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Inside the Industry: How the women of C. F. Martin & Company are changing guitar manufacturing

As seen in September/October 2018 Issue of Guitar Girl Magazine

The longevity of a brand can be attributed to many things – market foresight, steady leadership, and adherence to change, for example. Above all, however, a company cannot endure without a devoted and passionate group of people working behind the scenes.

Cover Photo:  Jacqueline Renner, President

“If I could describe my feelings about Martin in one word, it would be ‘pride.’ Everybody working here is proud of their work – whether you are cutting wood, coiling strings, or applying finish to a guitar, you are proud as a Martin employee. Seeing the final product being played on television and knowing you may have applied the strings to it is truly fulfilling.” Salomè Audenried, International Operations Manager – Administrative Services

Founded 185 years ago, C. F. Martin & Company is one such enterprise. With a main factory and headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, C. F. Martin & Company is more than a product or a brand. To many people, it is a way of life. This is certainly true for those who are part of the C. F. Martin & Company team; the people building guitars, making strings, making sales, and adding a unique flavor to every item emblazoned with C. F. Martin & Company’s brand.

We had a chance to visit the C. F. Martin & Company factory for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the production of a C. F. Martin & Company instrument and to speak with President Jacqueline Renner, along with several other women who work on the team. Without a doubt, these women know their way around a guitar. Each of them comes to C. F. Martin & Company with an interesting past, a unique skill set, and a yearning to professionally learn and grow.

From top to bottom and start to finish, these women deeply understand the creative process of building and branding a guitar. Though the manufacturing industry remains predominantly male-dominated, C. F. Martin & Company is doing its part to introduce more females like these to the sector, and train them to learn more, do more, and succeed at their jobs. According to the women of C. F. Martin & Company, the most prominent benefit they receive from designing and building guitars is a feeling of empowerment. The common sentiments expressed by these women is a sense of “pride” and of belonging in the “Martin family.” They’re resourceful, driven, and helping to continue the legacy that is C. F. Martin & Company and impacting the role women play in business and manufacturing.

“I personally do think that it’s the best acoustic out there. Among other things, it’s the tonal qualities that make them superior guitars. That’s why I’m proud of the guitars I work on and proud of working for Martin.” Traci Smith, Final Inspection Production

Renner is the first female president at C. F. Martin & Company. Judging by her early background, one would think Renner would be better suited as a materials scientist or pharmacologist. However, soon after receiving a degree in chemistry, she realized her passion for working with people and her passion for research did not align. “There were parts of my personality that just weren’t going to get fully expressed if I was alone in a laboratory,” she says.

Moving into the business sector and mentoring with successful business leaders for over a decade, Renner was living in Nashville and managing the North and South American regional business for a Swiss corporation specializing in luxury kitchen products. Unsolicited, she got a call from a recruiter working with C. F. Martin & Company asking her to come to Pennsylvania to meet with the company CEO, Chris Martin. Of course, she accepted.

Sometimes the guitar world feels a little male-dominated. But I’ve always been encouraged by my family here at Martin to set my own goals, take on challenges, and explore opportunities.”  Emily Meixell, Custom Shop Administrator

“I thought this was the craziest thing in the world,” Renner says, laughing. “Here I was, several months later, leading C. F. Martin & Company simply because a recruiter looked at my experience in consumer products, luxury brands I had an affinity to, and my orientation with community service – which is really important here at C. F. Martin & Company.”

Renner insists that to do well at a new company, one must come to it with a learning attitude and embrace what is new. It’s this mindset that has helped her and other members of the C. F. Martin & Company family succeed. “We have several programs which I think really help people who want to get ahead,” Renner says. “We have tuition reimbursement programs and in-house training programs available for all of our employees.” As president, Renner understands the importance of encouraging staff to go from the shop floor into business areas and vice versa, depending on their career aspirations. She believes in a strategic and decisive yet empathetic and inclusive leadership style, which aligns nicely with C. F. Martin & Company’s philosophy of helping people reach their potential and achieve their dreams, be it to become a guitar virtuoso or to climb the company ranks.

“This October will be my 28th year with Martin. I have worked pretty much all the way through every aspect of making the instrument; I know how to do neck fitting, bridge gluing, and even repairs.” Becky Manogue, Merchandise and Retail Manager

Aside from helping her employees grow professionally, Renner has big plans for keeping C. F. Martin & Company on the right path and building on its successes and legacy. “I will work very hard with all of my co-workers to continue to make C. F. Martin & Company really great,” she says. Her goal is simple: make C. F. Martin & Company “greater around the world, greater for up-and-coming players, and greater for those C. F. Martin & Company fans that love what we do.”

“This company is an iconic brand in the musical instrument industry,” she says. “The fans, players, and employees have such a passion for the instruments that it’s awe-inspiring.”

Renner and the other women of C. F. Martin & Company bring an intensity and passion to what they do, and this is something Renner encourages others to do. Her advice to young women wanting to pursue a career in business: “Enter the business world if you want to be in business. Don’t enter the business world if you don’t want to be in business. Make sure you’re passionate about your path.” She goes on to add, “Bring yourself to the table fully every day. Be engaged. Being successful in business isn’t just sitting on a passenger train waiting to get to the end of the station. Those that bring energy and intelligence to the equation are the people I love to work with; those are the people that I hope are running more companies and take over more leadership positions, not only in the business world, but in the cultural world, and in government. That would make the world a better place.”

“Being able to come in and see the entire process of production is very unique to Martin. What this company offers its employees and what we get to see and experience every day is amazing, and I love that.” Sylvia Popichak, International Manufacturing Support Coordinator

No doubt, there are countless stories from hundreds of C. F. Martin & Company employees that drive home the fact that C. F. Martin & Company is not your average business. When the passion within the organization equals the passion of consumers outside the organization, that entity will operate on an entirely different level – and that is exactly what C. F. Martin & Company is doing. This is made clear by the women of C. F. Martin & Company, whose energy and sentiment can be felt every time you pick up your favorite acoustic guitar.

From the factory floor to your hands, that’s the C. F. Martin & Company legacy this team is building.




Photos courtesy of Martin Guitar

Additional Contributors: Marco DiSandro, Megan McClure

Tara Low




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