
"Yes! At Hillshire, jeans day is every day!"

First job:
In grade school Ms. Grimes made and sold handmade greeting cards door-to-door throughout her neighborhood.

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